Recently a Montessori school leader posted on facebook about a problem she was having. A family disenrolled from her school and was waging a campaign of bad reviews online. She really believed they handled the situation appropriately with this family. She wanted to protect their reputation, but she didn’t want to be defensive or ugly.
This is not the first time I have seen this happen. Bad reviews online are part of existing in the age of the internet. It is a real bummer when it happens, but you can handle it. Here are some tips for handling bad reviews online.
Don’t Sweat It
A rogue family or staff member giving bad reviews online is really common. It feels so offensive and disempowering when it happens. It can be easy to get fired up and hop on with a defensive response and an over-share of information.
Don’t fall prey to your hypothalamus! Step away from the keyboard and chill. Your school’s reputation won’t be ruined if you don’t respond for a day.
When this school leader posted about getting bad reviews online, I offered a little bit of advice that I have shared with other leaders facing the same issue. Here is the language I recommend you use in response to such an issue”
“While we would never publicly discuss the circumstances on any family from our program, we are happy to very directly answer any questions parents may have after reading this review. We feel very comfortable with how we handled the situation and welcome the opportunity to discuss it one on one with prospective or current parents.”
Don’t respond to the reviewer, respond to the prospective and current parents. Make it about everyone but the reviewer. It shifts the power while letting everyone keep their dignity.
Learn From It
There is probably a grain or two of truth somewhere in that bad review. Even if the parent is the mayor of Jerktown, they probably have something to teach you. Take a few days to detach and then start writing down what you have learned from this situation.
Likely, there is a process to be improved, document to be edited, communication to be formalized, or some other opportunity to grow. Use your most difficult parents and staff members as your greatest teachers. They have so much to offer you!
Prevent Future Upset Families
Always be looking for opportunities to make your school more inclusive, more systematic in administrative tasks, more communicative, and more skilled at supporting children.
Your single greatest defense against parents leaving your school dissatisfied, is by having strong assistant teachers. These are the staff members who see parents in afterschool. They form unique bonds with children, who talk about them a lot at home.
These folks are the crux of your organization. Here are two ways to make sure you are doing everything you can to ensure their success and build your reputation in the community:
Check out my free e-course, Hire & Keep Great Teachers. We move through all five phases of the employee life cycle and dissect them for opportunities to improve efficiency and support for your people. Leaders who have gone through the course tell me all the time how much it changed the way they recruit, onboard, and support their teachers.
Sign all of your assistant teachers up for the Montessori Assistant Toolkit online professional development course from ClassrooMechanics. This comprehensive training is everything you need to put your assistants on a strong foundation.
Pro Tip: There is a fall sale today through 10/18/17 for the Montessori Assistant Toolkit. Use the discount code FALLSALE17 to sign up your people! This is an affiliate link.
Get More Reviews
Reach out to parents in your community and invite them to hop on the same platform to give you an honest review. That will naturally bump up your review stats. Be sure you don’t ask for positive reviews or offer anything in exchange for good reviews. Let it be an honest, natural process.
You can also reach out to alumni families and ask them to retroactively review you and point to the current success their children are having as a result of your awesome school. They will likely be glad to do it.
Getting bad reviews online is a big bummer, but it isn’t the end of the world. Use a few smart strategies and a couple of deep breaths to make this a positive opportunity. You know your school is amazing, and you know you can always grow. This is a chance to celebrate both.
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