Bad Reviews? What Business Owners Can Learn From Kanye West

Chris Campbell Founder and CEO, Review Trackers

Posted on August 30th 2012

Bad Reviews? What Business Owners Can Learn From Kanye West

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You read the title right.

Yes, Kanye West. The rapper who randomly blurted out, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” during a benefit concert for Hurricane Katrina relief. The celebrity who (perhaps out of some sort of savior complex) appeared on a 2006 issue of Rolling Stone as Jesus Christ, complete with a crown of thorns. The party-crasher who famously interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. The same guy who, no thanks to his frequent outbursts and controversies, had been called a “jackass” by President Obama.

Yes, that guy. You may hate him, laugh at him, be annoyed with him, dismiss him with an I-don’t-care shrug. But just so you know: business owners everywhere can learn a lot from Kanye West – especially when it comes to managing reputation and handling bad reviews.

Not convinced? Let’s check out Kanye’s Twitter feed, which happens to be a gold mine of tips and tricks on how to respond and what to do when your business gets bad reviews.

“I hate when I’m on a flight and I wake up with a water bottle next to me like oh great now I gotta be responsible for this water bottle”

It’s true what Kanye says: it is kind of irritating when you have to assume unwanted responsibility. Like waking up to find a fussy customer suddenly blogging about his bad experience in your restaurant. Or having to douse a potential wildfire of complaints on Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare. Then having to find, track, respond to negative reviews on Yelp just to make sure you’re able to air your side of the story. It happens to everyone, these metaphorical flight water bottles.

What you do with them is the key to success. As a business owner, you have to take on that responsibility of responding to reviews (no matter how scathing or unfair). If not, you have to assign ownership to a person who’s qualified to do so. Whatever you do, don’t ignore these reviews. Like water bottles in a plane, they’ll remain where they are – and continue to make an impact on your bottom line – until you decide to act and take control.

"I hate small talk.”

I hate to quote two Kanye “I hate…” tweets in a row, but the man has a point. Small talk won’t get you anywhere with customers who posted bad reviews of your business. You know what they want to see? Honesty. Sincere apologies (if you did happen to make a mistake). A human voice behind the words (instead of a publicist). A straightforward commitment to address and resolve whatever the problem is. No lip service, no corporate jargon, no saying-one-thing-and-doing-another stunt. 

“The world is our office”

It’s convenient to think that reviews on sites like Yelp, Google+ Local, TripAdvisor, Citysearch, etc. are not really all that important. But they are. A recent Harvard Business School study even showed that a one-star rating decrease or a bad review can directly reduce revenues and impact your business.

That’s why Kanye’s pronouncement couldn’t be truer. The world is your office. In today’s age of user-generated content, evolving word-of-mouth marketing, and social media explosion, what’s local can easily go global. Your audience is wider than ever, and the world is smaller than ever. One existing customer’s opinion can influence a thousand customers’ behavior. Monitoring, listening, and responding to what everyone has to say is thus the key to protecting your reputation, your brand, your business, and your bottom line. 

“I wrote a song for Taylor Swift that’s so beautiful and I want her to have it. If she won’t take it then I’ll perform it for her”

This tweet came on the heels of Kanye West’s controversy with singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. Kanye eventually did apologize to Swift for going up on stage, interrupting her acceptance speech, and exclaiming that Beyonce (and not Swift) had “one of the best videos of all time”. He may have had a point, but it was impolite and disrespectful to the guitar-strumming singer from Pennsylvania.

What business owners can take away from this is the fact that Kanye said sorry afterwards and offered a freebie (as a way to make amends). So, if you make an honest mistake with a customer – food was served cold, check-out bill was wrong, or a reserved table suddenly wasn’t available – then don’t be reluctant to admit you were to blame. Say so, too, when you respond to the bad review. And, a la Kanye, be sure to offer a gift certificate, a discount coupon, or a freebie, which ought to help prevent the wronged customers from swearing that they’ll never come back. 

“My past arrogance has caused the failure of my past businesses… be humble in your decision making”

Having a gold-wearing, profanity-rapping, CAPSLOCK-tweeting celebrity in mind when thinking about humility is about as normal as having Charlie Sheen in mind when thinking about sobriety. But whatever. You know that Kanye is right: if a customer gives your business a bad review, keep your cool. Stay positive. Don’t act superior just because you’re a business. Stay humble. Be polite and professional when writing out a response. And don’t make decisions when you’re angry.

Hopefully, you’ll find these Kanye West tweets useful as you track and respond to reviews (good or bad). He may not have an untarnished reputation himself, but that doesn’t mean business owners can’t learn anything from the rapper nicknamed “Yeezy”.

Chris Campbell is the Chief Tracking Officer of Review Trackers, a new B2B software and service company dedicated to helping business of all sizes monitor their online reviews. Review Trackers is currently in beta and scheduled to launch later this year.


Chris Campbell

Founder and CEO, Review Trackers

Chris Campbell is the CEO and founder of Review Trackers, an online review monitoring and reputation management platform for local businesses looking to manage, analyze, and generate customer reviews on sites like Yelp, Google+, TripAdvisor, Yahoo, and Foursquare, among others.

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Posted on August 30th 2012 at 9:14PM

It's hard for me to say I could learn anything from Kanye West except "keep your mouth shut, stupid," but good read.

Kent Ong
Posted on August 31st 2012 at 4:14AM

What can I learn from Kenya West? Having high EQ is very important.

Sammy Mac
Posted on August 31st 2012 at 1:13PM

Yo Chris, Ima' let you finish, but Kanye is the worst person to take business advice from. I would rather take driving lessons from Lindsey Lohan than take any advise Kanye gives.