The system of online reviews has had an overwhelmingly positive effect from the point of view of the consumer. You can now go online and find product and service reviews for almost anything, giving you a better idea of what you might be spending your money on and what to expect from your transaction.
However, from a business point of view, Google reviews can have a downside too. That’s because while they give honest and legitimate customers a chance to rate your services they can also be easily exploited. Every business values constructive and fair criticism, but the Google review system is also open to abuse.
No business can keep every customer happy 100% of the time. Sometimes that could be down to a failing on your part, but you could have been unlucky and come across one of those customers who will simply never be happy no matter what you do – and there are plenty of them out there.
As a business owner, you can’t afford to ignore these bad reviews, as they could be having a significant negative impact on your business. Add to this the fact that not every review is genuine, and that it is often hard to distinguish between genuine and fake reviews, and it can be a big problem.
So, if you’re being plagued by bad reviews, keep reading to find out how to remove or deal with them and how to flag, delete and report fake ones.
Why you need to deal with bad reviews
You need to try and stay on top of your reviews. If you don’t, they could be doing your business a large amount of damage. And for small business, even a few bad reviews can be potentially disastrous. Around nine out of ten consumers read online reviews before deciding to buy your products or use your services. They want to find out the truth about your operation – and this includes how you deal with criticism.
You have to realise that not all negative reviews are bad for business. If you come across a company with only glowing reviews, then it might seem too good to be true. And it often is. No business is perfect, and way you handle bad reviews can tell customers a lot about how you operate. See them as open and honest criticism. Address the issue head on and offer to make amends. That way people reading the reviews will see that you are an honest business trying to do the right thing.
Here’s what you need to do.
Review your reviews
You should be checking your reviews on a regular basis. We know this takes time but it’s well worth the effort. If you see a bad review then don’t be tempted to lash out. This looks unprofessional. Instead, try to think of a strategy to deal with negative reviews.
First you need to establish if it is genuine (more of which below). Then assess whether there is any truth behind what they are saying. Is it an honest complaint or is it wholly unjustified? Try to work out who has written it and why. Then you will be in a better place to respond.
If you think a review is not legitimate, try and cross check it against your own records. If the customer in the review doesn’t ring a bell or can’t be found in your records this could be a sign of a fake review. If there is a lack of detail in the review this is also a giveaway, as are inaccuracies in what they say. Bad reviews also often come in batches. This is because they tend to be either spam or come from sneaky competitors or even disgruntled former employees.
If the bad review is legitimate, you need to respond quickly and politely – ideally within 24 hours. Never ignore the bad review and hope it will go away. It won’t. Addressing complaints proves to the reader that you are a responsible business willing to take action. Offer them the chance to talk more in a private setting or to rectify the issue. This will help to build trust online.
Always use a polite and proper tone when responding and offer to establish a connection in a proper channel. Never make any threats, especially about legal action, as this will reflect badly on the business. Give other consumers some credit too. They can often tell when a review is fake or being unfair. Use the opportunity to offer a solution or to fix the issue, and make sure you follow through on any promises.
Even if you suspect (or have established) the review to be fake, you still need to respond. To leave it hanging there could be bad for business.
First, address the issue and apologise. Then say you are unable to find any record of their transaction. This is a clever way of telling other users that you know the review to be fake but can still maintain a professional approach. Provide further contact details and ask them to get in touch.
Sometimes all the best intentions are not enough, and it is possible to have some reviews removed if you can prove they are fake. Legitimate reviews can only be removed by the author, but if the review is false, then you need to act as quickly as possible.
If the review has come from a spam or fake content generator and is solely intended to boost the rankings of other firms then it can be removed. If the review is off topic and does not reflect any individual experience, it can also be taken down. Any prohibited content (such as offensive language or inappropriate images) can also be removed fairly easily. And finally, anything that could constitute a conflict of interest with another business or person can also be removed. Simply find your business on Google reviews and identify anything that looks false by clicking ‘Flag as inappropriate’. If the review is not removed quickly, you can contact Google and ask them to speed up the process.
You always need to follow up any bad reviews and the action you have taken. As always, no matter what, be polite and professional and offer assistance – even if the reviewer starts to get unpleasant.
Staying on top of bad and fake reviews is a great way to manage your online reputation. The best defence is always great customer service.