While there are some unicorn-esque companies out there who’ve never received a negative online review, the fact is, getting a bad review is usually a fact of life. And the circumstances may be totally out of your control! A product you ship may be broken by the United States Postal Service during transit, but a customer blames you. A street may be flooded on the way to your next appointment, increasing your transit time by a few minutes, but a customer will still fault you for being late. I recently entered a store where the credit card machines were not functioning. It was a technical issue and responsibility fell entirely on the shoulders of the processing company, but cashless customers were still unhappy with the store. In these situations, someone may be displeased enough to leave a negative review, and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it.
But in some circumstances you do have recourse when it comes to your online reputation management, particularly if a customer goes beyond leaving a truthful review and ventures into unseemly territory. Here are a few examples and the options you have available to respond.
When a reviewer was never actually a customer.
It’s tough to say why someone might post a review online that is absent of any truth, but it’s been done before and will likely continue to happen. A customer may have never stepped foot in your establishment, or never ordered your product or service, but will still leave a negative review. Online review sites mostly respect truthful free speech for those who write about their experiences, but they do typically have one golden rule: you should have been, or at least had attempted to be, a customer. Writing a false review about a restaurant you’ve never been to, or a company you’ve never interacted with, is not okay.
Companies can contact review sites like Yelp to try and have these reviews removed if they suspect the reviewer is making something up. A reputation management agency can help you with this process.
When a reviewer is posting incredibly damaging untruths.
Some people can read an online review and chalk it up to a company either slipping up and making a mistake, or a fellow consumer being a little picky. However, there are some things that can instantly turn off potential customers and hurt your business in terms of revenue. When a customer posts false information about the quality of your product or service, or worse, leaves an untruthful review about your employees acting in a vulgar, racist, or sexist manner, your business can take a serious financial hit. In these circumstances, you may be forced to act.
As a first step, you can contact a review site and dispute the review. If you have evidence supporting your case, you can submit it along with your dispute. But while the review remains online, your business could be harmed. It’s important, in this case, to keep your legal options open. Many legal firms feel strongly that a business can recover damages from a reviewer if the information posted online hurts the business financially and is provably false.
When a reviewer is a competitor.
This is a big no-no for almost any review site on the Web. You should not, under any circumstances, allow a review left by a competitor to exist. Why? First off, there’s the blatant conflict of interest at play. A competitor is financially motivated to drive business away from you and toward themselves. Second, very rarely will you find a business who genuinely believes a competitor is doing a better job than they are. Pride is at stake, which means a competitor’s review will have a built-in bias.
Most review sites don’t allow these reviews, and there are many examples online of companies successfully getting a rating scrubbed because they were able to prove it was left by someone at a competing business.
When a reviewer is using hate speech.
As I stated earlier, most review sites respect the truthful free speech in reviews left by consumers. That means they’ll typically allow things like, “My service was incredibly slow,” or, “This product is janky and it fell apart immediately.” One thing these sites will absolutely not accept in a review is hate speech: speech that disparages you, your company’s employees, or your other customers on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or anything of the sort. These types of reviews typically use derogatory language and do nothing to add to the otherwise constructive dialogue happening on sites like Yelp or Google My Business.
If you contact these sites, you should have no problem getting the review taken down, and the user will likely be suspended as a result of their actions. If you need some assistance, you can contact an agency specializing in social media reputation management for help.
One important thing: don’t go overboard with your response.
The above review situations are what you may consider “nightmare scenarios.” They’re well outside the bounds of a typical negative review, which can usually be resolved through great customer service. You may feel the need to fight fire with fire, so to speak, meeting an extraordinarily illegitimate review with equally extraordinary force, but it’s important to fight that urge. Few businesses ever look like the “winner” in these situations, and you can search online for stories where frazzled business owners have confronted reviewers at their front doors, or have engaged in years-long cyberbullying campaigns as revenge.
Handle the review as your internal process dictates. If you feel it violates any of the above standards, and you’re able to prove it, request the review be taken down. And if you feel a review is false and damaging, consider legal options.
The team at iwebcontent has been helping companies with online reputation management for years. Contact us if you’d like to learn more about our services and how we work to maintain or improve your online reputation.