Negative reviews online can make or break businesses in certain industries. If you are in one of those industries and find your listings clouded with negativity then using some reputation management techniques may be helpful.
Reputation management is something that almost all big brands do and it’s not necessarily a way to hide the truth. Rather than trying to remove your negative reviews (although that may be necessary in some instances), you should try to turn them into a positive. By engaging with the reviewer, you give would-be prospects social proof that your business cares.
This post will show you how your business can handle online reviews the right way and how to avoid handling them the wrong way.
Dealing with Negative Reviews the Right Way
Engage with Your Reviewers
Whether positive or negative, take some time to respond to your reviewers. By simply showing up to the discussion, you can reinforce the notion that you care about customers or clients with some real social proof.
If somebody left you a glowing review, then return the favor with a show of gratitude. A sincere response or a small token of thanks (e.g. free meal) can earn you an evangelist for life. That’s exactly the type of brand engagement that makes social media streams light up!
If your reviewer left some criticism then it’s even more important to respond. You can apologize, letting them know they’re right and that you’ll do whatever you can to correct it. Doing that may result in them changing their review or even becoming an evangelist. If it’s somebody who is just looking for trouble then a response at least gives you an opportunity to offer your side of the story so that others understand the whole situation.
Encourage More Positive Reviews
Outnumbering negative reviews with positive ones is often the easiest way for the truth to be told. Extracting those positive reviews can be difficult, however, because reviewers often have less incentive to write when things go well. A bad review can be cathartic or seen as some kind of justice when somebody goes through a bad experience.
Excluding the unscrupulous ways of generating online reviews, there are a lot of legitimate ways your business can fill review sites with happy thoughts.
The two best things you can do to facilitate more positive reviews is:
- Improve the opportunity to review, and
- Incentivize customers or clients to review.
To improve the opportunity to review, you should remove as many barriers as possible between your customer or client and the review sites. Mild “nudges” include placing a badge with a link to the review site on your website or putting “Find Us on ____” stickers in your building. More aggressive tactics may include sending an email followup with links to review sites or placing QR codes around the building.
To incentivize, you can offer a discount, a giveaway, or anything else that is legally acceptable and not forbidden by the review website’s terms of service.
It’s important to note that review sites often have policies for the way you encourage positive online reviews. So, you should always read through the site’s review solicitation guidelines before asking for reviews.
Contact the Review Website
Sometimes contacting the review site is the best way to handle negative reviews. If you are dealing with somebody who is dug into their own reality and making claims that can be factually disputed, then this may be your best bet. It’s a last resort that is less preferred than honest dialogue, but it is sometimes necessary.
Policies for removing negative reviews will vary by website, but there is often a dispute process for handling these kinds of things.
Dealing with Negative Reviews the Wrong Way
Ignoring the Reviews
Ignorance is bliss, but it can hurt your bottom line. If nobody in your organization is actively monitoring the web for feedback, then start!
There are a lot of ways you can monitor the web for reviews (e.g. Google alerts, Hubspot, etc.). However you’re doing it, just make sure it’s being done at least twice a month. A higher frequency is better, but you should never shut your eyes to the issue.
Trading Venomous Barbs
Do not write angry responses to your customers or clients. This one may seem obvious, but it can be forgotten during moments of anger.
If you have an employee or agency handling your social media properties or review sites, make sure that their methods don’t involve trading hate-filled messages with dissatisfied reviewers. That can welcome more negative reviews and intensify the negativity surrounding your business.
Trying to Suppress the Reviews
Attempting to suppress the voices of dissatisfied clients or customers can become very troublesome and is often not worth the effort involved.
One of the tactics used is litigation (or the threat of). There are numerous instances of professionals threatening to sue dissatisfied customers for libel or defamation because of the content of their reviews. One remarkable example of preemptive litigation was a “Non-disparagement Clause” that was included an online retailers “Terms of Sale and Use”. Whether reactive or preemptive, the threat of litigation isn’t a long term answer.
Tactics that seek to suppress usually have a way of backfiring. The costs are high and you snuff out great opportunities to build a positive image of your brand.
There are exceptions to this rule, however. Instances of obsessed customers spamming untruthful statements do happen. So, when you really have no other options, litigation may be the only answer.
Prevention is always better than a cure, so not giving customers a reason to leave a nasty review is always going to be your best bet.
Somebody, somewhere will always be upset and sometimes they’ll take it out on you. Rather than try to pretend that kind of stuff doesn’t exist, respond rationally and try to make it into a positive.
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