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“There is only one way to avoid criticism.  Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”  ~Aristotle.

That’s deep right?  Criticism, the bad or constructive kind, is almost a constant for businesses.  Some clients/customers can pass along criticism in a helpful fashion…others not so much.  The reality is that an upset client is more likely to leave a bad review than a happy one.  And the internet – between Google Reviews, Yelp, and Facebook – make it very easy to leave a review that many people can read.  Frankly, you will have to work harder to get good reviews, but it is work worth doing.  Not only to the reviews help grow your online presence, but the more good reviews you have, the less of an impact a bad review will have.  So, this article will outline how to kill the bad reviews (or at least minimize them) with kindness (i.e. good reviews).

Bad online reviews of your business can be emotionally distressing and financially damaging. With customer satisfaction at the top of your priorities, seeing a negative evaluation of your products or services aired publicly can hurt you personally as well as professionally.

Adverse reviews are typically posted by:

  • Customers who believe they have a legitimate grievance.
  • Customers with unrealistic expectations.

You may also encounter criticism from people who aren’t even clients – including fake reviews.

Nevertheless, whichever type of unfavorable review you’re dealing with, it’s possible to turn a negative experience into a positive one.

Negative Reviews Based on a Genuine Complaint

We all make mistakes occasionally, and bad reviews are inevitable for businesses. However, you can’t afford to ignore them.

Online review sites will often be one of the first port of call for many consumers looking for the type of goods or services you offer.  And, just to be clear, Google falls under the heading of an “online review site.”

People regard online reviews as a dependable source, and research indicates that nearly 90 percent trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

If you believe a negative reviewer has a valid point, regard it as your chance to improve your business, which will enhance your reputation in the long term. This situation is called the service recovery paradox (SRP).

Fixing the underlying problem behind a legitimate complaint will show the aggrieved customer that their business is important to you. And explaining on a public platform the steps you’ve taken will demonstrate to other customers – both existing and potential – your willingness to get things right.

You can effectively deal with a genuine complaint in an online review by treating the upset customer with honesty, empathy and compassion.

So, steps to take should avoid confrontation and may include:

  • Thanking the customer for taking the time to give you honest feedback.
  • Expressing your regret that they’ve had a bad experience.
  • Offering to discuss the situation further via private messaging, in person, or by phone.
  • Letting them know the problem has been or is being fixed.

Unreasonable Negative Reviews

Some people are high-maintenance and have unreasonable expectations or are just irrational. This can result in adverse reviews from a customer with unrealistic presumptions or by a consumer who discovers your product or service is not the right fit for them.

A bad review can also be posted by someone simply venting their frustrations at having a bad day in general – displaced aggression. One study of online complaints found that 23 percent were posted “purely for vengeance”.

You may even get a detrimental review from someone who isn’t a client. This happened to a lawyer I know.

An individual posted a barbed comment about the law firm after calling the office and expecting an instant answer to a highly unusual question – about their website, not a legal matter.

The attorney responded in a measured and polite tone, offering to help the person find the information they were looking for.

In doing so, they followed a classic template for responding to negative reviews – reasonable or otherwise – by:

  • Acknowledging the complaint.
  • Explaining why the problem occurred.
  • Offering to help resolve the issue.

How to Deal with Fake Reviews

Reviews on business profile platforms are a crucial element of the trust-building process for small companies, and fake negative reviews can be a major issue.

You can’t deal with false reviews unless you know about them, so it’s essential you can monitor your reviews by claiming and completing your profiles, particularly on sites like Google My Business (GMB), Facebook and Yelp.

There’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get a fake review removed – review sites can’t take down every post a business owner doesn’t like.

For instance:

  • Facebook will only remove reviews if they don’t comply with its Community Standards – guidelines that prohibit bullying, sexual harassment, and threats.
  • Yelp will remove a review only if the reviewer had a clear conflict of interest, didn’t focus on their own experience, or used private information or offensive language.
  • Google will remove a post if you can prove the reviewer has a conflict of interest or it’s from somebody impersonating someone else.

In general terms, to make a strong case for getting a false review removed, you need to:

  • Explain why the review is false.
  • Detail how it violates the platform’s policies.
  • Explain why it should be taken down.
  • Provide links or other information that supports your case.

As a last resort, you could consider legal action against a defamatory review but this can be extremely costly and time-consuming, with no guarantee of success.

However, you still have the right to respond to a negative fake review, and it’s important to remain calm and professional.

Since the review is fake, obviously you can’t address a non-existent problem, but how you deal with a fake negative review presents the opportunity to showcase the core values of your business.

A typical response might look something like:

“We have no record of any customer with an experience similar to the one described. In fact, we take great care to ensure all our clients receive the highest standards of customer care. Perhaps you have mistaken our business for another company with whom you had a bad experience.”

You can access Google My Business Help for advice from others who’ve experienced problems with fake reviews.

How to Get More Good Reviews

One way to minimize the overall effect of negative online reviews – including fake reviews – is to get more good reviews by encouraging honest assessments from your customers – without getting pushy.

These reviews are a powerful marketing tool that can play a vital role in attracting new business.

And diversifying your reviews around several platforms will enhance your business’s online presence and consolidate localized search engine optimization (SEO).

More than 90 percent of consumers say positive reviews make them more likely to use a business.

Other research suggests that over two-thirds of customers will post an online review if asked to do so. However, around the same percentage will ignore reviews over 90 days old, so you need to make getting reviews an ongoing feature of your reputation management strategy.

Setting up a free review generation strategy

Ok, you are probably wondering how exactly you go about getting these glorious review that sing your praises.  There are a few, free accounts that you should set up in order to have a viable review generation strategy.  There are certainly paid services that can help you request, monitor and respond to reviews, but those can run from $30-$300 a month (yes, $300 a month, I have interviewed over 10 of these providers).  If you are interested, I have been using the company GatherUp.com with several of my clients and am very happy with the fee structure, the service, and the results.

If you haven’t claimed or set your account for Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook you should put that on your near-term to-do list.  Yelp is a bit of an outlier here in that they clearly state that you should NOT request reviews for their platform.  However, claiming your listing will enable you to respond to any reviews and fill out a robust profile.  A less savory benefit is that you will get intermittent phone calls from the very persistent Yelp sale staff.  If you aren’t sure how to claim this account or someone claimed the account and you no longer have (or never had) the log information, contact me and we can try to troubleshoot the situation.

Once you have you account set up, you can copy the link for the Facebook page or the special review link from Google My Business to send onto your recent customers.

Here is a link to a video showing how to set up and copy the review link from Google My Business:

Once you have the link, I suggest developing a short email or text message you can send to a client.  A typical script could look like this:

“We hope that we have met or exceeded your expectations.  If you have 2 minutes, we would appreciate you sharing a sentence or two about your experience with the firm.  If you follow this link, [Insert you Google link here, it will look something like, https://g.page/short-name/review?gm  it will take you to the appropriate page on Google.com.  Please note, you will need a Gmail address in order to post a review.  Your reviews help us rank highly on Google, so even a sentence or two is helpful.”

 A few guidelines about asking for reviews:

  • You can’t compensate someone for a review.
  • Send out the requests over time…maybe 5-10 a month vs. all at once.  A bundle of reviews is a red flag to Google.  So, recent clients, current clients, even long-term clients.
  • When a review comes in, respond quickly with 1-3 sentences.  If it’s a poor review, refer to the advice earlier in the article.
  • Download the Google My Business app for your phone.  It will alert you to any reviews (and you can respond to them in the app as well).  The app is also a great place to do other updates, such as photos, for your account.

I need reviews, but I also need help

No worries.  If you have questions about a bad review or are struggling to get reviews, contact us using the form on our contact page or call us at 860-561-1156 to talk about your concerns.

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