Blog Team • May 30, 2017

Over 90% of online consumers look at online reviews when researching and choosing a business online. What does this mean for you? If your business is being haunted by a bad online review, your brand and your reputation could be facing serious damage every time you are searched. 

After working with hundreds of customers to create review management solutions, we developed the following 4 steps to handle negative online reviews.

1.   Don’t Panic!

Bad reviews are posted every day, affecting businesses of all shapes, sizes, and industries. When you spot a bad review of your firm, avoid a kneejerk reaction and know you aren’t the first nor the last to be impacted by negative items online. Research the existing proven ways to deal with the situation. It’s important to keep your calm before posting anything online that might further inflate the issue.

2.   Assess the problem

When you first discover a bad review of your business, you may be inclined to ignore it completely. After all, what harm could come from letting the bad review lie?

We hear this misconception all the time. Unfortunately, refusing to acknowledge that the review exists or do anything about it puts you at risk for reaching the top page of search results with negative reviews of your business front and center. From there, it can easily be viewed, shared and associated with your business anytime it’s searched.

Identify “Real” from “Fake” Reviews

To determine the review’s validity, ask yourself a few questions: was the reviewer an actual client and not a bot, disgruntled ex-employee or competitor? Did the experience being described really take place? If so, does the review provide an accurate description of what happened? While tricky, determining the review’s authenticity is essential to know how best to move forward.

Be sure to acknowledge the issue at hand and identify a solution. Doing nothing ultimately gives the review continued influence on your customers and unnecessary power over your brand.

3.   Make a Plan

If Questionable, Research and Remove

To maintain credibility, popular review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and RateMDs have established processes for filtering out spammy, malicious and false reviews. However, these processes are not perfect, meaning fake reviews can easily slip through the cracks.

If the negative review is veritably false or malicious, look into the site’s terms-of-service to locate steps for removal. If your assessment falls within the scope of these rules, contact the site to get the removal ball rolling.

If Valid, Research and Respond

If the review is true and negative experienced validated, dig into the incident or experience being described. Talk with employees and others involved to get the necessary background, and equip yourself with as much information as you can before you prepare a response.

Most important: do your best to see the problem from the customer’s perspective. If this is a first-time review or issue, it may be best to respond to the reviewer privately, at least before doing so on a public platform. Look at what can be done to address the underlying problem behind-the-scenes and mend fences with the client as quickly as possible.

Tips for responding publicly:

If your efforts at private resolution either 1) don’t produce a workable solution, 2) failed to reach the customer or 3) weren’t feasible, to begin with, it might be time to respond on the review site itself.

If you’ve reached the point where a follow-up comment is necessary, take a thoughtful and measured approach by incorporating the following tips:

  • Be positive
  • Thank them for the feedback
  • Explain that you’re researching and addressing the problem
  • Apologize
  • Offer to make it right

Sometimes a private or public response will generate positive feedback from the reviewer. The reviewer may even delete the review completely. In either case, your efforts are worth it.

Remember that this process may take a while and that by the time you’ve achieved any sort of positive response or resolution, the bad review will have been online and searchable throughout the entire communication. In this case, we recommend hiring an expert to help address the negative aftermath of a bad review.

4.   Take Action

Encourage Positive Reviews from Your Customers

While responding to a negative review is important, demonstrating that the review isn’t the only thing people have said about your company can be the most powerful way to handle online critique. 

Encourage customers to review their experiences with your company in order to better control review generation and flow. Give yourself a better chance at heading off a disastrous review before it dominates your online reputation.

Once you interject yourself into the process of feedback, you are able to address issues immediately. You also have more control over where positive reviews are going and how they’re promoted, which builds your positive presence to overshadow any negative online feedback.  

The Takeaway:

Negative online reviews happen to everyone. Rather than getting overwhelmed with the issue at hand, put a strategy in place to quickly and effectively respond to when negativity comes up. Educate yourself on the many online review sites available, and monitor the online conversation surrounding your brand to best position your company and manage your online reputation.