How to Address Negative and Fake Business Reviews

In my last post, I provided an overview of how to approach business reviews: how to build a process for review management, platform-specific considerations for managing reviews, and why it’s important to take the time to respond – even to positive reviews.

This post will cover a more sensitive topic: how to respond to negative and fake reviews. It’s something all businesses have to deal with at some point, and without a plan it can lead to hasty responses that end up causing more harm than good.

Before hitting submit on your review response, read through these crucial tips.

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Tips for Responding to Negative Reviews

It can be tough to keep in mind, but negative reviews are a big opportunity in a couple of ways: to learn things your business can do better, and to bolster your brand reputation by responding appropriately. 

Here are the ways to approach negative reviews:

Keep it professional

Responses should always be respectful, even if you don’t agree with the review. Remember, there will be a lot of eyeballs on your reaction.

Don’t be defensive

It’s not personal. It can be hard when it’s your business, service, or product, but avoid the urge to explain why you’re right and they’re wrong. Own up to mistakes and look at it as an opportunity to improve.

Thank them for the feedback

Feedback is a gift. An authentic thank-you to the people who give it to you goes a long way.

Make them feel heard

How many times have you seen a response to a review that isn’t even close to addressing what the review was saying? It’s important to actually read the review, understand the situation and what they’re saying, and respond accordingly. It often helps to reiterate the issue or emotion they are feeling.

Apologize for a negative experience

Show empathy for the bad experience. It shows that you acknowledge the problem and are taking their concerns seriously.

Offer an opportunity to make it right

Not everyone will take you up on it, but the gesture itself can go a long way – to both the reviewer and other potential customers who will see that you are trying to make things right.

Share what you’ll do differently

Sometimes what’s done is done and there’s no fixing it, or the customer isn’t interested in attempts to make it right. Knowing that something will be done differently to help ensure it doesn’t happen again for other customers can be a powerful resolution.

Take it offline

Encourage them to contact you directly to discuss the issue in more detail privately and get additional information that might be necessary to help solve the problem.

Don’t ask customers to delete reviews

Customer experiences are valid. Asking customers – even ones happy with the eventual outcome – to delete reviews can come off as trying to erase a mistake and hide that it ever happened instead of trying to rectify it. If you were able to successfully resolve the issue for them, you may consider a follow up to see if they’d consider updating their review to reflect their most recent experience. This should be handled carefully with no pressure or expectations.



Tips for Responding to Fake Reviews

Fake reviews are a different story than negative reviews, but sometimes the lines can be blurred. Most of the time fake reviews are obvious for one reason or another, but avoid assuming a negative review is fake based on certain factors like not recognizing the client’s name. Either way, these should be handled immediately 

Since there’s not a person with a genuine comment or concern at the heart of them, the right response is to immediately mitigate them. We do this in a couple of ways:

Report the review

Usually there isn’t an option to delete reviews, but reporting reviews is a common feature. Don’t wait; do this as soon as possible. Most platforms have policies against fake reviews and have an easy way for you to flag them. If the platform agrees it’s fraudulent or violates their policies, they may remove it. 

Consider shutting down reviews on that channel

If you find yourself with more fake/negative reviews than positive ones, you may want to consider removing reviews altogether from that channel. This isn’t always an option, but some platforms like LinkedIn Service Pages and Facebook pages have the option to disable the review functionality

When in doubt, respond

If there’s a chance the reviews are genuine – or could appear that way to outside parties who might be gauging your reaction – respond as you normally would using the negative review tips, and stay respectful. You can still report it if there’s legitimate reason to believe it’s fake.


Making a Plan

As marketers who work to acquire and retain customers for our clients, we have a stake in making sure reviews are approached the right way. Using these tips to put together a plan on how you will address these situations will ultimately help your brand and marketing efforts.

Ultimately, the goal of approaching negative and fake reviews is to make the most of a tough situation. Whether that means you’re taking the high road for your brand, gathering valuable market feedback, converting a grumpy customer into an advocate with great customer service, or all of the above, there’s usually a chance to work toward a silver lining.

If you have any questions on how to manage or encourage reviews, and how to work them into your marketing strategy, drop us a line.

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