Having a negative Google review here and there may not seem like big deal, but consumers trust what’s posted in reviews just as much as they do advice from friends. In fact, more than 80 percent of U.S. consumers say they “sometimes” read online reviews before making a purchase decision, according to data from the Pew Research Center. Moreover, 40 percent of consumers surveyed say they “always” or “almost always” read online reviews.
So, fixing negative reviews and taking appropriate actions when legitimate customer concerns are voiced online is a must for any business that wants to see positive results with online engagement. The first thing you can do to fix a bad review is keep reading to discover five specific reputation management tactics that could improve your online image.
1: Don’t Panic! – Evaluate the situation if you want to fix a bad review
Seeing a negative Yelp review or finding one on Google shouldn’t be reason enough to panic. It may be tempting to lash out and deny any not-so-flattering claims made in a review, but doing so could do more harm than good for your online reputation. Ignoring the problem isn’t the right solution either.
There’s also a school of thought that bad reviews can be a good thing PR-wise – some marketing insiders refer to it as the “any press is good press” theory. And there’s even some research suggesting negative reviews could actually improve sales. This being said, fixing negative reviews is the way to go if you want to emphasize your business’ positive attributes.
When you do spot a negative review, don’t panic. All businesses, even big names we all know and love like Walmart, Apple, and Disney, have gotten bad reviews at one time or another. So, getting a negative Google review or Yelp review isn’t the end of the world.
Start by evaluating the situation. Determine if the review is legit. Some competitors purposely post fake negative reviews on online review sites. So, look at things like:
• The nature of the complaint
• Whether or not you have a record of the customer’s name or the situation they are describing
• The way the review is phrased
Pay particular attention to the nature of the complaint and phrasing. Some fake reviews are purposely vague or not specific about dates when purchases were made or services were provided.
If complaints are valid, there are still steps you can take to minimize the damage. We’ll discuss that in detail below.
2. To fix a bad review, respond to it quickly (Even if it’s fake!)
If you discover that a review is fake, the recommended reputation management strategy is still to respond. But why? Mainly because attempting to fix a bad review can sometimes be a long, drawn-out process – it can still be worth it to make the effort though, but we’ll cover that in the next step.
You may be confident that a fake review will eventually be removed. In the meantime, however, it could very well remain in place for several days, weeks, or months. So, it’s better to err on the side of caution and go into reputation management mode.
Besides, fixing negative reviews is more about showing customers that you honestly care about their concerns than it is about pacifying disgruntled reviewers. Ultimately, you’ll be better off if you have a reputation management policy in place specific to bad/negative reviews. Address or fix a bad review by keeping the following tips in mind:
• Respond within 24 hours.
• Keep your response brief instead of going through a laundry list of excuses.
• Honestly own up to any complaints that are valid.
• Sincerely apologize – even in instances when the incident described wasn’t your fault.
• Offer to do your best to fix the problem (see number 4 for more on this).
Software can help you track reviews and online mentions so you don’t overlook anything that needs attention. Some programs that manage online reputation also send email alerts when comments are made and reviews are posted.
3. If it’s a Fake Review, reach out to Google or Yelp to flag and dispute it. Ask for it to be removed
Yes, fixing negative reviews that are clearly false presents some challenges. However, you’ll have a better shot at convincing a review site to remove fake reviews if you take certain steps.
Whether you want to fix a bad review on Google or Yelp, the basic process is pretty much the same. Start by flagging or reporting the review as fraudulent.
With Google, look for questionable or clearly fake reviews by opening Google Maps to search for your business and look at your reviews. Click the vertical dots within the review you wish to “Flag as Inappropriate.” If you don’t get a timely response from Google, there are two additional steps you can take:
• Call Google: Go the Support prompt on your Google My Business page to get the number to call to contact Google to ask about the status of the review you flagged.
• Seek a legal remedy: Should the fraudulent review be seriously damaging to your business, use the Google form for a legal removal request. Be aware that the standards for this step are fairly high, so you might want to consult an attorney.
If you spot a false or defamatory review on Yelp, report it and Yelp moderators will attempt to independently verify your claim that the review is not from a real customer. As with Google, it’s possible to take legal action to have a false Yelp review removed.
Yelp has a tendency to allow “Yelpers” to stand behind posted reviews, although they officially claim to be neutral in such matters. Even so, they do use automated software to determine which reviews are most useful.
So, it’s entirely possible that questionable reviews may never be posted on Yelp. Of course, you still want to keep tabs on what actually is posted. Additionally, Yelp encourages business owners to use their account to publicly or directly respond to reviews with inaccuracies.
4. Rectify the situation if it’s a valid concern and Stay on Top of negative reviews
Be vigilant about your online reputation. With reviews you flagged as fraudulent, check back to see what’s going on with the status of your claim.
Other times, a customer may have been in a bad mood when a review was written, or maybe they blew a minor issue way out of proportion. If this is the case, a quick, polite response on your part may remedy the situation.
However, if you happen to be getting a steady stream of negative reviews, be honest and admit the problem is likely with something you’re overlooking. It may not be easy to change some of your business practices. But doing so could result in noticeable improvements with the type of feedback you get online.
In order to positively change how your business is perceived online when the problem is on your end may involve:
• Customer representative training
• Adjusting website content
• Firing an employee who is acting inappropriately with customers
• Establishing and enforcing a policy for handling negative feedback
Now let’s focus on reviews that are more about unintended missteps on your part and not necessarily due to your general business practices. Regardless of the nature of criticism that happens to be valid, you’re not likely to be able to get reviews like this removed, nor should you try to. But there are still things you can do to rectify situations when you’re dealing with valid customer concerns, such as:
• Offering a refund or exchange
• Performing the service again until the customer is satisfied
• Offering discounts on future orders
• Taking the issues offline with a private chat or phone call
In some cases, you may be able to get a formerly dissatisfied customer to change, remove, or update their bad review. For instance, if a customer was unhappy with a service that was provided and you sent a technician back to do the job right for no additional fee, that customer may be willing to change their review. You might need to gently nudge them to do so, but most reasonable customers are willing to state that the problem was solved.
In fact, it’s fairly commonplace for customers to update reviews or change star ratings after an honest effort has been made to fix the problem. If the platform doesn’t allow users to fix a bad review themselves, they may simply post a new one detailing their positive experience with the way you handled the situation.
5. Work to acquire positive reviews more actively to help offset any negative ones
An often-overlooked way to fix a bad review is to actively take steps to encourage customers to submit new reviews. The purpose of doing so is to offset any negative reviews or comments with positive feedback.
Plus, most people tend to give more weight to reviews that are more current than ones that are older. So, if you have a handful of bad reviews that are from months or years ago and an assortment of positive ones that are more recent, customers are more likely to be more influenced by what’s newer.
There are many ways to get a steady stream of online feedback, with one of the most effective ones being to make it as easy as possible for customers to share their thoughts. Some simple and effective ways you can do this include:
• Optimizing your profiles on review platforms to make it easier for newly posted reviews to rank well on search engines
• Claiming your My Business page on Google (if you haven’t done so already) to put your positive feedback front and center on search engines
• Sending out follow-up emails to customers with a link to your website’s review page or reviews platforms where you have profiles
• Training your staff to ask customers to submit a review when they get a chance after a sale has been made
• Getting more engaged on social media so that satisfied customers will be more inclined to share positive comments about your business
• Incentivizing reviews with discounts and other perks*
*Be cautious with this tactic since you want the bulk of your reviews to be honest representations of your business with no strings attached. Some platforms also have policies against this particular strategy.
With anything related to reputation management, being proactive is what will make it easier to stay on top of negative reviews. Whether you’re dealing with a pesky negative Yelp review or questionable reviews on Google or other review sites, our team is here to lead a hand. We’re prepared to take appropriate steps to help you fix a bad review, minimize negative feedback, encourage positive comments, and highlight the best features of your brand. Contact us today to learn more.