Business Matters: Business advice – how to deal with negative reviews online | Blogs

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In business today, getting customers to leave you positive reviews online is valuable currency. No matter what industry you’re in, having great online reviews can cement existing business relationships, help attract new customers, and convince others to use your services. Bad reviews, on the other hand, can do huge damage to your reputation and ultimately hurt your bottom line.

We caught up with Ben Jenkins, Head of Dispute Resolution at Harding Evans and Defamation Complaints Specialist, who explains what businesses can do to deal with negative reviews online.

The importance of customer reviews has come to the fore during the pandemic, with consumers turning to online retailers and service providers in droves. 89% of customers agree that online reviews influence their buying decisions[i] and 76% say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations [ii]it’s never been more important to make sure your customers speak well of your online business.

So what can we do?

Fake and bad reviews

Fake reviews can be very dangerous as they impact your brand’s credibility by pointing out bad service where there is none. Even if customers notice that the actual review is fake, that may be enough to put them off as it may call into question the trustworthiness of all the other genuine and more positive reviews about your business.

Business owners can sometimes feel helpless in the face of negative reviews on online platforms, but if a review is clearly false, it can be reported to the platform administrators and they should remove it.

Signs of a fake review include:

  • If the reviewer doesn’t provide profile information or has an inconsistent review method, you might be dealing with a computerized persona.
  • If they include links to third-party websites or products for the purpose of driving customers to competitors or unprotected sites.
  • If the notice message is not specific, repeated as new notices for other businesses and clearly written/translated from another language.

Simple censorship of negative reviews should be avoided at all costs, even if you strongly disagree with a particular review that has been posted online. 62% of consumers say they won’t support brands that censor reviews [iii].

Authenticity and transparency are important factors consumers look for in reviews and, interestingly, slight imperfections in review ratings appear to have more power of influence, with six in ten consumers saying they would be wary of reviews. perfect five star reviews.

So should I leave it?

While it can be maddening to see a review that you think is unfounded left online for everyone to read, you need to remember that everyone is entitled to their honest opinions and freedom of speech, and all businesses can expect some level of criticism from time to time. In many cases, it’s just worth taking matters into your own hands and responding carefully to the review, feeling safe knowing that one negative review is likely to be overridden by multiple positive reviews.

However, some negative reviews are simply untrue and cause serious harm and damage to a company’s reputation. A negative review becomes defamatory when, for example, the author of the review has posted an untruth, the review does not represent an honest opinion, or it deliberately misleads the reader. Malicious examples like these may require more forceful and immediate action, so it’s worth considering legal action. Action may also be taken against the online platforms on which the review is posted if they fail to deal with it adequately.

If a business were to sue someone for posting a defamatory review, the business would have to prove that the review was defamatory and that it suffered serious harm as a result. This is a difficult threshold, involving often complex legal arguments that revolve around the specific facts of each case.

Is it a good idea to take legal action?

Clearly, this is a decision not to be taken lightly. Although legal action is sometimes essential to avoid significant reputational damage, it can be very time-consuming and costly. There are also examples of cases that have gone very badly, commercially, for companies even once they have made the decision to sue.

A UK law firm has sued a former client for defamation after he left a negative review on Trustpilot accusing them of being ‘another fraudulent lawyer’ and ‘a waste of money’, claims they believed to be unfounded.

Initially, it looked like they had done the right thing by taking the case to court, as the company had been awarded £25,000 in damages by the High Court in London. However, the company was soon inundated with dozens of one-star ratings from outraged members of the public who had read the judgment on the national news. Trustpilot had to ban the publication of new reviews on the law firm’s reviews page, but not before the firm’s overall rating fell to 2.1 stars.

So what can I do to limit the damage?

There are a number of things that can be done to limit the damage and use online reviews to your advantage:

  • Respond individually to each online review and make sure your response is thoughtful, carefully worded and measured. Always thank them for taking the time to leave a review, and if there are negative reviews, take the opportunity to address their concerns, reassure other potential customers, and tone down any criticism. You can also offer to take the discussions offline for further research, to show that you take their views and experience seriously.
  • Ask your customers to leave online reviews about their positive experiences and make it as easy as possible for them, either at the point of sale or through a personalized email campaign. Most customers will leave a review if asked.
  • Be transparent by sharing your reviews online on your website. This shows potential customers that your business is confident in providing high quality products and excellent customer service.
  • Share positive reviews online in your communications, both internally and externally, to boost the morale and recognition of your staff and to reassure and encourage other potential customers. There will also be constructive criticism in bad reviews worth learning.

For advice on dealing with negative online reviews of your business, call Ben Jenkins in the Dispute Resolution team on 01633 244233 or email [email protected]

[i] Trustpilot 2020

[ii] Bright local 2020

[iii] Trustpilot 2020

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