Chances are that you're reading this because someone posted a fake online review about your business. In this post we cover exactly how to handle it.
Even well-managed businesses have off days, so the occasional negative online review is a normal part of doing business.
But false, defamatory reviews? Those can be irritating, infuriating and damaging to your bottom line.
If angry customers, disgruntled ex-employees or competitors post inaccurate reviews of your business online, you don't have to just take it: You can fight back without doing any further harm to your reputation.
1. Pause and Process
First things first: Don't act right away.
It's natural to feel angry and defensive when someone spreads lies about your business, but taking steps while emotional can backfire.
At the same time, you don't want to let the false review stand for long, or you risk customers seeing it and taking it as fact.
Take a few minutes or even an hour to blow off steam, and proceed only once you're calm.
2. Try Getting the Review Removed
Getting the review removed before anyone can see it is obviously the ideal scenario.
Unfortunately, there's no guarantee you'll be able to get a false review taken down. It's your word against the word of the reviewer, and review sites can't take down every post that a business owner doesn't like.
However, depending on the site, you may be able to request that the review be assessed.
Here's how a few of the major review sites deal with these situations...
Facebook will only remove reviews if they don't comply with Facebook's Community Standards, a general set of guidelines that prohibit things like sexual harassment, bullying and threats.
Note that these guidelines govern all of Facebook, so they're not specific to businesses.
- Find the review in question.
- Click the V-shaped icon in the top right corner of the review.
- Click on "Report Post" and follow the instructions.
Yelp will remove a review only if the reviewer had a clear conflict of interest, didn't focus on their own consumer experience or included offensive language/private information in the post.
- Log in to your business's Yelp account.
- Find the review in question.
- Click on the flag icon in the bottom right of the review.
- Select the reason you're reporting the post, and write out your explanation. Note that Yelp will remove a post due to conflict of interest only if the site moderators are convinced the reviewer was biased, and if you don't have any evidence of that, the review will probably stay up.
Google will remove posts if they're written by someone with a conflict of interest or by someone who's impersonating someone else - but again, an independent moderator will decide whether there's enough evidence that the review is false.
- Search for your business on Google Maps.
- Click on the business's overall star rating. This should take you to a list of reviews.
- Use the mouse to hover over the review you want removed.
- Click on the flag icon that appears.
- Follow the prompts. Note that you can't write out an explanation of why the post should be removed; you can only request that a particular post be reviewed by Google.
3. Consider Responding Publicly
Here's the thing about responding to false or inflammatory reviews: It's all or nothing.
If customers see you respond to one negative post, but not to others, they might assume that the other negative posts are accurate and that's why you're not responding.
But if you receive a ton of online reviews, it's time-consuming to respond to every one that you feel is wrong. So weigh your options before you decide to write back to a false post.
If you do decide to speak up, draft a polite response that addresses the points made in the post. Don't accuse the reviewer of anything or use insults.
Regardless of how you respond, we recommend always leaving the door open for the possibility that the review is actually not fake, and also invite the reviewer to contact you to resolve the issue. This makes it apparent that you actually care about your real customers.
Here are a few tactics you can use:
- Consider that the reviewer may have posted a review for the wrong company: "We appreciate when our customers take time to review us, but it seems that may have the wrong company as we don't have any record of you ever having visited us. Maybe you have us confused with another company? If it was definitely us then we'd love the opportunity to make things right."
- Emphasize your commitment to customer service: "I'm very sorry to hear that you were treated poorly by our staff. We try our best to treat every customer with the utmost respect, but sometimes we don't meet our own standards. If you would take the time to contact me I'm sure we can resolve this issue."
- Politely draw question to false claims: "I think there's some confusion here, as you wrote that we closed early on Sunday so you couldn't get in, but we aren't open on Sundays. Maybe it was another day (or a different business)? If you wouldn't mind calling us so we can understand the issue a little more then I'm sure we can figure out what happened."
4. Attract More Positive Reviews
One nasty or false review looks really bad when it's the only review your business has. When you have 100 glowing reviews, however, that one nasty one looks questionable. In fact, when you consistently get more reviews on a steady basis, that one negative one effectively gets pushed by the wayside.
Use an automated system like ReputationStacker to do the heavy lifting for you.
All you have to do is enter a customer's phone number or email address into the system, and ReputationStacker contacts them with a one-question survey to get their feedback, then directs them to the review site of your choice so they can post reviews.
One angry customer or jealous competitor doesn't have the power to hurt your business, provided you know how to respond to false reviews online.
If you can't get the review removed, responding in a positive way can show other customers just how professional you are.
Meanwhile, drown out the rare fake review by attracting a steady stream of positive reviews using an automated system like ReputationStacker.