The internet has changed the way we live and do business: how products are sold, how companies interact with customers, even what defines “professionalism.” What hasn’t changed? The importance of maintaining and monitoring your reputation – it’s just that now that reputation is largely online and therefore more public than before the days of the World Wide Web!
With the increased presence of online reviews and more and more people relying on them before making a purchase decision, it’s become more important than ever to monitor your company’s online reputation.
Online reviews have become a form of modern-day word-of-mouth advertising. They are posted by customers who want to share their thoughts, whether good or bad, with the rest of the world.
Positive online reviews are a great asset to any business and a fantastic way to build up your company’s reputation.
A negative review can happen to anyone, including the most conscientious and customer-oriented businesses. You can have the best products and services but if you’re a local business with any kind of online presence, the chances are that at some point, you’ll likely receive a negative review. When you do, you shouldn’t just sit back and let your reputation take a hit – there are many things you can do (both short-term and long- term) that will help combat the damage of a bad review online.
So how do you remove a negative review? This is a question that many business owners ask themselves when they are faced with the reality of having to deal with an unhappy customer. Negative reviews are every businesses worst nightmare and even just one bad review can indeed be extremely detrimental to a business and its future prospects for success. It can be a very difficult and lengthy process to get negative reviews removed, and many times it’s not possible. There are, however, things you can do to minimise the impact of a negative review and even get it removed if the situation is right.
Sound like a plan?
Removing Google Reviews
While it’s true that some negative reviews are maliciously written by competitors; however often they are simply honest feedback from customers who were unhappy with their purchase.
By their own admission, Google ‘doesn’t get involved when businesses and customers disagree about facts, since there’s no reliable way to discern who’s right about a particular customer experience’. So, you can’t flag a review for removal just because you don’t like it or may not agree with it – they simply won’t take any action.
For a Google review to be removed it has to violate Google’s inappropriate content policies. A quick look at Google’s support pages shows the types of content that are prohibited…
- Spam and fake content
- Restricted content
- IIlegal content
- Terrorist content
- Sexually explicit content
- Offensive content
- Dangerous and derogatory content
- Conflict of interest
If a customer has posted a review and it includes any of the content listed above, the good news is, you can request its removal! Once you’ve confirmed that the content is deemed by Google’s policies to be inappropriate, the process is a fairly simple one:
- On your phone or tablet, go to Google.
- Find your Business Profile
- Tap Reviews
- Find the review you’d like to flag
- Tap More, then click Report review
According to Google, it can take several days for a review to be assessed so they advise patience during the process.
So what do you do about a negative review if it doesn’t violate Google’s policies? Great question! And fortunately, we have a few tips…
Respond, Don’t React
You can’t always remove a bad review, but there are things you can do as an organisation or individual to minimise the damage it will have on your business’s reputation. Removing negative reviews is hard – if not impossible in most cases – but if you respond to a negative review well, it can have more positive effects than just getting rid of the bad feedback.
When we receive feedback that isn’t positive – whether it’s from customers, employees or suppliers – our first instinct is often to panic. But actually if handled correctly, this can be a great opportunity to improve your business.
This is where you get to make a choice. You can react, or you can respond.
Instead of just reacting in anger when faced with criticism, your response can be an opportunity to turn that negative feeling into something constructive and show your customers you care about their feedback.
Responding means taking the time and energy that you would have put into fighting back or avoiding the issue, and instead using it for something more constructive by reviewing what happened, learning from it and then moving on to address any issues.
Responding is about reaching out to your customer, discussing what went wrong and then using that information to make changes so it doesn’t happen again in the future. Responding can be done face-to-face or over email – it just needs to be a real conversation, not an automated one!
The first step you can take is to respond promptly and respectfully, as this will also show prospects that you are responsive and eager to rectify any issues as they arise.
You should never retaliate or argue with your reviewers. Your job, as a business owner, is to remain polite and professional no matter what the situation may be.
Failure to respond comes across as though the business simply doesn’t care, which can lead to a downward spiral in customer confidence and decrease your chances of recovering from the impact of the review.
Simply showing your customers that you care enough to listen, learn and improve can go a long way to repairing the customer relationship and by showing empathy to their issue you will make them feel respected in their views. If your client is reasonable, it may even lead to them removing the negative review.
Develop a Remedial Plan for Negative Reviews
As we’ve already said, negative reviews are inevitable at some point, no matter how good your business or brand is. If you can be proactive and develop a plan on how you are going to react and what steps your organisation will take in the event of receiving a negative review, it will make the process much easier. You’ll be in a much better position to respond quickly and effectively when the time comes and it will help to keep any damage to your reputation to a minimum.
Have a System for Monitoring Your Online Reviews
It’s a good idea to have some sort of system in place that will allow you or your staff members to monitor the reviews being left about your business on various platforms. This can save time and keep things organized, plus it could help with identifying any potential issues before they escalate too far out of control.
Ideally, if you’re running an online e-commerce store this would be part of your customer service process anyway – so even if the review is being written by someone who isn’t currently a customer but has bought from you in the past then follow up with them via email should still be easy enough!
If possible we always recommend using automated systems for monitoring reviews as these are more comprehensive than manual ones which are prone to human error.
Online review management can be outsourced to a specialist company that can be accessed remotely and has the resources to monitor your reviews on social media, Google, Yelp and Trip Advisor etc. The great thing about using a service like this is that all negative reviews get internalised giving you the opportunity to respond quickly and take steps to work things out with the customer before the review has a chance to get into the public domain.
Collect Regular Positive Reviews
If a review can’t be removed, the best option is to accumulate lots of regular positive reviews to essentially outweigh any negative ones. This is one of the very best strategies to combat the negative effects of unfavourable reviews and rebuild your online reputation, restoring confidence in your brand.
This will help you keep any negative reviews lower down the rankings and less visible in Google searches etc., meaning it’s much easier for prospective buyers to find other people’s opinions about what a great experience they had with you!
There are lots of ways to collect positive reviews, from asking your existing customers to leave reviews, running a free prize draw or competition which offers a discount for those who complete the review form and even incentivising with vouchers.
Obviously, it’s not an ethical business practice to ask for only positive reviews or a specific rating; customers should be given the option to provide full and honest feedback.
Of course, you want everyone who purchases from you to have an excellent experience and leave feeling satisfied, which should also make them more likely of leaving positive feedback online too.
The more effort you put into ensuring a positive customer experience, the more positive reviews you’ll receive and that can be a great way of promoting your business. If you accumulate lots of regular, positive online reviews, it will even improve your rankings and boost your business profile on search engines like Google. You’ll show up higher when prospective buyers do searches for products similar to yours meaning they find your site
more easily and buy from you instead of one of your competitors – what’s not to love? And at no additional cost to your marketing budget!
Don’t Forget To Respond To Positive Reviews Too!
We’ve already covered how important it is to respond to negative reviews in a timely manner but many businesses forget that it’s equally as important to respond to customers who have left positive reviews by thanking them publicly on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Always acknowledge the customer’s feedback and thank them for their purchase; it costs nothing but can make a huge difference to your online reputation. This one simple action can help to build an emotional connection with customers which could lead to repeat sales and even more positive reviews in future!
Online reviews can be a double-edged sword, but as long as you follow the guidelines set out in this article then even bad feedback can have its advantages. The best thing businesses can do with negative reviews is to learn from them, take action to rectify the problem and then carry on as usual while making a continuous effort to monitor all customer feedback and build up those all-important positive reviews on a regular basis.
If you’re looking for a professional, affordable online reputation management company to help with this process then we’d love to chat with you about the services we offer and how we can help you to monitor and maintain your businesses reputation online. And of course, if you have any questions about anything we’ve discussed in this article then we’d be happy to help so please reach out!