How to Deal with Negative Reviews

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Negative online reviews can be very damaging to any business and unfortunately, cannot be totally avoided.  But how does one deal with negative reviews posted online, justified or not?  In my business, this question has come up a few times this last month, and in doing some research on this very topic, I came across this blog post that I would like to share:

The management of reviews is like herding cats in a leased warehouse with no key to get in. Now, if you own that warehouse, you have control.

Did you know that responding to a negative review on any directory or community style website will give you first-page rank? Indeed, responding will jack your name and company to the top of the organic search lists in less than a week. I’ve seen it happen overnight.

The writer is correct, I myself have seen this happen.  So, it is really crucial how you respond to negative reviews.  Never, ever justify or make excuses.  Acknowledge the grievance and promise a solution if complainer calls you. As consumers, we understand that sometimes things can go wrong.  What we want to know is that the business owner cares enough to correct the issue.

Most posts I see don’t dive deep into the reasons to why bad reviews happen or give reliable solutions. In my view, censorship is just another form of abuse. We need workable solutions that integrated into every review system on the internet. Negative reviews happen due to the following: team foundation, competitors, the entitled, and the review system. Below are viable options that many of my friends and clients have adopted.

Team Foundation. Just a few questions to ask yourself regarding your team. Is it solid? Can you take off from the office for a week without a hiccup? How well does your team operate in and out of your company? Do they tell their family and friends how much they enjoy and appreciate working for you? Do they refer your company while out and about in the community or on social media? If they hear something negative from a third party about your company, do they defend the company to the bitter end? How well do you know your hires? Do you run it like “The New One Minute Manager,” Do you micromanage, if so why? Is it because you hired wrong, or fear of not having complete control? I am not saying you shouldn’t have complete control. But, there are ways of getting the work done and reporting without having them feel like your breathing down their neck. However you manage, you and your team need to be an extension of each other. If you turn your back, you should be confident that your team knows how to handle the issues that they have been trained to do. Emphases on “What they are trained to do.” If you spent no time training or have crummy managers that can’t train, it is your fault you have a rogue nation running your business.

Some ways to have a happy, productive, career-minded team in the first place, is hire vetted career-minded staff. Put them through actual tests to make sure they can do the job. DO NOT RELY ON A RESUME. Resumes are altered to get the job. You want a team member that loves people and thrives in a team environment. They must have the right attitude, professional appearance and ooze confidence. Your company foundation should have the company bylaws, procedure books, company training materials, customer service training programs, growth programs, and team building workshops. A solid team foundation is going to give your company the backbone it needs for loyal customers.

Competitors. We all know that some competitors have great sportsmanship and others have no concept of playing fair. Several good businesses get slammed with falsified reviews. The game is pretty simple. Competitors will pay people to write malicious reviews as well as have friends write malicious reviews. Then it is a “catch 22.” The company will respond to clear their name, but that can be a mistake. If they don’t have an account, they may have to pay for a membership to gain access to the review section. Once they respond, the organic search list picks it up and overnight the negative review has become front page news. There is no way to delete the review. Countless companies have sued to have negative reviews removed and lost. There needs to be an overhaul on the review system.

The Entitled. These types of reviews are the most annoying. These negative reviews are apparent in their bullying of the business to get their way. The logic is nonsense to the sane, but O’boy, if the Troll Bus of Bullies sees someone else getting something for free, it’s all over. But, maybe not, there is still hope.

The Review System. Here are some solutions that community and directory style websites could implement to help with the negative review issues.

  • Unapproved Account Setup: If a business has not opened an account on a random directory or community website, the website cannot add it. It’s called data mining. These large websites collect information and insert it into their system without approval. The information gleaned is wrong, you see it, and they want you to pay to change it.

Most online directories started this way.  You would be surprised to find out in how many directories your business can be found in without your knowledge.  Do yourself a favor and search by your business name, and if you do find any be sure to claim the listing.  If you don’t, any of your competitors can, enter a wrong phone number (theirs) for instance, making sure you never get that call.

  • No Follow: Every large community/directory style website with a review section should have a “No Follow” command. Both positive and negative reviews show up in threads. It’s only the negative reviews that seem to get index and cache on the front page of search engines.

That is just wrong on so many levels!

  • Investigative Review Board: Investigate negative reviews to check for authentic negative reviews. BBB does an excellent job of working with the Company and Complaints. The Review Board should have an investigative portal that only the company and complaint can communicate. It doesn’t need to be public. The investigative team can publish the negative review if it is true.
  • Total Control: Setup submitted reviews on your website. Another option is to only use review features on sites that you control, like LinkedIn.

This is a tactic I recommend to all my clients!

Reviews are vital for businesses and consumers. We need to work on significant adjustments to weed out the malicious activity that goes on. But until then, you are on your own, but not alone. Here are a few additional options that you can try.

  • Double check your Team Foundation and make necessary adjustments.
  • Bring your reviews in-house.
  • Deactivate any website that you have no control over, namely the websites where your negative reviews have exploded. Whether you are at fault or not.
  • Hire an SEO and SEM Expert. Not a beginner or an intermediate, but someone that knows how to go to war for you online.
  • Counteract your negative reviews: You need twenty-five positive reviews to counteract one negative.
  • You will need an SEM Expert to bury your negative reviews indexed on the search engines.
  • Lawyer up if you know who needs to be held accountable for “Defamation of Character.” Go directly after the individual that is creating the posts. The Directory Websites always win these types of battles.

Lastly, stay righteous. Do not lower your standards or principals to combat the malicious people. Take the high road, but hold those accountable. Do it the right way, and you will come out just fine. 

In the online world, your business is always stacked up against the competition and you simply cannot afford negative reviews.  It pays to be pro-active!  If I can help your business set-up a pro-active review system in your business please let me know.

Hope this helps!

Birgit

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