A company’s reputation relies heavily on online reviews, no matter the industry, size of the company or business location. When searching for a product or service, what others share about their personal experience or how they felt a particular company treated them will absolutely affect a consumer’s final decision. In fact, some individuals exclusively use online reviews as their only deciding factor before committing to any purchase they make. This is why online reputation management (ORM) and the way negative reviews are handled are so incredibly important.
General Review Guidelines
As a business owner or manager, it’s advantageous to familiarize yourself with review guidelines. It’s in your best interest to know what reviewers are allowed to say, what content is considered inappropriate, general privacy rules and reasons why you may be able to have a review removed. According to Yelp’s content guidelines, users are allowed to contribute different types of content, including written reviews, photos, videos, votes, ratings, tips and direct messages to the business. However, the way in which this content is presented is what determines whether or not the review is considered legitimate.
In general, you may be able to have reviews flagged and removed if they violate any of the following guidelines:
- Inappropriate language. If the review is worded in a way that can be interpreted as a threat, harassment, hate speech, or prejudice against a particular demographic group, it can be flagged for removal.
- Conflicts of interest. Reviews should always be unbiased. If it appears as though reviews have been solicited from friends, family, or a company’s own employees or management, these reviews will always be removed.
- Promotional content. The point of a review is to provide useful information for consumers. If the content is considered overly promotional without delivering value, it is a violation of the review guidelines.
- Relevant content. Content that is not relevant includes topics such as political views, employment practices, or reviews based on another person’s experience. Reviews should comment directly on a consumer’s personal experience with a business and nothing else.
- Privacy. This is taken very seriously and reviews will be removed immediately if personal data, such as full names, phone numbers, emails, close-up photos or video without explicit permission, are posted.
- Payment to remove review. It is a violation of content guidelines for users to request payment from a business to remove their review. This form of bribery will result in immediate removal of the review.
- Intellectual property. If a review features content, photos, or video that were taken from other profiles or websites that the user does not own, it can be flagged and removed.
Take Action Against Negative Reviews
Getting that negative review notification, whether justified or not, is never an ideal situation. This is something no professional wants to deal with, but it happens. However, the most important thing now is how you choose to respond to these reviews. Your response, not necessarily the negative review itself, is what will make or break your reputation in many cases.
Remember, you are not helpless when it comes to negative reviews. The first step is to see if the review violates any of the above guidelines. If so, you can immediately flag the review for removal. You do not have to suffer the consequences of a bad review that uses inappropriate language or does not comment on your business directly. For example, if a reviewer claims to have heard from their friend a month ago that one of your employees was rude, this is not a personal nor timely experience. Hearsay is generally not seen as valuable and most review platforms will not consider it a credible review.
Respond Quickly and Consistently
If a review cannot be removed, it’s crucial to respond to the review quickly and constructively. It can be hard, but remember to not react emotionally or take the review personally. Instead, try to come from a place of understanding and empathy. The worst thing you can do is respond in anger or frustration, creating further conflict. If the review is legitimate, you’ll want to hit these points in your response:
- Express gratitude for the feedback
- Apologize for the unfortunate experience
- Offer a way to correct the situation
Your response does not have to be long, and you certainly do not want to go overboard with your apology. This should be a short, yet genuine, response addressing this customer directly. Even if the review is flagged and will most likely be removed, you still want to respond in a way that addresses the concerns of the reviewer without pointing the finger or accepting blame. Basically, there should never be a negative review of your business that goes unanswered, period.
Learn to Take Criticism Constructively
After all the hard work, sweat, and tears you put into your operation, it’s never easy hearing somebody criticize your business. However, this could be a real opportunity to consider the feedback to improve your service. If you take reviews as a learning experience, you have real potential to enhance your business and gain more exposure by listening to your customers. Occasional criticism allows companies to grow in the right direction through improved customer service or a stronger, more efficient business model.
Looking on the bright side of any negative review starts with the understanding that every business has to deal with them every now and then. If a company only receives perfect reviews every single time, it could give the impression that the reviews, and the company itself, are not credible. Consumers are smart enough to understand mistakes happen. In all seriousness, handling bad reviews in the right way just proves that company leaders care about clients and show initiative to want to do better. If a company’s response shows poise, experience, and respect, this can go a long way with attracting potential customers.
Stay on Top of Your Reviews
As mentioned earlier, promptly responding to negative reviews is essential to managing your online reputation. Although this does require time and diligence, it’s so important to your company’s identity and success. It’s not enough to have a great product or impressive service, being recognized by your customers or clients as a credible and exceptional business is how other consumers will choose to support your brand or not.
When your business reaches a point of growth when it’s no longer sustainable or efficient to manage multiple online profiles and respond to every review on your own, it may be time to look into having a professional handle your online reputation. So many executives and business owners recognize the real value in ORM and are able to take advantage of services offered by digital marketing agencies to stay on top of their online presence.
The experts at Levy Online would love to discuss these services further and how our team can help you manage your online reputation the right way.