One of the great things about the Internet is the level of freedom of speech that exists there. If we experience bad service from a product or service provider, we can tell other people, so they can weigh up the pros and cons before choosing to spend their money with the same vendor. This has really accelerated the way that word of mouth travels via the Internet, allowing your best customers to sell your products and services for you through their positive feedback and reviews.
However, the trouble is, that the freedom of the Internet that allows people to have their fair say have also allowed people to use the same processes to damage your reputation online. Whether their comments are negative, truthful reviews written by people that didn’t get the customer experience that they should, or negative, fake reviews written by competitors, disgruntled employees or ex-business partners, it’s important to know what’s being said about you.
So what do you do with negative reviews? It’s all about managing your online reputation and there is a lot that you can do.
Okay, so what happens when you Google your company name and a string of negative comments appears on the front page of Google? No doubt you’ll start losing customers immediately and that could be incredibly costly for your business. Let’s face it, Google is the greatest shopping directory ever invented and if you come up negatively on the front page, you just have no idea of the damage to your reputation because you can’t count the number of potential customers that you lose from it.
The first step to take when you discover a negative review is to check its veracity or verify if the complaint is a genuine one. In lots of cases, it could easily be a lie published by a competitor or just someone out to cause trouble for your business.
The next step is to find out if there are more complaints like it elsewhere on the Internet. You do this by Googling ‘your company name’ plus words associated with negative reviews such as ‘complaints’, ‘feedback’, ‘scam’, ‘problems’, ‘bad service’. I’m sure you get the point.
If you’re absolutely certain that the reviews or comments are not genuine, then you can politely email the sites that are publishing those reviews and offer them your side of the story and ask if they would kindly remove it. The trouble is that not all review sites will let you challenge a review and some will just flat-out refuse to remove anything from their site, even if you have proof.
If they refuse to do anything or ignore your messages, then see if you can add a comment of your own to the site setting the story straight. This at least shows that you are aware of the problem and were willing to do something about it. If it’s genuine, you have the chance to please a disgruntled customer, if it’s fake, people will see that you made an effort to address the situation at least.
If it is indeed a genuine problem, use the opportunity to resolve the issue and post the resolution on that website. More often than not, if you successfully resolve the complaint, the complainant will remove the complaint from the site.
If neither of these simple approaches works, you may need to go deeper. You can post a message on your website that’s optimised for the same searches that bring up the negative review comments. Let people know that there are issues and that you are working to resolve them. This works particularly well if the complaints are lies, but obviously highlighting problems is not a great sales tactic.
If the negative reviews only appear when your company name is searched for on Google, then you need to drive the reviews off the front page by ensuring that your name appears positively enough times on the front page to push them further down Google into the abyss. Using blogs, review sites, online profiles and other high profile websites are great for this.
Ensure that your own site features plenty of positive reviews so that you can point out how ‘out of place’ and ‘wrong’ the negative reviews are.
The best thing that you can do is to set up a level of monitoring regarding your company and its online reputation. You can do this for free by setting up Google alerts or use an application that will regularly check what’s being said about you online. Remember, it’s vital that as a business trading on the web that you are absolutely 100% sure of what’s being said about you in the public forum of the Internet and take steps to respond accordingly to any negative reviews that you find there.
But if all else fails, it may be time to bring in an online reputation management specialist that can wipe the negative reviews off the net for you.
If you need help fighting negative reviews and managing your online reputation, then we may be able to help. Nikki Pilkington is an expert in Internet and Social Media Marketing, and in some cases can help companies to manage their negative reviews and increase their awareness of what’s being said about them online. To find out more, email firstname.lastname@example.org