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Online reviews are the new word of mouth. For years, companies have relied on satisfied customers to spread their satisfaction to friends and family—that is, to potential new customers—by word of mouth. But in today’s mobile world, word of mouth has effectively replaced online reviews. Thanks to easy access to the Internet, consumers have changed the way they purchase almost any product or service available. Rarely does anyone make a purchase without looking for reviews online. It is now simply part of the decision-making process, and it can be argued that evaluation is now the most important part of the process.

According to Trustpilot, 9 out of 10 customers read online reviews before buying a product. But customers don’t just want to see positive reviews, they want to read both the good and the bad. In fact, 62% of consumers refuse to buy from brands that censor reviews. Authenticity and transparency are important to consumers, and reviews speak volumes about a company.

We know that positive online reviews can have a powerful impact on your business. But let’s face it, not every review you get is positive. How you deal with fake or negative reviews can affect potential customers almost as much as your positive reviews.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to deal with fake or negative reviews. Let’s focus on the negative reviews:

First take a deep breath – As a business owner, you have built a deep reputation for your business. Reading a fake or negative review can be infuriating and your immediate reaction is usually to react immediately. However, this is not always in your best interest. Stop for a moment and fully process what the consumer has written. Try to find out why they left a bad response and if you can do anything to restore their trust. Before you answer, calmly make a plan.

React in timely fashion – Although it is important to take a deep breath to avoid reacting with emotion, it is equally important to react in time. In today’s fast response world, customers expect a response the same day. It is important to deal with negative reviews quickly before they increase and more potential customers read the review.

Respond in a positive, polite and professional manner – be brief, pleasant and empathetic when responding. Critics often just want to be heard. Showing them that you have listened to their complaints and are considering a solution to the problem can ease their concerns. Do not respond personally to the review. Rather, answer politely and professionally.

Fix the problem – Unfortunately, sometimes negative reviews are left because the service did not really meet the expected standards. Always try to contact the reviewer in person and submit a review offline. Solve the problem with more than just an online answer. By trying to solve a problem, you show not only the customer, but also other potential customers that you stand behind your product or service and want to provide the best possible consumer experience.

Ask for another chance – After you’ve taken steps to resolve the issue, you can ask the reviewer to update their original review (or even ask for the review to be removed). Try contacting them via email and summarize the original issue, how you resolved it, or what steps were taken to ensure things move forward. Then politely ask if they would like to update their review.

Get more positive reviews – Always ask your satisfied customers to write positive reviews about your business. Since reviews are usually posted chronologically, new positive reviews further reduce negative reviews in the results. Most consumers only read a few reviews, so the lower down the list the negative review is, the less visibility it will have.

Steps to take once you see a fake review:

Try to remove a fake review – Removing a fake review before anyone sees it is obviously in the best interest of your business. There is no guarantee that a review can be removed, but depending on the site, there are review policies that can be used to flag reviews for removal.  For example you may be able to show the review is from an employee, or competitor to have a fake review removed.

Post a Reply – Knowingly replying to a fake review may seem odd, but remember that potential buyers won’t know the review is fake. They will only see the review and your response. So don’t forget to send a reply. Even something as general as “We will contact you offline to discuss this situation” shows your commitment to customer service.

Have a issue with negative or fake reviews? Don’t have time to manage online reviews?  Our team can support you in managing your businesses reputation. We will work with your business to develop relevant responses that align with your customer service philosophy.