Negative company reviews can have a domino effect on a business’s operations and bottom line. These critiques, whether true or false, not only tarnish a company’s image but can also influence its profitability, recruitment, and positioning in search engine results.
As consumers increasingly value businesses having a positive online presence, addressing negative feedback has become vital for businesses of all sizes that want to stay competitive in today’s digital landscape. Here are some methods businesses can adopt to handle and remove negative company reviews:
- Privately reach out to the reviewer,
- Respond to the review publicly (if appropriate),
- Flag and report the review to the online review platform,
- Pursue legal action to compel removal of the review, or
- Implement a review collection process to obtain more positive reviews and mitigate the effects.
At Minc Law, we have represented thousands of individuals and businesses that have been targeted by defamatory and damaging online attacks, such as fake and/or anonymous, negative online reviews. We have extensive experience navigating complex platform reporting processes, documenting and preserving evidence, identifying anonymous online reviewers, and pursuing legal action to compel removal of the review(s) if necessary.
In this article, we will detail strategies for businesses to manage negative online feedback. We will also guide you through maintaining and restoring your company’s online reputation.
How Negative Reviews Can Harm a Business
Online reviews hold significant sway over modern consumer decisions. According to a 2021 report by PowerReviews, an overwhelming 99.9% of customers rely on reviews when shopping online. Even more telling is the fact that 96% of these consumers actively seek out negative reviews.
BrightLocal’s 2023 local consumer survey further emphasizes the weight of this sentiment, revealing that nearly half of customers value online reviews on par with personal recommendations from trusted friends and family.
With this kind of influence, the impact of negative reviews can permeate almost every facet of a business.
Damage to the Business’s Reputation
A company’s reputation is its most valuable asset. In a world where online searches precede most consumer interactions, negative reviews can lead current and prospective clients to question a business’s credibility and start searching for alternatives.
Diminishing Sales & Bottom Line
Negative feedback has the power to impact a company’s sales. When confronted with unfavorable reviews, potential customers might pivot toward competitors with better reviews. A study conducted by Harvard Business School found that an uptick of just one star in a Yelp rating can correlate with a revenue boost of 5-9%. This finding drives home the tangible connection between online reviews and business performance.
Impact on Search Engine Rankings
The prominence of a business in search results can be swayed by online reviews. Search engines like Google factor in online feedback and consumers when ranking a business in search results. A surge in negative reviews might relegate a business to a less favorable or lower spot in these search results.
Further, negative comments can reduce user engagement and click-through rates, both of which have a strong correlation with search ranking. An often-overlooked consequence of negative reviews is the potential reduction in backlinks to a company’s site, further affecting its online visibility.
Increased Turnover & Hiring Costs
A business’s reputation extends beyond the customer base to its workforce. A company with a barrage of negative reviews may inadvertently broadcast an undesirable work culture, making it difficult to draw in new talent or keep existing employees.
A Glassdoor investigation revealed that 84% of job-seekers might consider switching jobs if approached by a business with a stellar reputation. Negative reviews can increase turnover and recruitment expenses, as companies with poor reputations must work harder to find and hire new employees. Also, the allure of a business diminishes among top talent, as these candidates often gravitate toward companies with better reputations.
When Businesses Should Consider Removing Negative Company Reviews
While online criticism is an inescapable part of modern business, it is important to understand that not all negative reviews are actionable for removal. Some comments, regardless of their sting, may be protected by law. This is why all businesses with a digital presence should learn how to identify if a review is false (defamatory) or a truthful ‘bad review’.
However, there is a bit of a silver lining: negative reviews can also serve as a valuable tool for business improvement. How a business responds to criticism may resonate more with customers than the comment itself, offering an opportunity to showcase customer service and adaptability.
If the Review is False or Defamatory
Addressing and removing reviews becomes especially important when they present false and defamatory information. Misleading comments not only skew the public’s view of your business but can cause tangible financial setbacks.
Reviews that make false allegations of unlawful or unethical activities may cross into the realm of defamation. In these cases, businesses may have a compelling reason to pursue legal action against the reviewer.
If the Review Violates the Platform’s Terms of Service
If a negative review contains inappropriate content, offensive language, hate speech, or any material not aligned with a platform’s terms of service (ToS), it is crucial to take action. Such reviews paint the company in a negative light and likely breach the platform’s terms of service. This can compromise both the business’s and the platform’s integrity.
By proactively reporting ToS violations, a business can maintain a reputable online presence, often without the need to seek other removal services.
If the Review is Motivated by Revenge, Extortion, or Harassment
When a review is driven by motives such as revenge, extortion, or harassment, businesses consider removing it. Comments inspired by malice can tarnish a company’s public image and foster an unfavorable environment for employees. These types of reviews may also breach the review platform’s ToS.
A Malicious Review by a Competitor or Spam
Negative reviews left by competitors or spam accounts can be deliberately misleading and harmful. It is important to prioritize the removal of these types of reviews because they can distort public perception and deter customers. By addressing malicious reviews, you can ensure your business is fairly represented, and potential customers only see genuine reviews.
Strategies to Remove Negative Online Company Reviews
No business, regardless of its excellence or longevity, is immune to the occasional negative review. Over time, as a business grows and interacts with a larger customer base, it is inevitable that it will face unfavorable feedback or attacks. However, the distinguishing factor lies in the business’s response to such reviews.
Adopting a proactive stance, having a robust action plan, and knowing when to escalate issues are key to navigating online reviews. Through strategic management, companies can maintain their reputation and ensure their digital footprint is a true reflection of their value and performance.
Privately Reach Out to the Reviewer (if Known)
Sometimes it is best to address a customer’s concerns in a more personal setting. If you can identify a reviewer as an actual customer, try reaching out privately and approach the situation with exceptional customer service in mind. Many times, customers seek acknowledgment and understanding. If they feel that their grievances are recognized, they may voluntarily modify or delete their negative feedback.
When contacting a customer directly, consider the following guidelines:
- Demonstrate empathy: Clearly convey that you have heard their concerns and empathize with their experience.
- Offer solutions: Aim to rectify the situation, whether through an apology, refund, or other appropriate measures.
- Communicate improvements: Assure the customer that their feedback is being used constructively to address the underlying issue.
After reaching a resolution, you can even ask the customer to consider removing or changing their initial review. When customers recognize a business’s proactive efforts and genuine commitment to improving, they are often more inclined to update their reviews.
Respond to the Review Publicly
It takes a strategic and thoughtful approach to respond to negative online reviews. Here are some best practices for crafting a considered response:
- Remain professional: Emotions can cloud judgment. Ensure your response remains composed, objective, and respectful.
- Show concern: Demonstrate genuine understanding and concern for the customer’s feedback. This not only validates their feelings but also underscores your commitment to resolution.
- Offer a solution: Clearly communicate how you intend to address the issue, be it through refunds, discounts, or other appropriate measures.
- Show gratitude: Recognize the effort it takes to provide feedback. Express gratitude for their input to show the importance you place on continuous improvement.
- Keep your response brief: Lengthy responses can be counterproductive. Keep it concise and avoid drawn-out exchanges that might escalate tensions.
A study from Harvard Business Review emphasizes the importance of this approach, as it revealed that businesses that actively respond to reviews tend to see an improvement in their overall ratings. Customers may think twice before posting harsh comments if they know a business responds openly. Also, when a company addresses complaints, it shows they truly care about fixing issues, reinforcing their dedication to high-quality service.
However, a word of caution for medical and legal professionals: due to ethical and confidentiality obligations such as those under HIPAA and the attorney-client privilege, it is best to refrain from public responses. Addressing concerns directly and privately ensures compliance with professional standards. For further reading, please see our comprehensive guide explaining how medical professionals can respond to negative reviews.
Flag & Report the Review to the Platform
Many online platforms offer the option to flag inappropriate reviews for potential removal. If you encounter a review that appears fake or defamatory, it is prudent to familiarize yourself with the platform’s Terms of Service. If you have evidence that a review violates the platform’s ToS, gather and preserve all information and a screenshot of the review (in case this information is needed at a later date), then follow the platform’s procedures for reporting the review.
For a more specific guide on flagging on flagging inappropriate reviews on various platforms, consult our detailed articles on:
Pursue Legal Action to Compel Removal of the Review
Sometimes, online platforms will not remove problematic reviews, pushing businesses to consider legal routes. Typically, this will involve obtaining a court order requiring the platform to delete the review in question.
Yet, a lawsuit is not a quick fix. It is a lengthy process, and even if the case is ultimately successful, the review could stay online for an extended period of time as the case proceeds. As such, litigation should be the last line of action, pursued after all other reasonable efforts have been exhausted.
Given the complexities involved, it is important to consult with an experienced internet defamation attorney. They can outline the risks and potential benefits, and suggest alternate strategies to mitigate the impact of the negative review.
For a deeper understanding of the legal landscape around online reviews, we recommend our article “Can a Business Sue for Bad Reviews?” We also have a guide providing a thorough breakdown of how to get content removed from the internet that is worth checking out.
Obtain More Positive Reviews to Mitigate the Effects
Whether or not removing a negative review is possible or warranted, companies can and should take steps to minimize the impact of any negative review. Such strategies include encouraging happy customers to share their legitimate experiences on review platforms and being actively engaged with customers on social media to answer their questions and address concerns directly.
Steps to Generate Positive Company Reviews
Given the influence reviews can have on consumer decisions, companies must prioritize and encourage positive reviews. This not only counteracts the occasional negative review but also fortifies a business’s online reputation. By implementing thoughtful strategies, businesses can encourage satisfied customers to voice their positive experiences, thereby enhancing their digital footprint.
Remember to Ask
The simplest and most effective way to gather positive feedback is to ask. Customers who have had favorable experiences are usually willing to share if prompted. Regularly request feedback post-purchase or service completion, and you may find many are eager to offer their commendations.
Make It Easy For Customers to Leave a Review
Ease and convenience are paramount. Ensure that the process for leaving a review is streamlined and user-friendly. Whether it is on your website, social media platform, or third-party review sites, reducing the number of steps can motivate more customers to share their positive experiences.
Provide Excellent Customer Service and Products
The foundation for positive reviews lies in delivering unparalleled products and services. When customers are genuinely satisfied, they are more likely to share their experiences organically. Prioritize quality and excellence in every customer interaction, and positive reviews will often follow suit.
Include a Complaint Form on Your Website
Consider offering customers a way to vent their frustrations directly with you. By including a complaint form on your website, you provide an outlet for negative feedback and can address issues promptly, potentially converting a disgruntled customer into a satisfied one.
We Help Businesses Remove Fake Reviews
For businesses victimized by fake and anonymous online reviews, it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to pursuing removal – especially when it comes to anonymous reviews. At Minc Law, we can help.
We have extensive experience representing both businesses and professionals that have been targeted by defamatory online reviews. We craft effective strategies for the timely removal of these fake reviews and reputational threats, navigate the intricacies of platform reporting procedures and evidence preservation, unmask anonymous reviews, and help mitigate the damaging effects of defamatory reviews.
“Absolutely phenomenal. Michael took care of every single issue of defamation. I was concerned about wording because of the public nature of all parties involved, but Michael had open communication and approval from me all along the way. I will suggest him to absolutely anyone.”
June 20, 2022
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