How Responding to Reviews (Even Some Fake Ones) Can Improve Your Online Reputation

by Nikki Stine May 07, 2018
Respond to Online Reviews

As a business owner you know that online reviews affect your online reputation.  You no doubt work hard to make your business great so it deserves glowing reviews.  Despite this, you occasionally receive negative reviews.  After all, nobody is perfect.  And, in some instances, the reviews are outright fake reviews, in the sense that you know they were not left by ‘real’ customers.

What can be done to combat these types of reviews and maintain a positive reputation online?

When speaking of truly fake or malicious reviews, there are specific actions you must take to flag these reviews as inappropriate.

Be aware that some reviews a business owner considers “fake” may not appear to be fake in the eye of the review site, such as Google.

In this article I am going to focus on an approach that has relevancy for positive, negative and some fake reviews: responding professionally to reviews.

I purposely say responding professionally.  Responding in this manner to all types of reviews can help your online reputation.  Responding in the opposite manner can have the opposite effect: harm your reputation.  Let’s consider each type of online feedback.

UPDATE:  A week after this initial posting, Google announced that reviewers will now be notified when a business owner responds to their review.  This update will make the review and response much more like a conversation.  In my mind, that only elevates the reason why it’s important to respond to the following types of feedback.

Negative Fake Reviews

Fake reviews seem to be on the rise.  When I say fake negative reviews, I mean reviews from people who are not your customers or have not used your product or service. (https://moz.com/blog/fake-negative-reviews-on-google)

Some reviews can be considered spam and others may be left with malicious intent from competitors.

A recent review study found that

79% of respondents said they read a fake review in the last year.  Despite that, a worrying 84% admitted they couldn’t always spot one.

So how can responding to fake reviews help your reputation?  Again, consider your response carefully and thoughtfully.  Reply in a professional way.  When appropriate, responding in a playful or humorous manner can leave a good impression on readers.

Local Example of a RESOLVED Fake Review

I recently spoke with Seaver Sisler, the owner of a Loves Park, IL used car dealership, Hall of Fame Auto Sales.  He was a recent recipient of a negative fake review by someone who he had not seen at his dealership.  He took the time to respond at length to the one-star review.

What happened next illustrates the true power of responding professionally.  The reviewer realized they had left the negative feedback for the WRONG business.  This moved them to edit their response, changing it to a FIVE STAR REVIEW, and apologize!  This is a best-case scenario.  You can see the text of this review in the image.

 

Fixed Fake Review

 

The primary reason for this change was the well-crafted response by the business owner.  Here is what struck me when I read his response:

  • He used a professional, calm tone – Although the fake review was surely upsetting to read, his written response was cool and collected.
  • The response addressed the fallacies in the review – Rather that just glossing over the accusations, he replied very specifically to each point.  He showed why they were untrue, without taking a defensive tone.
  • He used the opportunity to tell more about his business – I learned something positive about the business by reading this response.

When writing your own responses, try to put yourself in the shoes of someone learning about your business for the first time.  Ask yourself, what feeling will a potential customer get about my company by reading this response?

Such objectivity can be difficult when responding to fake reviews.  It may be a good idea to let someone else read what you’ve written before posting to see how they perceive your response.

Negative Reviews

It can be just as difficult to respond to negative reviews.  It takes self-control, tact and professionalism.  If you have delegated the task of responding to ALL reviews to someone else, make sure that they are capable of crafting responses in line with these qualities.

As mentioned at the outset, if done incorrectly, the responses to negative reviews can do more harm than good.

Some primary steps to take include investigating the issue as to whether it is valid or not, and apologizing – whether it was a real issue or not.  Remember this is all about reputation, which is how your business is perceived.  Potential customers will be turned away if you come across as defensive or harsh.  Make clear by your response you are most interested in the customer’s experience, not who is right or wrong.

Positive Reviews

Positive reviews are what every business hopes for and works to achieve.  So how better to show appreciation for the kinds words than to acknowledge them in a thankful manner.

If you are reading glowing reviews for a company and notice that the business consistently responds to most reviews, what will be your impression?  My first thoughts are that the business values their clients, they pay attention to their business, and they take the time to interact.

If you are the owner of a large business or have many locations, responding to reviews may seem like a daunting task.  It can be delegated to someone in your company or even or a third-party outside the company.  That person must have access to the review site account so the response shows as coming from a company representative.

If you’re running out of wording to use when responding to positive reviews, scan some other sites that leave replies to generate ideas.  In most cases an extensive reply is not necessary, but rather a simple acknowledgement.

Conclusion

There is only so much a business can do to manage online reviews.  Work hard to be great and good reviews will come.  Also, an unfortunate reality for now is that spam and fake reviews don’t appear to be going away any time soon.  But doing what you can to protect your online reputation will be worth the effort.

How you respond to reviews will give readers insight into your company and a general feel of how you deal with clients.  No one expects your business to be perfect.  Responding professionally and calmly when there are mistakes or misunderstandings will add humanity to your business.  And acknowledging positive comments lets readers know you are attentive and appreciative.  Just this little bit of effort goes a long way in building and maintaining your business reputation online.

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