Smart responses to malicious online reviews
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Responding to malicious reviews; know the audience, use best practices
- Stay away from responding in kind.
- Just apologize clearly, “I’m sorry to hear about your bad experience, Fred.”
- Keep any response short.
- Avoid using the business name or other keywords.
- Invite the person to contact an owner or manager by name.
- Flag and report negative reviews
In responding to bad actors we need to know the audience and it’s not the person who gave the miserable review. Aim answers to the hundreds or thousands of people seeing the review and response over the coming years.
Responding in kind to malicious reviews ignores the real audience, trust the average potential customer
Answering the bad actor reviewing a business on Facebook, Google or other platforms gives that person most of the attention.
Defensive, angry, or on Facebook, a long back and forth only makes the business look bad to others later reading the exchange. A positive review garners sympathy, shows a business means well even the face of someone who write the most obvious false bad review.
A simple apology, preferably using the person’s name gives the person little to run with that doesn’t make them look far worse. Make it personal; use the person’s name and reference something they’ve said avoiding the “canned” answer.
Never use the word, “feel” answering reviews
“I’m sorry you feel you had a bad experience” or, “I’m sorry you feel that we didn’t measure up” literally sets up negative responses like, “Well, it’s not a feeling, the food was cold!”
Suggesting someone’s experience, real or created to hurt the business, stems from their own, “feelings” tells anyone reading the review the company missed the point. On Facebook with responses a statement like that sets up the Facebook user to zing the response, “It’s not my feeling! Are you saying I made it up?”
Keep answers to reviews short and succinct
Use the person’s name, validate the review, apologize, give options, where appropriate, and get out. The longer the answer the more likely it appears defensive, or worse, angry. Think about the thousands reading the response in the years to come.
Search Engine Optimization: let’s not add negative reviews to Google and other search engines
Using keywords like business name and other information specific to a small business, in a review response, invites the search engines to add the review to search results.
Ask the reviewer to contact the business and work the complaint offline
Nothing really satisfies the malevolent reviewer. However, people reading the exchange in coming years seeing the offer to talk offline. This tells potential customers the company takes the review seriously and wants to work out a solution. The business gets credit in their mind for trying.
Providing a contact person, by first name only, also lets the bad actor know a specific person wants to handle their complaint. In our experience running social media for clients, few bad reviewers ever bother to respond.
Facebook, Google and other platforms, generally, allow flagging of inappropriate reviews
With Google, at this time, there is no follow up and inappropriate reviews get no action. Pegasus Ventures still suggests flagging the malicious reviews as, at some point, Google may begin to act.