Updated: Feb 8, 2019
No business likes to have a negative review. Ever. Tracking Pixel Media is not a big fan of reviews, as research tells us that reviews, especially negative ones, are not really trustworthy. Take this New York Times article, where it states -
Reviews are subjective, and the tiny subset of people who leave them aren’t average.
People who write online reviews are more likely to buy things in unusual sizes, make returns, be married, have more children, be younger and less wealthy, and have graduate degrees than the average consumer, according to Dr. Simester’s 2014 study. Online reviewers are also 50 percent more likely to shop sales, and they buy four times more products.
Unless you fit that demographic, reviews tend to be not all that helpful to an individual. But a lack of reviews can hurt, so we tend to find ourselves stuck with them.
If you do business, you are bound to receive both positive and negative reviews. We know many people have written on the subject of reviews and how to respond to them. There are great articles with suggestions on how to respond to legitimately negative reviews, like here or here, but we want to contribute a couple of pointers on what to do when the reviews you receive are not warranted. Specifically, the unwarranted reviews are a retaliation, retribution, or attack by someone or some company you did business with or compete against.
This type of review is pernicious as it can get ugly. Fast. The person doing the review has an axe to grind with you. No matter the reason, they feel burned by you or your organization and want to humiliate you/your business so you feel the pain they do. This is a "Handle With Care" situation, for sure.
So in this scenario, what do you do?
Do not respond immediately. Give it some time so you can find your inner peace and gather your reasoning. If the person is going to resort to an irrational action like creating a bogus review, you need to fully think out the various possibilities of action and decide which one is best for you. Reacting right away could put you in a negative light, and give credence to the bogus review.
Acknowledge and Address
Let them know your business takes its customers' concerns seriously. Refer to them by name, and see if you can do some research on the person before responding. Find out who they might work for (a competitor maybe?) and other reviews they might have written. If they left a message or explanation for the negative review, specifically address that part of the review. If they did not leave a message, ask them why they left the negative review and refer them to private channels.
Never...never...please... never resort to their level and use anything that is not 100% factual. This means no name calling, no questioning their beliefs and/or opinions, nor anything that will again give credence to the bogus review.
Gently Call Them Out, BUT Offer to Help
This is the tricky part, and the part that you will really need to think over once or twice to execute.
Did the person complaining use your service? No? Say something like,
"Hello John, we at Company Name take our customer concerns seriously and would like to help. We checked our records and did not see you as a current or former client. We'd like to dive into your concern more, so please reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (###)###-####."
This way, you state your intent to help, but also calls them out for not being a customer.
Here's a real world example of using this tactic with a client of ours, with names blurred out to protect those involved:
We made it clear that the organization wants to help, but couldn't find their information. Also, we made sure to put down that they didn't live in the same state as our client, and that they might have made a simple mistake - knowing well this is not the case. Anyone reading this response will appreciate the attempt by this organization, and will also see that the review is likely a bogus one.
After making your response, there are a few extra steps you can take.
First, you can report the post. This is not always effective as many social media providers tend to only take down offensive content. However, sometimes you can make a case that will stick, and their review will be removed.
Second, fight fire with fire. This is also where things can get ugly, so check your emotions at the door and see if it is really necessary. The client in the above picture had several reviews happen from people associated with a former vendor. When the client fired the vendor, they sought retribution by sending a number of negative reviews on their Facebook page. While the former vendor's Facebook page did not allow reviews, and they did not have a Google My Business page set up to leave one, Tracking Pixel Media was able to have a page created on Google by gathering all of the needed items from their website. Hence, the customer was able to place their own review on the new Google My Business page based upon facts to warn other businesses not to use their services. Is it a bit petty? Sure. Will it make you feel better? Maybe.
Third, legal action. Sometimes a simple cease-and-desist letter can scare off away any would be harassers. If you have a lawyer on retainer, it might be worth the effort.
We hope you never have to deal with unwarranted reviews, but hopefully this article might give you some ideas on how to combat them. Just remember to stick to the facts and leave any emotion out of the it and you'll win in the long run.