How Do You Handle Negative Online Reviews That Target Your Business?

Posted on: 13 June 2016

A positive online presence can be critical to the survival of a small business—since 88% of consumers report that they trust online reviews as much as they do personal ones. That give you a lot of incentive to manage your online business reputation. What can you do, then, when a snarky reviewer unfairly targets your business and damages your reputation? This is what you can do.

Try to respond to legitimate reviews in a constructive fashion.

If you can respond to the negative reviews in a constructive fashion—offering a professional reply to the perceived problems rather than going on the defensive and attacking the reviewer in return—you may be able to actually win over potential clients who are reading the exchange with your honesty and responsiveness. That may turn a potentially devastating negative into a positive.

Let the reviewer known that you're concerned that his or her experience wasn't a good one and encourage them to contact you directly so that you can try to resolve the issue. Make it clear that you care about your customers and you appreciate the feedback.

Ask for updated reviews or leave your own response.

If you are able to resolve the issue with the customer, ask him or her to leave an updated review that reflects the new situation. If the customer isn't willing to work with you to resolve the problem or doesn't want to provide an update, annotate the review site yourself and note what steps you took to resolve the problem. Stay positive and professional. Future potential clients are likely to recognize that it's impossible to please everyone but also note that you made a sincere effort to try.

Ask websites to remove fake reviews.

If you believe that you're being targeted by someone with a grudge—a disgruntled ex-employee or a business rival, perhaps—reach out to the website that has the review. If the review seems unusually vicious or untrue, sites like Yelp and Google can track down the original poster. Your attorney can help you prepare a cease and desist letter to the poster to get the reviews removed. 

If the review is outright defamatory, consider taking the issue to court and suing for the damages to your personal reputation and business. For example, a legal firm won a judgment against a dissatisfied client who posted defamatory reviews—eventually winning a $558,000 judgment and a court order requiring Yelp to remove the reviews.

Don't try to bury the review with positive ones of your own.

Whatever you do, don't attempt to bury the negative reviews in positive reviews. A cottage industry has grown up around individuals who are willing to post positive reviews of companies or products they've never used, offering glowing recommendations for a few dollars per review. The process, known as astroturfing, is illegal—and the FTC is cracking down on both companies and individuals who do it because it misleads consumers.

For more information on how to handle the issue when your business is suffering from bad online reviews, talk to your attorney today.