One of the biggest frustrations as a business owner is when someone leaves a review that is inaccurate, doesn’t pertain to your business or is extremely damaging.
Review websites, such as Google, Yelp and Facebook, don’t offer you any easy solutions for handling problematic posts either. On one hand, they don’t want to damage the integrity of the brand by allowing businesses to remove reviews that could give potential customers a different view of a business. On the flip side, some reviews do contain inappropriate language, false information and can discourage new customers from coming into your store.
I’m sure you already know the impact reviews can have on your business — a one star increase on Yelp can result in a 5-9% revenue increase. Positive reviews are easy to handle, but there is also a way to boost your ratings with negative reviews.
To remove reviews is to remove trust
Removing reviews is not recommended (or allowed) on many review sites because it damages the credibility of the site and the business.
Have you ever gone and seen a movie after hearing your friends, family, coworkers, gym buddies, barista at the coffee shop, etc. singing its praises like it is the best move they have seen this century? Without fail, when you finally go see the movie, it doesn’t live up to your expectations and you don’t believe the hype next time around.
Just like the movie hype, if a potential customer comes across your reviews and sees only good experiences and not a single bad one — they might visit your business — but they are also going to be suspicious that it isn’t as great as the reviews say. 68% of consumers trust reviews when they see both positive and negative ones because it’s unrealistic that a business will please 100% of its customers 24/7.
To build trust, you should gather reviews organically (vs. paying for positive reviews, which is not allowed FYI) and accept and learn from the feedback your reviewers provide. Perhaps you have a consistent problem with a server who has a bad attitude or aren’t open late enough for students leaving night class at the local college to grab a bite; reviews on websites can provide you with opportunities and problems you need to address.
Reviews (negative or positive) give you the chance to see your business the way a consumer sees it — and become better. Whether it’s capitalizing on what you already excel at or improving in areas your business may be lacking. Perhaps you have a consistent problem with a server who has a bad attitude or aren’t open late enough for students leaving night class at the local college to grab a bite; reviews on websites can provide you with opportunities and problems you need to address.
However, there is a line that a review can cross and become inappropriate. Inappropriate reviews should not be ignored and should be treated in a careful manner.
When should reviews be removed and how?
Review sites will not allow you to remove reviews unless they violate their established rules.
Google allows you to flag material you think is inappropriate, which will then be reviewed and removed if deemed necessary.
Google’s removes reviews if it is:
- Contains phone numbers or URLs
- Contains offensive language
- Poses a conflict of interest
- Contains illegal content
- Has copyrighted content in it
- Sexually explicit material
- Involves impersonation
- Contains confidential content
- Hate speech
If a review falls under into any of these categories, you can flag it and it will be checked out. Remember, the review needs to violate one of the offenses listed above and a low rating or no explanation for the rating is not a disqualifier.
Facebook follows a similar practice of reporting as Google; they explain inappropriate content that should be flagged in the Facebook Community Standards.
Facebook will remove posts that contain:
- Violence or make threats
- Self-harming information
- Bullying and harassment
- Hate speech
- Graphic content
- Sexually explicit content
- Private content
- Compromises security
To report a review to be removed on Facebook, follow these steps:
- Go to the review and click in the top right
- Click I don’t like this review
- Click Report and follow the on-screen instructions
Just like Google, Facebook will look into the post and determine if it should be removed based on the Community Standards.
Yelp is a bit trickier to maneuver. Unlike Google and Facebook, they don’t tell you outright what qualifies a review for removal, but instead lay out what content should not contain:
- Threats, harassment, lewdness, hate speech and other displays of bigotry
- Conflict of interests
- Promotional content
- Privacy concerns
- Intellectual property
When it comes to reporting content that does not follow Yelp’s guidelines, things get more complicated. Depending on what guideline was not followed changes how it should be reported. More often than not, you can simply flag the post and follow up with a short explanation about why you flagged it.
With every one of these sites, not only can business owners flag reviews as inappropriate but current and potential customers can as well. Therefore, if a customer suspects that a review is fake, they can flag it, too.
What to do when the review isn’t removed
Whether or not a review qualifies to be flagged for a removal, you should always respond to it. Whether the content of the review was off-topic, suspected as fake or simply incorrect, you don’t have to sit idly by and let potential customers hear one side of the story.
Just as you do when you are replying to any review, you want to acknowledge what the reviewer has written and respond quickly. In the example below, the reviewer doesn’t mention the extra fee for re-installing a screen protector. While the omission of this fact doesn’t qualify the review for removal, it may influence future buyers and give them unrealistic expectations.
You will also notice that the owner responds to the review and mentions the lifetime warranty and the short fee, which resolves the issue.
One of the worst things online reviews can do is to make potential customers distrust your business. Whether the distrust is created due to false or negative reviews is irrelevant — the bottom line is that you are still losing customers.
You have the ability to respond to people talking about your business (on a page dedicated to your business); take advantage of the ability this forum allows to have an open conversation and show customers why they should trust and give you their business.
The first step in responding to reviews (true or false) is being aware that they are being posted. There are many tools available, such as LocalCast, that can help you monitor review sites so you never miss a chance to converse with a customer.