When Reviewers Go Rogue
The ex-employee who peppers review sites with one-star reviews about crappy management and (fake) roach infestations. The disgruntled customer who can’t believe you wouldn’t take back the “defective stereo” that was clearly attacked by a herd of baseball bats wielded by angry toddlers. The random stranger who posts a scalding rant about services you don’t offer or entrees you’ve never, ever sold.
Sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor can be wonderful resources for consumers eager for reassurance their next vacation spot or lunch date will be a positive experience, but for business owners, this virtual water cooler can be more trouble than it’s worth.
When reviewers go rogue, it’s important to know when and how to fight back.
Try to Get it Removed
Review sites are heavily focused on transparency and tend to favor the consumer. Though most are hesitant to remove bad reviews at a business owner’s request, sites like Yelp will consider taking down false or defamatory reviews if they’re at odds with their Terms of Service. This includes:
- Personal attacks on an employee
- Attacks based on disability, race, religion, ethnicity, or other discriminatory factors
- Reviews left by ex-employees with an ax to grind
You may also get the customer to remove their own review simply by messaging them, accepting blame for the issue, and offering to make it right. Sometimes bad reviewers just want to be heard; other times they’re more interested in creating a stink, and you’ll have to resign yourself to living with the smell.
Formulate a Thoughtful, Sane Reply
Put down the glass of wine, give yourself a few hours to dial down your anger, and think professionally, not personally. It’s crucial to reply to all online reviews, negative or positive, but only if you can behave rationally. Remember, 90% of the time, your reply isn’t for the actual reviewer but rather the onlookers eating virtual popcorn and waiting to see what happens.
- Calmly dispute erroneous information, like pointing out that you’re confused about the “soggy, cold chicken parmesan” when you don’t have that dish on your menu
- Say how sorry you are that the reviewer had a negative experience—you’re not accepting blame, just acknowledging their disappointment
- Ask if you can contact them privately to discuss the situation further (unless they’re clearly cuckoo for cocoa puffs, in which case leave a short, polite reply and move on)
- Publicly offer free food or other compensation unless you want all the crazies leaving negative reviews hoping for their own 50% off coupon
- Counter your ex-manager’s tirade with a laundry list of his or her own faults
Never Threaten Anyone or Attempt to Retaliate
An eye for an eye is a terrible idea—everyone ends up blind, remember? Tempting as it is to tell Google you’ll sue them if they don’t remove a negative review, these sites have far deeper pockets than you do and they’re not afraid to lawyer up. If you’re considering waging your own social media hate campaign instead, think again. Everyone gets burned in a flame war, and you have a lot more to lose than that lazy intern you had to let go when you found then napping in a bathroom stall.
Attract More Positive Reviews
The best defense is a good offense. Every time you have a customer who tells you how much they love your service, ask them if they wouldn’t mind leaving you a review. When your rating is high overall, those wacky one-star write-ups seem jarringly out of place and that much harder to believe.