In just a couple of minutes, someone can create a new account, slap a single star on your business and damage your online ratings. It’s bad enough when the damage is done by a genuine customer, but what can you do when reviews are posted by fake accounts, with no other purpose than to cause harm? As most customers, whether they’re searching for the nearest coffee shop or browsing gifts on Google shopping results, will consider the number of stars a vendor has, these reviews can cost you sales.
Spotting a fake
It can be tricky to be sure if a particular review is a fake or not
Getting reviews removed from Google services
Like many other websites, Google encourages users to leave leave reviews, and the results are displayed on its Google shopping results page, Google business pages and in other places. While few reviewers will bother to read the rules they’ve agreed to follow, you should check them out if you’re hoping to get a review removed. Reviews which contravene the terms and conditions of the site are the easiest to have removed. For example, Google business reviews and associated content (such as photos), are in contravention if they:
- don’t accurately represent the location in question (not your business, not your service, etc)
- are posted multiple times
- are spam or fake (this is hard to prove)
- contain illegal or restricted content (such as alcohol) or links to the same
- contain offensive or sexually explicit content
- use hate speech, harass, bully or attack people (this could include personal abuse, e.g. name calling)
- mislead (e.g. claim to be from a company they are not, claim something happened which didn’t, etc)
If you can show a review is breaking these terms, simply log into your account and flag it for review. Include your evidence in your message.
What if you can’t get a review removed?
What if the platform owner disagrees with your assessment that the review is fake and refuses to remove it? In this case, you can do several things, all at once if you like, and these should mitigate the problem.
- Appeal – make your argument again, and hope to be more persuasive.
- Respond to the review – kill them with kindness and show the response you want your other customers to hear, for example offering the fake review a 100% refund. Only do this if you’re confident you can deliver and/or that they are a fake – you don’t want to set a trend of giving out money every time someone is cranky at you on Twitter.
- Flood the review out – encourage your genuine customers and followers to write actual reviews on the platform to give your business a more balanced perspective. After all, a 1-star review is incredibly powerful if its the only review you’ve got, and insignificant if you’ve got 100,000 other ratings.
Deal with genuine negative reviews promptly
As the owner of a business or product, Google encourages you to respond to Google business and Google shopping results reviews. It’s important to monitor reviews and respond promptly to any that have a negative element, even if the overall review is positive as it not only creates good will in a customer who is clearly alert and interested enough in your business to leave a review but also broadcasts your excellent service to anyone reading the review.
The simplest way to respond to a negative (or partly negative) review is to be truthful, realistic and personal:
- address the issue directly, using language the customer used
- say how sorry you are that they had a bad experience (even if you think it was made up or it’s just how things are)
- state what your company aim is (e.g. “Our team work hard to make sure every customer feels welcome.”)
- offer a realistic solution, if there is one (e.g. a replacement for a faulty item)
- say you will bring the issue up with higher ups or staff (e.g. “I will raise this issue at our next team meeting, to make sure all staff are aware of it.) if there’s no obvious solution. This can be particularly effective if your business is part of a larger chain or the problem was as a result of company policy or poor communication.
If you get a manageable number of reviews, it’s worth replying to every single one – a single line saying “Thanks for your review! We’re so glad you enjoyed [something they mentioned]” will be sufficient, although try to use a slightly different formulation each time otherwise it looks like you’ve copied and pasted your response, which doesn’t make anyone feel special.