In the days of Yelp and Google Business Reviews, it is easy for customers and clients to review any business at any time. Many people check the online reviews of a business before deciding which business to frequent. Negative online reviews of your business can mean fewer customers choosing to use your business. So what are you, as a business owner, to do about negative online reviews?
Respond to the Review
One option you have as a business owner is to respond to the review directly. Keep in mind that even though you are online, you are still representing your business and writing on its behalf, so your responses should reflect that. It helps to think of wording your response the same way you would if the customer were standing directly in front of you. Be courteous, acknowledge the review, offer a solution to the problem in a manner that will satisfy the customer. Once you resolve the issue and have a happy customer, encourage them to update their review to reflect the resolution. If the customer is unwilling to do so, you can reply online with the resolution that you provided.
Remember that there is no way to completely remove a negative review. The only recourse is to encourage customers with positive experiences to post reviews of their own in order to adjust the overall score and push the negative review to a lower ranking.
Believe it or not, not all reviews of businesses are real. It is possible to sue online reviewers for defamation or libel for posting something about your business that is not factual. The free speech clause of the first amendment protects most online reviews. However, once statements someone makes factually inaccurate statements, that protection no longer applies. Therefore, it is important that you immediately identify and report any reviews of this nature to your business attorney. Then, the attorney takes action on your behalf. It is important to protect the reputation of your business. Your business attorney can issue cease and desist or removal requests to the reviewer by filing a lawsuit with the court to force removal of any false or misleading statements made in the fake review.
One thing to consider is that there are laws in place that limit a business’s ability to sue review platforms such as Google or Yelp. These platforms can only be sued if they in some way alter the contents of the reviewer’s original post. If the platform only posts the review as written, then they are immune from any libel or defamation suit.
Whatever the review, your business attorney should be your first call if you identify any false or deliberately misleading reviews online of your business. Your attorney will help you determine what next steps you need to take to protect your business’s online reputation.