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Dealing With Bad Reviews: When Ex-Employees or Competitors Strike Out Online

It’s the age of the revenge review. When ex-employees feel wronged or competitors want an upper hand, they often write bad business reviews online to air grievances and start rumors. Dealing with bad reviews is both an art and a science. Before you decide ignorance is bliss when it comes to addressing bad reviews, think again.

  • 73 percent of Millennials who reported being negatively impacted by a termination or layoff shared their negative views on social media, review sites, and with personal and professional networks (nearly as many Baby Boomers—70 percent—feel the same way).
  • 82 percent of job seekers are likely to visit review sites in the course of researching an employer’s brand.
  • At least 70 percent of job seekers admit that negative remarks on employer review sites are damaging to a potential employer’s brand.

Nearly 70 percent of people use online reviews regularly to make purchasing—and employment—decisions. These reviews are here to stay. Unfortunately, good companies are taken down by bad reviews all the time.

If the bad reviews are legitimate, there is an art and science to mitigating them. It starts with responding quickly, professionally and publicly. But the key is to then take the conversation offline as soon as possible. Something like, “We’re sorry to hear about the experience. We’d love to make it right. Contact us directly at [an email address or phone number] so we can discuss it further.”

However, that type of a response will not work when it comes to fake reviews posted by competitors. A Harvard Business School study found nearly 16 percent of Yelp reviews are fake. Other review sites, like Glassdoor, undoubtedly include fake reviews, too, which are notoriously hard to remove. According to Glassdoor’s legal department, “When it comes to whether or not the substance of the reviews on Glassdoor are true or false, it is often impossible for us to make that determination. We do not remove content in these circumstances, as we do not feel that we can act as the finder of fact. Glassdoor’s general position is that a review is valid from the standpoint that it is one person’s personal experience and understanding of their job and company.”

What about fake reviews from disgruntled ex-employees?

“This situation is far more dangerous than reviews originating from your competitors, if you take into account the level of insider knowledge an employee or former employee is likely to have,” explains Crystal Shuller, director of customer happiness for ReviewTrackers. “In contrast to a competitor, the narrative of their reviews is likely to be accurate and detail-rich, posing a higher risk to your business and a very small probability of getting blocked by moderation filters.”

Shuller offers the following criteria to determine whether a negative review should be called out as a fake:

  1. It’s inconsistent with your trends. If the review comes out of left field, blasting your organization for something it’s known to excel in (customer service, for instance), be suspicious.
  2. It’s filled with industry lingo. Shuller points out bitter competitors and ex-employees who have something against you have a natural inclination to use industry terms when writing false reviews. For instance, using the term “high occupancy” instead of “really booked.”
  3. It’s from a suspicious profile. If the profile is incomplete, doesn’t have a previous track record for reviews or is completely or semi-anonymous, it’s possibly fake.
  4. Your records don’t match up. An easy way to determine whether or not a review is completely fake is to match up the information with your databases. If the customer, client or employer doesn’t match up, that’s an obvious red flag.
  5. Reviewer isn’t open to discussing a remedy. It’s important to monitor reviews and respond promptly when a problem arises, offering a solution or a willingness to talk offline. If the reviewer responds distastefully or doesn’t respond at all, you’re closer to having a case for removal.
  6. It seems to be automatically generated. If the complaint doesn’t match up to the services you offer or the situation in which they claim to have been involved, it’s likely fake. It’s also likely fake if you find similar reviews on competitors’ profiles.

Document bad business reviews, making note of any of the criteria above and you may have a solid case for removing them. But it won’t be easy. It might be best to consult with your business attorney about any potential cases for libel, defamation or other ways to make your case for removal stronger. Then, find out how to best submit reviews for removal (this guide by 39 Celsius may help). Austin companies benefit by having local representatives from Facebook, Yelp!, Indeed and other sites nearby. Check your professional connections and you may be able to meet with someone from the review site in person to better discuss your situation.

What weighs on your mind when it comes to dealing with bad reviews? How have you handled bad reviews in the past? Share your experiences, pay it forward. If you have questions, let us know. We’d love to explore the topic further.


Image Copyright: racorn / 123RF Stock Photo


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