Online reviews are so powerful. On the whole they are honest accounts of what real people have experienced with a business. People trust them and will make decisions about your organisation based on them.

This is particularly so with online review sites such as Trip Advisor. We took a recent trip to South Africa and just about booked our whole holiday using this website. It wasn’t just accommodation we were looking at either. We used Trip Advisor to help make decisions around where to eat, where to get coffee, what experiences to book.

In one case we saved ourselves hundreds of dollars by reading reviews about a shark diving tour we were just about to book. The reviews all spoke about the professionalism of the shark diving company but said there were no sharks at that time and there had not been any for weeks. Had we gone off what the shark diving website told us – we would have jumped enthusiastically aboard and been bitterly disappointed with our experience.

So reviews are invaluable for consumers. But they can be invaluable for organisations as well. Great reviews left by gushing advocates will speak far louder than any marketing or sales copy you put together.

This is because reviews are genuine. They are one step further than that customer testimonial on your website that may or may not be fake.

In fact, we will often repurpose positive online reviews left about our clients on TripAdvisor or Facebook and re publish them out via their Facebook news feed. And the Facebook communities generally respond really well to these as it’s an extra affirmation that they themselves have made a good decision to be part of that tribe.

However, what happens when someone leaves a bad review?

And even worse, what happens if that review is actually really unfair / not true or left by a raving lunatic troll-like bum head?

It sucks. But it happens. Thankfully, not often though in my experience.

So when it does – what do you do? Well, first things first. You can’t remove a review. The whole point of reviews is to provide accurate and real feedback from real people. If, as organisations, we were simply able to remove the reviews of our organisation that we weren’t that happy with, then the integrity around the review system is completely diminished.

So you can’t remove it. What you can do though is respond or not respond. This move will depend on the nature of the review. If your review has been left by an abusive troll that appears to be all together loose – you may not want to feed the troll by responding. Best to starve this person of any oxygen or reaction.

Alternatively, you can choose to respond in a professional manner to this review – demonstrating to anybody reading this review that you have the ability to be professional and take the high road in situations such as this. It also demonstrates that you address all situations.

People may read that bad review but if there is a response there as well – you can bet your bottom dollar they will read that too. By responding professionally, you will often leave the reviewer looking angry and unreasonable and you looking rational and judicious.

Next thing to do is to try and drown that bad review out of site by encouraging some more positive reviews. Now this move is by no way about creating ‘false reviews’. If you are caught creating ‘false reviews’, you face all sorts of black listing penalties by review hosting site.

The best way to encourage more positive reviews is to simply ask your customers to leave some. This might be dropping it into conversation with people when they are expressing their gratitude for your service. You could throw out a call via your Facebook page reminding your community to leave you a review – if you are asking them to review you externally to Facebook – just provide them with the link to click on to take them straight to reviewing platform – in other words – make it easy for them.

You can even send out an email to your database specifically asking for reviews. You would frame this request with words around ‘we really value your feedback as it helps us serve you better.’

Of course, if the bad review is an honest account of something that has actually happened – then it’s up to your organisation to address this internally. This is also something you can communicate on the review. Apologise in your response and explain what you are doing as an organisation to address the situation.

The important thing is to not panic when you get a bad review. They are part of the process and often fleeting.

Have you had to handle a bad review in the past? Do you have any extra tips to share?


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