Most of the people I meet through networking think of their social media accounts as purely the fab four: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. But the term actually covers all social activity that’s out there in the digital world. Restaurateurs, hoteliers and public attractions rely heavily on sites such as TripAdvisor to ensure their next customer chooses to pay them a visit, and Google My Business, for example, solidifies a wealth of customer satisfaction into one place.
One of the reasons it’s brilliant to gain client testimonials on review sites is because they reinforce your online presence and make it easier for prospective clients to find you. A few kind words from a happy customer speak volumes… but what happens if it goes wrong?
One of my clients recently experienced a negative review placed on Google by a competitor. It was untrue, malicious and very upsetting for the hardworking team that suffered as a result. Registering a formal complaint with Google enabled the fake review to be removed, but it certainly caused a lot of stress during Google’s review period. So what can you do if this happens to you?
To help alleviate my client’s distress, we contacted Yair Cohen of Cohen Davis, a specialist Internet law firm not far from me in deepest darkest Essex. Yair specialises in all types of social media claims, from exactly this kind of fake negative review through Intellectual Property breaches to revenge porn! I asked about the most common issue he encounters.
“The main problem clients face is having their business defamed, exactly like what’s happened here,” Yair told me. “Also, it’s not uncommon for directors to be personally harassed through social media or online reviews. And some businesses are obviously more vulnerable than others.”
The vulnerable bunch includes those businesses that provide a professional service, such as accountants, lawyers or dentists – people who are dealing with other people’s problems. The outcome may not be what the customer had hoped – often through no fault of the ‘service provider,’ yet they take to social media to rant, sorry – share – their experiences.
When someone has a valid gripe, it’s reasonable to expect them to publicly tell people about their experience – and thus – on the positive side, give the organisation a chance to post a response in their defence or explain what they’ll do to make things right (if that’s possible). After all, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. A negative review is generally highly subjective – it’s how that person felt as a result of the service they received.
One way to overcome a negative review is to ensure your happy customers are posting positive ones! Keep your ratings high with a stream of fantastic reviews. And don’t be shy to ask for them! One of my clients, Nordens Chartered Accountants, (not the client with the legal issue) recently made a point of asking their clients to leave a few words on Trustpilot, and within a very short space of time they’ve collated 151 5 Star reviews!
The big problem occurs when someone posts a review that is unfair, inaccurate or a downright lie. So what’s Yair’s advice?
“Remember that this person’s view is a snapshot of the service or product, such poor service in a café or a painful half hour in a dentist’s chair.” The café owner may use this as an opportunity to turn the negative into a positive; they can respond with whatever they consider to be a polite and equitable answer, using the platform to talk about their improved selection of cream cakes or how they’re speeding up their service as a result.
But it’s harder for a professional body.
The dentist would be bound by a professional confidentiality restraint that prevents him or her from discussing the treatment and therefore the reasons the patient wasn’t happy. If they even acknowledge the complaint, it could be seen as acceptance and lead to a liability case. This thin line is why it’s always best to take legal advice. As my client found, the social media powers-that-be have special rules for removing reviews. And, in some cases, rightly so. If a negative review is genuine, it should be visible to help other people make an informed decision about that company – that’s the whole point of reviews. But if it’s a,lie, it needs action taken, and quickly.
The good news is that 99% of business owners who face legal recourse are successful in having their fake reviews removed. Yair can tell you more about this if you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of being an online victim.
Yair helps businesses with all sorts of legal issues, including trademarks, website theft and Internet law, so if you have any legal queries he’ll be happy to chat about your options. You can contact him here or ask me to introduce you!
And if you’d like guidance on keeping a positive online image across all your social media channels, I’ll be happy to chat.