One of the questions we hear the most from local business owners concerned about their web presence is, “How can I get rid of fake complaints online?” Complaints and negative reviews that come from real customers are worrisome enough. But when competitors or vengeful ex-employees have your local business in their crosshairs, it gets even trickier. Anonymous comments left online, including fake complaints, are not going away anytime soon. But when you suspect that a 1-star rating of your business is a flat-out fraudulent complaint of your business, what should you do?
- Never comment or reply to point out that it’s a fake complaint. Even if it is – and even if you have proof. It’ll only make you seem petty, as if you’re trying to dodge criticism about your product or service. Customers are not interested in hearing about your ongoing tiff with an old employee or business rival: they want to get an idea of what an experience with your business is like. Remember: how you conduct yourself professionally online reflects on your business, and it’s the friendly, apologetic, calm business owner who wants to make things right that’s going to win over new customers in the end.
- Try to flag the review so that website administrator can remove it. Sites like Yelp and Google’s Place Pages offer a way for users to flag reviews as inappropriate. This process is not immediate, however, and won’t guarantee that a flagged review will get removed or even filtered out of view going forward. This approach is more “crossed fingers” than “set in stone,” but it has a better chance of working if the review in question contains profanity, personal attacks, or is generally off-topic and unprofessional.
- Rally your fans, followers and favorite customers to flood sites with positivity. Remember, it’s against FTC Guidelines to offer any financial incentive in exchange for online reviews. But it’s well within your right to ask your loyal customers and advocates to post their own reviews out of the kindness of their hearts. When it comes to putting online reviews into context (LifeHacker and The Consumerist both have great guides on this), both quality and quantity come into play. So encourage your happy customers to share their authentic experiences in clear, appropriate language to help balance the conversation about your business reputation online.
Have you ever had a fake complaint about your business online? Did you follow these tips above – or try something else? Share your story with us in a comment!