A practical guide to handling negative comments on review sites

The internet has truly empowered customers and clients, which has become a double-edged sword for businesses.

There has been an explosion in the number and popularity of review sites. While they are a great way to spread the word about your company, they’re also a popular channel for dissatisfied customers to air their grievances.

Worse still is the increase in the number of fraudulent and inaccurate reviews – many fabricated by competitors or disgruntled ex-employees.

No matter what kind of business you run – and no matter how well you run it – there is a strong chance that you will receive a bad review at some point.

This guide gives practical advice about how you can report and remove inappropriate or fraudulent reviews on the most popular review sites.

Scroll down for practical steps you can take to protect your reputation when complaints and reviews are overly negative, rude or even slanderous.

Here are three important tips for dealing with general complaints:

1. Visit your page every day

The worst type of online complaint or review is one that isn’t responded to within 24 hour because it hints at slow processes and poor customer service. It can even motivate someone to increase their campaign of criticism. It is worth visiting your social networks daily to check for any negative reviews or complaints. Remember to share the good ones.

2. Take it offline

If the complaint is especially complicated or extremely embarrassing to your business, quickly find an alternative way to communicate with the customer. Ask if you could message them privately or contact them by phone or email.

3.  Say when the issue is resolved

Respond to a public complaint in a public way. Apologise for any shortcomings relating to your product or service, then set out what you have done to rectify matters.

Google reviews are some of the most influential

Google My Business reviews are some of the most influential on the Internet as they appear when someone searches for your business on Google.

Presented as a star rating out of five, one-star reviews can pull down your average rating and damage the online reputation of your business. If you feel a review or rating is unwarranted, you can:

Flag false and defamatory reviews

Google allows you to flag and remove reviews but only if they violate its review policy – not because you don’t personally like it.

The following are classified as infringements of its review policy:

  • reviews that contain personal attacks on individuals

  • review that are ‘off topic’

  • reviews that show a conflict of interest i.e. from competitors

  • reviews that reveal personal or confidential information

  • reviews that contain obscene language or hate speech.

If you feel a review you have received falls into any of these categories, flag it and Google will consider it for removal. Simply:

  • go to Google Maps

  • search for your business

  • scroll to the ‘REVIEW SUMMARY’ section using the panel on the left

  • under the average rating, click the link with the number of reviews

  • scroll to the review you would like to report and click the flag icon

  • outline your grievance in the form that appears and click ‘SUBMIT’.

Legal removal requests

You can also escalate your concerns by submitting a legal removal request.

You must submit a separate request for each Google platform e.g. YouTube, Google Play Store. It is important to select Google My Business rather than Google.com or Google Plus when submitting a legal request.

Once you’ve submitted a request, you’ll be asked for details about your concerns before being asked to fill out a report which will be assessed by Google’s legal team.


TripAdvisor is a ‘go-to’ resource for planning a holiday or an evening out

TripAdvisor is one of the most popular review sites on the internet and a ‘go-to’ resource for millions planning a holiday or evening out.

Users contribute reviews and ratings out of five about hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions, to help others make informed choices.

A negative review on TripAdvisor can have a damaging impact. That said, because reviews appear in chronological order (the most recent first), a bad review will only appear at the top of your profile page for a short time. Should all subsequent reviews also be negative, then you may have to accept you have a service problem.


How to flag an inappropriate review

Although TripAdvisor moderates reviews before they are published, by their own admission, many inappropriate reviews ‘slip through’.

Provided you have a TripAdvisor account, you will be able to flag reviews by clicking the flag icon that appears at the bottom right hand corner of every review on the site.

You will then be presented with a list of reasons why you think it should be removed.

TripAdvisor states:

“Any attempt to mislead, influence or impersonate a traveler is considered fraudulent and will be subject to penalty.”


How to dispute a review

You can also dispute a fraudulent review through the Owners’ Center portal on the site. Go to the ‘MANAGE DISPUTE A REVIEW’ form.

Remember to give as much detail and context as you can to enable TripAdvisor to fully understand the issue.