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Dealing with Fake and Negative reviews

These days reviews can be very powerful influences when it comes to consumer decision making.

According to a local consumer review survey by BrightLocal:

  1. 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses (including 95% of people between the ages of 18-34)

  2. Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling able to trust a local business

  3. 40% of consumers only take into account reviews written within the last two weeks

  4. 57% of consumers will only go with a business if it has 4 or more stars

  5. 91% of 18-34 year-old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations

  6. 89% of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews

Positive reviews and word of mouth recommendations will definitely bring new clients to your business. But negative reviews can have a devastating effect on your brand and should not be ignored.

So what can you do about negative or fake reviews? What about the ones that have been posted by people who have never even visited your salon or worse still, have been written to intentionally damage your reputation?

Unfortunately, anyone can leave a review for a business on Google or Facebook, even if they’ve never been to it, and also hide their identity. Sometimes people do it to damage the reputation of their competitors!

Here’s what you can do.

  • Respond promptly

It’s imperative that you respond to the review within 24 hours of it appearing. These posts can be incredibly damaging to your business, so it is vital that you get on top of it pronto. You can create an alert about your business with Google Alerts to track mentions of your business.

  • Be polite and professional

In a polite and professional manner, write a response to the review without being defensive or making it personal. No matter how annoyed you are about the review, a response that is in any way sarcastic, childish or aggressive is likely to make readers take the review seriously. Responding professionally not only corrects the record, but also shows your customers how genuinely you respond to feedback, positive or not. It could also encourage the author to remove the review.

  • Take the discussion offline

After acknowledging the problem, offer to handle the matter off-line, out of public view. Provide your email or contact details so you can discuss and resolve the matter. This again shows your clients that you take such matters seriously and if it is a genuine customer complaint, you are doing your best to rectify the situation.

  • Report the review

If you know for a fact that the review is fake or a malicious attempt to damage your business, you should report it to Google or Facebook or whatever platform the review appears on. Most platforms have options for you to request an assessment of the review and, if the platform determines that the review is fake, they may remove it. For example, all Google business reviews must meet certain criteria. They cannot be false, offensive, dangerous or a number of other prohibited categories. When you flag a false review, Google will assess it and, if they find it breaches these rules, it will be deleted. Whilst there is no guarantee it will be removed, it is definitely worth a try.

  • Focus on the positive

Make sure it is as easy as possible for your happy customers to tell the world about their experience at your business. You can suggest they write you a review via email or text links, leave cards at each work station whilst they are in salon or even provide the review information on all of your marketing, such as email signatures, newsletters and on your website.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) can take a range of enforcement actions for misleading and anti-competitive conduct. The Competition and Consumer Act applies to conduct in Australia as well as conduct outside of Australia by corporations carrying on business in Australia.

In extreme circumstances, businesses which are the victims of ongoing harassment or serious threats through fake negative reviews may also consider contacting the police.

by Jenny Burns


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