In the competitive digital marketplace, positive online reviews are vital for sales conversion. As many as 92% people use online reviews for decision making, and 84% trust reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family.
If you’re not fully up to speed with why company reviews matter, read: What is Reputation Management and why is it so important? The bottom line is that staying on top of reviews is now a Must, rather than a Maybe on your business Wishlist.
This article gives you everything you need to write review replies like an experienced PR professional, including how to spot fake reviews and turn the table on them.
People leave negative feedback for a range of reasons. Some are legitimate, even valuable, because they point to gaps in your products or services that need improvement. Others are more about someone having a bad day, or not following the user instructions. Then there are the fake reviews, created by spammers, unscrupulous competitors, or mean people that enjoy trolling.
Approximately 10% to 30% of all reviews are fake — that was in 2018, we think the number is at least 40% now with the rise of Black Hat companies paying for fake reviews. On Amazon the problem is even worse, with 61% of reviews deemed fake.
The frustrating thing is it’s often impossible to get a fake negative review removed, because it’s really hard to prove it. On many popular platforms like My Google Reviews, people have anonymous user names and don’t need to be a verified buyer to leave feedback.
So how can you tell if a review is fake? These are the red flags:
Google’s advice, like ours, is to respond to all negative reviews, whether you suspect they’re fake or not, to minimize the damage to your brand image. Even if you’re sure it’s a scammer, you don’t want shoppers being put off your company. Only 13% of consumers will consider buying from a business with lots of 1 or 2 stars.
That said, identifying fake reviews could help you gather evidence against career scammers. Log their user names in a spreadsheet. You may even be able to trace them to a company that sells fake reviews.
Knowing it’s fake will also help with your response. Never be argumentative, even though you may be justified. Ask them politely for more specifics about why they left a bad review. And check if their username is in your records.
Here’s an example of online reputation management that will spotlight bad actors, while repairing their damage by showing you care:
We’ve underlined the parts you’d add specifically for reviewers you strongly suspect are fake:
“Hi Tracey. Thanks for your feedback, we really value our customers. We have not been able to find your details in our customer database, but we’re sorry that you had a less than excellent experience. Our high standards are normally praised, but in this case we need to do better. To make sure this never happens again, we’d be grateful if you could please clarify the issues you faced? We’d be happy to fix the issue in any way we can. Please feel free to contact us so we can help: [insert customer support number or email].”
Follow these failsafe tips for mitigating negative feedback:
It’s not easy dealing with negative company reviews, especially if someone is being unfair. But if their feedback is genuine, try to realize that it’s actually something to be grateful about because you’re getting valuable insight into how you can improve your business. Nobody’s perfect after all, and we all have blind spots.
And when you get unfair or fake reviews, try to brush them off as one of those unpleasant but unavoidable things in life, like having to unexpectedly change a tyre on a road trip. Remember that the way businesses respond to reviews matter to 56% of consumers when deciding who to shop with.
If you're short on time, as many growing businesses are, a quality Review Manager can be a great help as it gives you suggestion response templates, which you can quickly edit to match the individual situation.
You may think that it’s only negative reviews you need to reply to, so they don’t cause brand damage. But it’s also important to proactively build trust. These are the reasons why it’s worth your time to respond to good reviews:
Let’s look at the best way to respond when your business gets good reviews. As explained in the ‘Strategy for negative reviews’ section above, keep your reply fairly short, and use a natural, modern tone of voice (professional yet friendly, no formal language). For positive feedback, you always want to work in some SEO keywords, so they show up in search results.
Here’s the strategic breakdown:
1. Use the customer’s name (if provided) to make it more personal — Hi James.
2. Express appreciation for the good review — Thanks so much for your feedback.
3. Add your company name for SEO, working it naturally into the sentence by highlighting what they said about your product or service — The Sofas Are Us Team are really glad to hear you’re finding your new sofa comfortable, and that it looks great in your home.
4. Write a ‘unique selling point’ about your company i.e. something you’re proud of because it benefits customers — As a family run business, we’re proud to have been making quality sofas for over twenty years.
5. Add a customer incentive and call-to-action — Try our Loyalty Program, which gives you and your friends great added discounts. And feel free to check out our website for tips on keeping your new sofa looking like new.
6. End with a pleasant sign off — Have a great day/ All the best.
Remember to keep it natural and genuine, because a forced-sounding response will reduce rather than add to your ability to connect with customers. If you’re using reputation management software that gives you template suggestions, it’s a good idea to edit them so each one sounds personalized.
To round off this article, we wanted to give you some guidance on how to ask people for good reviews without sounding pushy, while also reducing negative feedback.
Once a shopper has paid for a product or service using your website, it’s really important to send an automated Thank-you-email. It not only builds customer trust, but can also be effectively turned to your advantage. Here’s a good example:
“We hope you love our product. And we’d really appreciate you leaving a review to let people know what you like about it: [insert social media and review platform links].
But if there’s anything you’re not happy about, we’ll be grateful if you’d contact us direct instead of leaving a negative review, so we can make it right: [insert contact details]. Since we’re a small, growing business, every review means the world to us. Have a great day”
This example could also be added to a nice looking note that comes with their delivery, especially for customers that can’t get automated emails because they buy your products or services from other platforms. One little note like this, written in the right way, can prevent any number of bad Google reviews.
While responding fast to negative customer reviews is like putting out fires so they don’t cause damage, replying to positive feedback is about building loyalty. They are two sides of the reputation management coin, so to speak.
Google says that consumers view businesses who respond to reviews as 1.7X more trustworthy than those who don't (meaning 76% versus 46%). Trust is everything these days in the crowded online marketplace.
By following the guidance and examples we’ve outlined in this article, you’ll be able to respond to both good, bad, and fake feedback effectively. Also don’t forget our final tip for gaining new company reviews, and encouraging people to contact you instead of giving you bad ratings.
If you have the help of a Review Manager to make things easy with email alerts every time a new review is posted and getting template reply suggestions, it’s a good idea to make tailored edits. That way you’ll come across with a genuine, personal touch, making your business memorable instead of just another faceless store that uses canned replies.
And when you’re tempted to skip review replies, bear in mind that a 1 star increase in average rating can boost your conversion rate by 25%.
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