I am regularly asked if we can get bad online reviews to go away or get them pulled down. It’s an understandable question. Afterall, no one likes seeing bad reviews of the business they’ve worked so hard to create.
The good news is that there is no shortage of people out there who will take your money, claiming that they can do just that. The bad news is that all they can do is take your money; only a reviewer can take down a bad review.
Most people who ask me to take down bad reviews only have a couple of good reviews, so those few bad reviews really sting. Fortunately, the remedy is fairly straightforward: the secret to surviving bad reviews is to overwhelm them with lots of good ones. As a case-in-point, between the major review sites, we now have over two thousand 5-star reviews.
Here is what we do:
We ask every client for an online review every time we serve them. We don’t ask for reviews during sales calls, but any time we are doing customer service, we end our call with a request for an online review.
We have a link to online review sites in our signature blocks so that every time a client gets our email, they are also getting a reminder to leave us a review.
We still get a few bad reviews, which don’t hurt us given that we have over 2,000 good reviews (the bad reviews make the good reviews look more legitimate), but we make a point to respond to each one. Most bad reviews contain a mixture of truth, exaggeration, and sometimes outright lies. This is just human nature. It is very hard to complain without lying. But every bad review we’ve gotten has some truth in it, too. We earned those bad reviews, fair and square. When we respond to bad reviews, we focus only on the part of the review that is true—the point on which we truly messed up—and we zero in on that. We apologize for what went wrong, and we learn from it. We never point out fibs or try to dispute the client’s version of things. Even if we’re right, arguing would just make us look like jerks.
We pay a small bonus to our customer service people if their name is mentioned in a 5-star review. Most hourly employees aren’t motivated directly by bonuses, but some people very much are. We have found that 10 percent of our customer service people get almost 50 percent of our online reviews. These people are very motivated; perhaps that is because of the bonus. Online reviews are tracked on our company scorecard for the whole team to see; perhaps bragging rights motivate some of them, too.
But here’s what won’t work:
Don’t post your own good reviews. Never mind that this is unethical; it doesnt’ work. To be a Google Review Partner, sites like Sitejabber have to have technology in place that makes phony reviews impossible. I have actually had clients tell me they hired people to post good reviews for them, and all their fake reviews got pulled down. Multiple posts from the same IP address (or using a VPN as a workaround) make their fraud obvious to the review sites. In other words, you won’t fool anyone.
Don’t pay someone to take down bad reviews. There are simply no technical means to do it. Contacting people who leave bad reviews to handle their issue—which is a good practice anyway if they leave the review in their real name—is the only way to get a bad review removed. In other words, the reviewer has to do the removing. "They told me they could get the bad reviews to not show up on Google" is a scam. It’s only your money that disappears, not the bad reviews.
Don’t count on Google to remove bad reviews. While it’s true that there is a review process, Google is notoriously glacial in addressing disputes and you can’t count on them to land on your side once they’ve looked over the review in question.
Consider the issue from your own perspective as a customer: are you more likely to trust a company that has fifty 5-star reviews or a company with thousands of reviews that average out to about 4.5 to 4.8 stars? The answer is clearly the latter.
When your company is overwhelmed with genuine, positive reviews from happy customers, you won’t have time to worry about a half-dozen bad faith gripes. If you’re interested in implementing strategies to attract those positive reviews, get in touch with me. I’ve been in the industry for long enough to help you get on the right track to showing a star rating you can be proud of.