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We could rattle off plenty of statistics to convince you how much online reviews matter, like how 82 percent of people head straight for review sites when they’re interested in a product or service. Or how consumers are likely to spend an average of 31 percent more on a business that has great reviews.

If you only remember one number about online reviews, though, let it be this one: 90 percent of consumers read them. Pretty much everyone is online now, even your grandmother. And she’s probably reading online reviews about your business.

The Fight against Fake Reviews

So if good reviews bring in customers, doesn’t it stand to reason that lots of good reviews will bring in even more customers? Not necessarily. See, the online review world has a seedy underbelly. In this dark place, businesses post (or hire someone else to post) rave reviews about their own company. Posting fake reviews isn’t just ethically shady, it’s a really uncool thing to do, even worse than using a years-younger and pounds-thinner photo of yourself for your online dating profile. But that doesn’t stop some folk from plastering falsely inflated ratings across every online review site out there.

How do you compete when people are stacking the deck with dirty tricks like posting fake reviews?

But there’s good news: many review sites already have your back. If an inordinate number of reviews are coming from a single IP address, it doesn’t take an IT genius to see what’s going on. Online review site admins can tag the offending page with a big glaring sign that warns visitors if something seems fishy. In other words, all those shiny 5-star reviews won’t do you a lick of good if they’re Fakey McFakertons anyway.

How to Handle Bad Reviews Like a Champ

What about those of us who are super ethical and not posting falsely glowing reviews about ourselves? While we always vote for delivering 5-star service to your clients, the truth is you can’t please all the people all the time. Genuine online reviews include a mix of ratings, some high and some not so high. If you’re slapped with an unpleasantly low-star review, here’s how to handle:

  • Respond in a timely manner, but not right away. Take a deep breath and get some perspective on the situation. Bad reviews happen to good people. The way you conduct yourself afterward is crucial.
  • Do not go on the defensive. Hopefully we don’t need to tell you how unprofessional it is to reply with a snippy comeback. If you find yourself fuming after reading a bad review, step away from the keyboard and don’t respond back till you cool off and calm down.
  • Ditch the canned response. Using the same form response for every bad review isn’t going to help your case. Instead, it shows you really don’t give a crap about your customer’s bad experience. Automated marketing can be a valuable asset, but auto-replying to a bad review is just bad business.
  • Make it clear that you actually read the review. Address the specific details. Don’t ignore or gloss over specific details that were mentioned.
  • Proofread before you post. Grammatical errors can make you look careless and the wrong word choice can make you sound like a jerk. Read what you wrote out loud a couple of times, and have someone else give you their second opinion before posting if at all possible.
  • Get to the point. While it’s important to address all the issues at hand, it’s just as important not to ramble. Be clear, be concise and get the heck out of there.
  • Apologize sincerely and tell them how you’ll make it right. You don’t have to grovel or go on some self-deprecating rant. Just acknowledge their feelings, say you’re sorry and tell them how you’ll fix it. Can you do something to mend fences with this particular customer? If not, what can you change going forward to reassure others that this experience won’t happen to them?

Since online reviews are often what determines whether a person decides to spend their money on your services or not, they’re kind of a big deal. If you’re not really sure what’s going on with your company’s online reviews, call in the experts and do it fast.

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