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One of the concerns about using social media and being more present online to build credibility is “what happens if it attracts negative comments?” How can it be dealt with without harming your reputation?

Online reviews are now the second most trusted form of marketing, only behind word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends.

49% of consumers state that they are more likely to visit a business after reading a positive online review, and 69% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Consumers have a range of options to voice their opinion of businesses and companies. Businesses and individuals have never been more vulnerable to negative or fake comments thanks to online review sites.
Studies reveal that as many as one in three online reviews could be fake.

The problem of fake reviews is now so widespread that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has made its priority tracking down those responsible for the online attacks. The ACCC have developed a fact sheet free for download – What you Need to Know About: Online reviews – a guide for business and review platforms.

Fake negative reviews about your business

Negative consumer reviews posted on a review platform which do not reflect a reviewer’s genuinely held 824 Online-reviewsa-guide-for-business-and-review-platforms coveropinion and are motivated by a personal dislike of a business or its staff can cause substantial harm.

Businesses affected by fake negative reviews have the right to complain to the platform which publishes the review and to relevant regulatory authorities.


Guidance on negative reviews about your business
The use of platforms as a forum for personal reprisals against staff or business owners is inappropriate. Businesses affected by personal vendettas should notify the review platform immediately, identifying affected reviews, and providing reasons.

In extreme circumstances, businesses which are the victims of ongoing harassment or serious threats through fake negative reviews may also consider contacting Police. Affected businesses should also notify the review platform immediately, providing them with reasons and any evidence of relevant fake reviews.

The consumer watchdog warns that those posting fake reviews for reprisal or as part of a personal vendetta face fines of up to $220,000 and that amount can increase to more than a million dollars for companies.

But what should you do about genuine negative online reviews?
If you receive a negative online post or review, you have to make a decision, not as to IF you should respond, but as to HOW you should respond.

Firstly, you should respond immediately and directly ensuring your response is empathetic and direct and not weighing into an argument. Remember, just as their review will be found be potential new customers, so will your response so turn this negative review into a positive.

How do I respond to a negative comment or review?
Be objective – read through any negative comments of the review and try and understand where your business went wrong in the eyes of the customer. Demonstrate strong empathy - You understand they are dissatisfied. Even if you don't agree with what they are claiming, try to avoid a debate. Create a meaningful, personal dialogue so you have a grasp on exactly what caused their dissatisfaction.

Be Honest – if this is experience is negative, is this something your business has been guilty of before and therefore potentially damaging your reputation with customers. • Use your real name and provide a way to contact you (if possible). It’s very important that potential customers see that a REAL person is responding to the review.

Write your reply with a calm voice and in a sincere tone. Use this as an opportunity to gain insights about your business from a customer and ensure you are sincere in your communications.

Don’t make promises you can’t follow through on. Don’t offer anything you aren’t willing to actually follow through on.

The key to remember is that a negative online comment or review can be turned into a positive – its how you handle it that matters.

For more information:
Further information on managing online reviews is available at www.accc.gov.au
Online reviews: a guide for business and review platforms is available at www.accc.gov.au/publications