In the digital world we live in, a defamatory review can seriously harm any business. In my recent interview for Chicago Agent Magazine, Opinions are not defamatory, but facts are: How to fight back against a bad online review, I discuss this topic as it applies to Real Estate Agents. However, any entrepreneur or small business can be hurt by an angry customer venting on the internet.
In my book, “The Guide to Internet Defamation and Website Removal,” I go further into steps for addressing situations that are indeed defamatory, but most of the time reviews are opinions.
When dealing with opinions, the problem needs to be understood first. Why is the person leaving the negative review? Discovering the reason behind the review is the most important part of the process.
The second step would be to find the person, address the problem, and see if there is anything that can be done to resolve the situation. The internet is not as anonymous as some would believe and finding out who to contact is not usually a problem.
After trying to make amends, my advice would be to ask them if they would be willing to remove the negative review. If you can’t come to an agreement, there are several other steps that can be taken.
Reach out to previous clients and ask them if they would be willing to leave a positive review. The more positive reviews a business has out there, the less likely people will notice or pay attention to the one negative review.
After taking a day or two to calm down, I suggest responding publicly to the review. It is best to be honest while remaining professional. Apologize for the person’s experience and thank them for their feedback, demonstrating that you would be willing to work with them in the future as a commitment to your willingness to improve.
You should also respond to the positive reviews to show that you are engaging and care about your clientele.
If the review is indeed defamation, there is an alternate route you can take. A cease-and-desist letter threatening a lawsuit can also be effective but weighing the benefits versus the risks of a confrontation beforehand is crucial. The person may post more defamatory comments instead of stepping back from the situation.
Alternatively, you can reach out to the platform they posted the review on and ask them to remove it. Due to federal laws, there is little legal recourse in asking an online platform to remove the review, but it is worth a shot.
If you act quickly and explain why you think the review is misleading, they may take your concern seriously and remove it, without even notifying the author – especially if it somehow violates their guidelines.
Regardless of the steps you decide to take, a negative review can be detrimental to your reputation and needs to be dealt with quickly and efficiently.