Five Steps to Handling Fraudulent Online Reviews

Has your consulting or design firm been the victim of a fraudulent online review? Here are five steps to counteract the attack.
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Recently, we had the unfortunate experience of someone threatening to leave a nasty online review of our company, for reasons I will never understand (seriously, I’m baffled, but these are weird times in our world). Anyone who’s been in business is likely to experience this, and I guess I can thank my lucky stars that this is the only experience I’ve had with this in over a decade of business.

So, if you find yourself, like me, in a confusing and stressful situation of being on the receiving end of an unwarranted nasty review or threat of one, here’s my advice.

Step One: Make sure it’s really and truly not your fault or a miscommunication.

I know this is hard. But, sometimes miscommunication happens, expectations don’t match up, or what you think is obvious isn’t to your client or customer. If you have a long, hard think on this and realize that something may have gone wrong, set up a call with that client and have a heart-to-heart. You can probably talk it through and come to a resolution. Then, ask the person to modify or update their review once things have been resolved and you both feel okay.

Handling a problem well speaks to your professionalism and human decency.

Step Two: Respond clearly, directly and without drama or emotion to your bad review or threat of a bad review.

This is hard. I know. But it’s critical that you take the high road and are the adult in the room. Lashing out, reacting without thinking or otherwise escalating the situation will not help you. So much in life is how we react to situations and this is no different. Be polite, stick to the facts, and make sure you’re kind and compassionate, even if you don’t want to be. This can diffuse a bad situation. Plus, if you answer nastiness with nastiness, you’re just adding to gross online culture—and that’s bad for the world!

Remember, even when dealing with something unpleasant, your brand is crucial. Maintain your integrity and voice at all times.

Step Three: Document everything.

If you are on the receiving end of a fraudulent review, you can flag it on Facebook, but if it’s on Yelp or Google, you’re basically up a creek. That is unless you can prove fraudulent intent. So document any threats, any conversations that could persuade the powers that be, etc. This will help your case and MAYBE you will even be able to get the review removed. But don’t count on it… (See step five.)

Step Four: Reach out to your community.

Do you have a whole bunch of clients who think you’re the bomb dot com? Reach out to them and ask for reviews! Be very honest and explain that you, unfortunately, fell victim to a fraudulent review and are hoping that folks can leave a good review to balance out the unpleasantness and improve your rating. Use a simple script such as,

Hello [CLIENT]!

I am writing today because we could use your help. We recently received a fraudulent online review and, unfortunately we can’t do anything to have it removed! Because we loved working with you, we were hoping that you could take a few moments to review our business at [LINK]. This will help counteract this negative review and make sure people know that review isn’t representative of our company. We so appreciate it!

Thank you,

[YOUR NAME]

People are typically exceedingly generous about this sort of thing, and are happy to help! (I know I have been when asked to help counteract an online review like this.)

Step Five: If you feel unsafe, do not respond.

There’s a big difference between someone who’s just mad, and someone who makes you feel unsafe and is threatening your wellbeing or safety.

It’s crucial as a business owner to trust your gut about this, especially if you have a physical address that’s available to the public. Our studio is in a private space, and I’m extremely cautious about sharing the location for safety reasons (and also because we just can’t handle people randomly showing up). If your business has a storefront, you want to be even more cautious if something feels off or dangerous.

If your gut says something is wrong, trust it and involve your attorney or even law enforcement if need be.

I know this is hard stuff and it’s not anything any business owner wants to think about, but it’s part of being online. If you’re prepared and maintain your professionalism, the damage of a fraudulent online review can be mitigated. Just keep your chin up and be the better person. (I know it’s hard!)

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