23 July 2021
How businesses should handle unfair reviews online
The online presence of a business often has a huge impact on its future growth. Naturally, mistakes can occur in business, and some customers can be dissatisofied with a service, both in justified and unjustified circumstances and deem it publicise their experience. Read our latest article to understand the importance of positive feedback being published online and how to manage negative feedback in a professional manner, increasing your chances of resoltuion..
The online presence of a business
Even before the pandemic, a solid, online presence for all types of business was fast becoming increasingly critical in attracting new customers. Whilst consumer feedback is always appreciated, businesses developing into a more recognised brand, attracting a larger customer base can lead to an increased risk of either fairly and unfairly negative, reviews left online which, in some cases, can be detrimental, particularly if the review was avoidable by firstly attempting to listen to the customer directly in order to resolve any problems.
Since most prospective customers will check online reviews of a business as part of their due diligence before deciding to use them, it is critical that those reviews give a true and honest reflection of the service that new customer is expected to receive.
What should you do about a negative review?
Whilst it is tempting to jump in and respond immediately to negative reviews before any potential reputational damage has been done, it is worth taking the time to investigate the complaint before forming your professional response. Undertaking what is mostly a quick, internal review of the situation to understand what happened, how it was dealt with at the time and what has led to your customers public complaint will allow you to give a more personal, thoughtful, and accurate response, which is more likely to receive a positive outcome.
If statements have been publicised about an individual or business which negatively impacts their reputation, and that business can prove that such statements are incorrect - this is known as defamation, or defamatory statements. Reputational harm and financial loss often go hand in hand, as the customers who are unhappy often refuse to pay fees and no longer want to work that business, and negative online posts generally leads to increased difficulty in attracting new customers.
It is important to be aware that a review can still be deemed defamatory even if your firm is not directly named. However, you must be clearly identifiable examples of such statements may describe your office location, or your logo.
If you find a defamatory review about you or your firm that has been posted anonymously, you will need to contact the website operator with a complaint and a take-down letter. The operator then has 48 hours to acknowledge your query and contact the individual (or individuals) who left the review. Under the Defamation Act 2013, website operators could be held liable for defamatory posts by their users, unless they have successfully carried out certain steps detailed in the act.
Once the operator has contacted the user in response to your take-down letter, their next steps depend on how the user responds. If no response has been received within 5 days, then the website must remove the defamatory comment. Alternatively, if the user agrees to their details being disclosed, then you can pursue them freely. Finally, if the user responds but their response is not compliant with the regulations, then the operator must remove the post.
Of course, negative reviews which cannot be proven to be incorrect will not be removed, however, it is important that businesses put together a professional response to these reviews to show that they take such matters seriously. This may go a long way towards rebuilding relations with the customer, as well as the part of your reputation which may have been damaged by the post. Whilst no business can be perfect all the time and things naturally go wrong, it is essential to show that the firm is willing to address any problems which have occurred in an effort to ensure that subject of the complaint will not occur again.
It is always hoped that problems can be resolved before a customer takes to posting their unhappiness online, but in the event that a negative review appears, it is important to stay calm and professional in your response and show both existing and prospective customers that you are worthy of their trust and trade.
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The views provided in this article are for general information purposes only. Nothing in this article represents advice of any nature whatsoever. Accordingly, RWB CA Limited does not accept any liability or responsibility for the information contained in this article or any decision or other action that may be taken in reliance upon the information contained within it. RWB CA Limited accepts no responsibility for any errors of fact or opinion and assumes no obligation to provide you with any changes to its assumptions.