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Online reviews both positive and negative, have been shown to have a crucial role in both attracting and retaining customers, but negative reviews are by far the most impactful factor in driving business. However, not every negative review is real, and knowing how to respond to fake reviews can be the difference between growing a customer base as opposed to barely hanging on to one.
Dealing with fake reviews comes with some basic guidelines any business can use, meaning there’s no reason to let a malicious bot (or human) ruin the hard work you’ve put in building a reputation. So if there’s a dispute, remember that providing excellent customer service will show confidence in your services or products.
Genuine customer experiences usually rely more on nouns to give details, while fake reviews lean heavily on verbs and “action” to create the illusion of authenticity.
Studies have shown that well over 90% of consumers say they look at online reviews and customer feedback before making a purchase decision, and negative reviews have up to 12 times the impact on business as positive reviews, so knowing how to respond to a fake reviewer leaving negative feedback is a must.
Before that, however, you’ll need to know how to spot them. There are 5 easy ways to spot a fake or paid review online:
If you’ve determined or strongly suspect a review is fake, the next step is either to have it removed or, if you lack definitive evidence, respond with a polite and concise statement that your records don’t show any purchase or transaction with the reviewer.
Most review platforms have a system available to flag reviews for issues such as this. Google My Business is fairly typical and includes a few simple steps:
Having a fake review removed can be difficult depending on the platform. Google, for example, allows anonymous user names that are difficult to verify as belonging to an actual person, and they won’t necessarily accept a business simply claiming a reviewer never shopped with them as reason enough to remove the review.
When this happens, the next step is to engage with the reviewer directly. As stated before, this response should be thorough, but polite and as concise as possible. A good example text would be:
Hello (name of reviewer),
“We take customer feedback very seriously and would like to address your frustrations and hopefully find a positive resolution. Unfortunately, we can’t currently find a record of any transaction or purchase with us. In order to help you further, we’d appreciate it if you could contact (email address/name of service rep) with your full name and email so that we could go forward with a resolution. Thank you for your feedback, we hope to hear from you soon.”
If you don’t receive a response in a fairly timely manner, you can contact the platform again to report a non-response, which will often be enough to have the offending review removed.
Note: Here are some other guidelines on how to reply to negative reviews when they happen.
What can you do if another business leaves a fake review?
It’s not uncommon for competitors to hire a subcontractor in another country to leave a fake negative review. With many larger platforms such as Google, you may not have to take any action, and the platform will be able to detect the fake review itself and have it removed. Otherwise, you may have to take action such as flagging the review and contacting the platform’s small business support team.
How can I spot a fake review?
Common signs of a fake review are verb instead of noun-heavy text, reliance on personal pronouns instead of detailed descriptions, and a spotty review history on the reviewer’s part.
How can I remove a fake review?
It depends on the platform, but most platforms have some sort of review-flagging system in addition to a small business support system for escalating issues with reviews suspected to be in violation of the platform’s policies.
STAT: Studies show that about 15-30% of online reviews are fake (source)