Online Reviews – The sheer mention of these words is enough to send shivers down the spines of many of our top retailers. Reviews can really make or break a business and whilst having an online platform specifically for reviews to be placed on is useful and makes it a lot easier for people to get the opinion of others on products and services, it can also give many the chance to leave a damaging post or comment, even when the reality may be that they haven’t ever used the service or product in question.

A recent survey conducted by YouGov found that a staggering 21% of people who leave reviews have done so without even purchasing or trying the product or service in question. This presents two major problems; firstly, as a consumer, how can we know that what we are reading is true? It may be that people are particularly scathing about a certain television brand for instance, because they have used another product that is similar that they disliked or had issues with, and in light of this have left a pre-emptive or derisory review.

Reviews-1 The Dangers of Online Reviews and How You Can Manage Them

The other key problem is the negativity that this can bring to the product, retailer and manufacturer. This is especially prevalent for start-ups and smaller businesses, where reputation is everything. It is worth pointing out of course that many negative reviews are given for a good reason, so it is worth considering both the positives and the negatives while also ensuring that you always shop around to get the clearest picture possible, prior to your purchase.

So whilst negative reviews can be a huge issue when it comes to consumer purchases, they can also substantially damage a brand and be even more damaging to a business who provide a service.

Through my background in Reputation Management, I have really seen the effects of negative reviews and unfortunately I have seen businesses suffer because of them. In some cases, businesses have even had to close down or go into liquidation on the back of one review which may not have even been genuine or could have just been written by a competitor. The anonymity of the Internet is one of its greatest strengths, but in some cases it can really be a burden to many.

There are many services that offer to remedy these negative reviews and show the business in a positive all-encompassing light, and for some this approach may work. However, with the constant changes Google are making and the fact that new negative reviews can surface at any time, it is important to protect and improve your online reputation yourself as best as you can. Below we will look at some simple things that you can do to repair and even boost your reputation online.

Internally Generate Positive Reviews

This may seem patently obvious, but most companies actually have no system in place to gather positive reviews from across the many review sites they are listed on. This can be achieved through many channels that are likely to already be in place for the majority of companies:

Social Media Engagement – As we all know, social media is regularly used by a large amount of people in the 18-35 age bracket, so why not engage with your customer base on a daily basis? By doing so you will increase the chance of them engaging back and leaving a positive review of your product/service.

Offers/Discounts – These can be carried out once again through your social channels, email lists or even directly on your website. For those who only have physical locations, they can simply ask the customer for a review if they seem happy or provide them with a card detailing exactly how and where to leave the reviews. Discounts often work right across the board, from multinationals to sole traders, and can help to generate good feeling for the brand, which in turn can lead to more positive reviews online.

Respond and React to Negative Reviews

Now and then mistakes do happen and bad experiences are had through a matter of circumstance. Your business may have been short staffed one day, too busy to help out, out of stock etc. Whatever the problem was, once this has been highlighted online it is vital that you are able to communicate with the customer to fix the situation.

Often when customers have had a bad experience, but have then had the matter resolved in a timely and courteous manner, they can actually become advocates for your business, as they see that you really do care about your customers and you strive to make up for any mistakes that may have taken place.

Almost all of the leading review sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and Trustpilot will allow you to respond to customers. This provides you with a key tool to ensure that you can stay right on top of your online reputation.

Yes, there are some unscrupulous types who will leave negative reviews regardless and who will attack the business out of spite, but even in light of this it is worth noting that a staggering 79% of us put our trust in online reviews, so it is absolutely vital that yours reflect positively on you and show the business for what it really is.