Receiving negative reviews is frustrating — but it’s not the end of the road for your business. Not by a long shot.
“When you do get a bad review, whether it’s from a customer with a legitimate grumble, or a serial nitpicker, you must be prepared to deal with it,” writes Alison Coleman at Forbes. Sometimes dealing with it means taking a deep breath before responding, taking the feedback with a grain of salt and using it as an opportunity to prove engagement.
But sometimes reviews are unfair, unwarranted or down right false. In these cases, review platforms from Yelp to Google to TripAdvisor have policies and procedures in place to protect businesses.
While the process varies from site to site, there are a few elements to keep in mind across the board. Here we help you get started on what removing reviews should look like.
#1: Remove fake reviews
The number one reason to petition for a review to be removed is because the person behind it has not actually patronized your business. It’s just against the rules, plain and simple.
For example, Trustpilot’s user guidelines state that the site can remove reviews if they request proof that the user had a “Service Experience” with the business and the user fails to comply.
TripAdvisor says that only customers with firsthand experience may post a review about a particular business: “Please, only provide reviews based on substantial experiences you’ve had and be sure to include enough detail in your review that other travelers will find your advice helpful.”
It doesn’t matter if the fake review is motivated by a competing business or out of a personal vendetta a customer may have against you for a past experience. What matters is that it can be removed.
#2: Respond to false or unfair claims
False claims in real reviews. They’re a real problem.
Success with getting false claims in reviews removed vary by platform. In most cases, it’s more difficult to get a review removed due to false or unfair claims than if the review is entirely fake. Instead, you should take the time to respond to the review — as politely as possible — with the aim of showing the rest of your audience that the claim is false.
Claims don’t have to necessarily be false to be grounds for removal — they can also simply be irrelevant. The Yelp content guidelines, for example, speak to the mandatory relevance for reviews: “Please make sure your contributions are relevant and appropriate to the forum. For example, reviews aren’t the place for rants about a business’s employment practices, political ideologies, extraordinary circumstances, or other matters that don’t address the core of the consumer experience.”
#3: Report reviews from former employees
Some review platforms — Google in particular — do not allow reviews from current or former employees. This one is fairly straightforward: if you see an employee post a negative review, you can start looking into the proper procedure for reporting the situation.
While it can feel awkward to go through this process, effectively managing your business’ reputation is always worth it. If you have past employees posting extremely negative things about you, it may also be time to review your employee engagement and retention practices.
#4: Recognize Terms of Service violations
Beyond the three specific reasons highlighted above, there are a host of Terms of Service conditions that negative reviews often violate.
What words and actions constitute a ToS violation depends on the review platform. But there are a handful of factors that seem to remain the same across all the sites. Hook SEO writes that you can petition to have a negative review removed “if a review is a personal attack on an employee, defamatory, derogatory or attacks a person based on disability, race, ethnicity, religion or other factors.”
For example, if a review turns into a personal attack on a specific employee, mentioning them by name and detailing their appearance instead of their service, it could be subject to removal.
For more details on Terms of Service for each review platform, check out the links below:
Yelp: Content Guidelines
Facebook: Community Standards
Yellow Pages: User Generated Content Terms
Trip Advisor: Help Center
Trustpilot: User Guidelines
#5: Reply to customer experiences
Getting a review removed doesn’t always mean you have to go through the removal process with the platform. You could also campaign to get customers to change or remove their own reviews.
With this tactic, you start by engaging with the customer and doing your best to make them feel heard. If they were dissatisfied with customer service, show them that you care. If they were unhappy with the product, offer to replace it for them. Tell them that you are sorry for their experience, and offer something concrete to show it.
Best case scenario: the customer either removes their negative review or changes 2 stars into 4 stars. Worst case scenario: you still get to show customer service, since nearly 9 out 10 consumers read business’ responses to reviews.
When Not to Remove Negative Customer Reviews
It can be tempting to try to always remove negative reviews. They are damaging to your reputation, right?
But that’s not always the right way to go. “Receiving and embracing negative feedback will not only improve your brand’s customer experience and service, but it will also turn you into a brand that doesn’t just hear customers, but actually listens to what they have to say,” writes Flora Frichou at the TrustPilot blog. For more insight on knowing when and when not to remove negative customer reviews, check out our post on how negative reviews can help build confidence in your brand.
Knowing exactly how to go about removing reviews — let alone how to respond to reviews when removal isn’t an option — can quickly get overwhelming. Objection.co can help you go through this process automatically, making case-by-case recommendations for how to proceed with negative reviews for the best outcome.