It should be clear to anyone by now that a good online reputation is vital to business success. However, you can’t control what people say about you, so there is always a chance that someone posts something negative. What online reputation management tools are available to you in that situation?

Can negative reviews be removed?

Yes and no. If a review is posted on your own page, such as your Facebook, YouTube or website, you can remove them. However, people will usually find out about this and don’t appreciate it.

If it is posted elsewhere, you would need to actually sue for libel, which takes a lot of time and money. The big problem with deleting anything is that the lines between vicious trolls and genuine people who are unhappy become very blurry.

Some may suggest you are censoring them when they are exercising their right to free speech, and this could end up doing you a lot more damage. It is always better to be open and honest and respond to reviews instead.

How to respond to negative reviews

It is vital that you are always professional in your reply to negative reviews. Some good points:

1. Make sure that your response actually addresses the customer’s main issue. Sometimes, people post very lengthy reviews, going into intricate details.

You do not have to address each detail individually, but rather reply on the overall issue. This simplifies things and helps to bring emotions down a little bit.

2. Do your research. Make sure you have the context of the customer’s issue. If they complain about a certain member of staff, speak to them and ask for their version.

Have the customer’s order number ready. Make sure you know what has happened and whether anything could have been done better before you reply.

3. Always be polite, but always be honest. Start by apologizing for the problem itself and thanking your customer for telling you about it. This will instantly make people feel better.

4. Provide an identity. When you reply to a complaint, you don’t want to be a ‘representative’ or ‘spokesperson’. You need to use a name so that people feel they are being treated like individuals as well.

5. Be prompt. While it may take you some time to gather all of your evidence in order to formulate a good response, you should not leave your customer hanging.

If you do feel you will need a bit more time, acknowledge your customer’s complaint and inform them that you are looking into the issue and will get back to them, providing them with a time frame. Make sure you never take longer than 48 hours to provide a full answer on the issue.

Negative reviews can be incredibly damaging, but they do not have to be the end of the world if dealt with properly. You do need to learn to recognize what the difference is between an online troll and a genuine customer, as trolls should not be addressed.