Expert advice on the business of running a garment decoration company

IOD poll and FSB press government

  • A poll taken by the Institute of Directors directly after the EU referendum reveals that 64% of those questioned think the result is negative for their business, with 23% saying it is positive. Twenty-four percent report they will put a freeze on recruitment, 5% will make redundancies and 32% will continue to hire at the same pace.

    www.iod.com

  • The day after the EU referendum, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) called on the government for clarity on the impact of the vote on small businesses. Mike Cherry, national chairman, said: “Access to the single market means access to 500 million potential consumers, more than 26 million businesses and is worth 11 trillion euros. FSB will continue to be a constructive partner in any upcoming negotiations, ensuring the voice of smaller firms is heard loud and clear.”

    www.fsb.org.uk

Q&A

A ‘customer’ has posted a negative (and false) review about my company online, which I think is damaging my business. I have a feeling it’s one of my competitors. What can I do?”

How do you know if a negative review is false and malicious?

Inconsistent with your trends: If you start receiving reviews that are anomalous in tone and rating, followed by excellent reviews reflective of your overall trends, then chances are someone is hard at work trying to ruin your review profiles. Catching this problem early by using review management and monitoring tools can give your business the edge as far as crisis management is concerned. The earlier you notice, the easier it will be to corroborate the facts and disprove them.

Industry lingo: Every industry has a distinct language, with terminology that is mostly used in-house. Bitter competitors and ex-employees who have something against you have a natural inclination to use industry terms when writing false reviews. For example, a competitor’s or ex-employee’s false review in the hospitality segment might opt to use the term “high occupancy” instead of “really booked up”.

Weak, borderline anonymous profiles: The validity and strength of an online review is directly associated with the profile of the user who posted the review. If the user has no transparency and no track record of other online interactions, then this should raise an alarm.

If you identify a suspect review, then take a moment to evaluate the user’s profile. There are two possible scenarios: the reviewer in question does not have a transparent, information-rich profile, nor does he or she show much prior activity; or the reviewer has posted a highly negative review on your profile and the profiles of similar businesses, with the exception of one business profile where he or she has posted a glowing review. In situations like this, the competitor with the glowing profile becomes a suspect.

If you spot similar negative reviews within a tight timeframe, then go ahead and take screenshots; you will need them when escalating to the host site. You may also want to alert the other businesses affected. The chances of false reviews getting removed are higher if multiple businesses escalate in association with a particular user.

Ask for false or inappropriate reviews to be removed

If you believe that a review is false or malicious or breaks the site rules (for example, contains profanity, personal attacks or private information), contact the site and ask for it to be removed. However, be aware that the site may not agree with your assessment, or may be slow to remove a review even if they do agree. Therefore, you may still like to implement some of the other steps below.

Respond privately to resolve the issue

Many businesses prefer to respond privately to negative reviews in the first instance. Send a short message to the reviewer in which you:

  • introduce yourself
  • thank them for using your business
  • thank them for their feedback
  • apologise for the fact that their experience didn’t satisfy them
  • outline what you understand to be their concerns.

It’s possible to do this without admitting that your business has done anything wrong, if you feel that’s the case.

Then ask for more details if need be, or make an offer to resolve the customer’s concern. Sometimes you just need to improve a procedure or in other situations, you might offer some kind of compensation (for example, “We’d love to offer you a free hoodie with your next order to make up for the mistake.”).

Respond publicly

Once you’ve communicated privately with the customer, it’s generally a good idea to post a public message acknowledging the concern and outlining what you’ve done to resolve it. This will actually boost your reputation with many readers, who can see that you are responsive to feedback.

Be polite and constructive at all times

A negative review is not good for your business, but a rude, aggressive or flippant response from you will probably damage your reputation even more. When responding publicly, be polite and professional at all times. The same applies to private responses. Remember, a customer can easily take your private response and post it online as well.

Learn and move on

Successful business people learn from negative reviews, improve their business if need be, and then move on. Try to use each negative review as a chance to learn something new. If you feel a review is really unfair, remember:

  • your response can actually improve your standing with customers
  • most consumers read more than one review of a business
  • encouraging positive reviews is the best way to give readers a balanced view

Get more positive reviews to push fake reviews out of sight

A strong review profile with high levels of activity is your best weapon, when and if a fake review is posted about your business. New reviews will supersede the false negative review, and before you know it, it will no longer be visible in the first page of your profile. Even if it is, the information will be drowned out by multiple accolades from your real, happy customers.

Not everybody plays fair. If your business is the victim of false reviews from the competition, know that you are neither the first nor the last to be subject to this type of behaviour. With the right evidence in hand, the moderation team from the host site will most likely side with you once you have escalated the issue.

Annika Mason is a trainee solicitor at Mayo Wynne Baxter, which provides a comprehensive and personal service to a broad spectrum of local, national and international clients.
www.mayowynnebaxter.co.uk

If you have a business question for any of our experts, email it to: [email protected]