Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Fake reviews can be fatal

Business owners must take action over fake website reviews or risk their company’s reputation, and even its entire future.

Graham Davies, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said with competition for business so fierce, some companies and individuals had resorted to posting fake negative reviews on company websites.

“Research has shown that in 2017, 85% of hotels had been subjected to fake reviews – and that’s an increase from 65% just two years earlier.

“The hospitality industry has been a popular target, but many other industries and small businesses have also been affected. Of course, in business you’re never going to please all of your customers all of the time, but fake reviews left on your website can be extremely damaging.”

Mr Davies said firstly you should check whether the review came from an actual customer or not.

“If you believe it’s not a genuine customer, flag the review up with Google or whichever platform it has been posted on, although they won’t always agree to remove it and this process can take some time. If they won’t take the review down, you should post a reply – don’t be tempted to lose your temper as it will only reflect badly on your company and so help your competitor.

“Compose a dignified and polite reply that explains you have checked your records and that they don’t appear to be listed as a customer, but if they’d like to call you then you’ll deal with their concerns.”

Mr Davies said business owners should not be tempted to bring in a marketing firm that promised to fix their online reputation either.

“The Competition and Markets Authority has recently stepped up its campaign to root out companies who are employed to post fake positive reviews in a bid to redress the balance, so you could still be breaking the law.

“Most importantly, make sure you deal with the review one way or another – if it is a negative comment from a genuine customer, dealing with it constructively and (if it’s appropriate) on a public forum shows you appreciate their concerns and take them on board.

“It’s too dangerous to simply ignore negative comments online as they won’t simply disappear, and they could put the very future of your business at risk in the long term.”