You can’t please all of the people all of the time. This is true about musicians, artists, and, unfortunately, brands. Your company may have a stellar product, fantastic marketing, and out-of-this world customer service, but even then, bad reviews are going to come your way. This is inevitable; how you deal with it is imperative.

Many startups – and even larger companies – make the mistake of trying to remove every single negative review posted about them. This error is understandable; one negative review in a highly competitive industry can mean the difference between a sale and a customer taking their business elsewhere. Plus, as the old adage goes, “the internet is forever,” and some companies fear the seemingly indelible stain that negative reviews can leave on their reputation.

Removing negative reviews is a tricky business. - Highlight to share -

But removing negative reviews is a tricky business, and the company that knows how to deal with them without just removing them is better equipped for long-term success. Here are a few alternative methods for dealing with unpleasant reviews.

1. A customer posts a review that is patently false.

They don’t allow libel in the newspapers, and you shouldn’t allow it on your site. Companies work hard to build their reputations on good work and quality service, and to have an obvious faker come along and destroy it is unacceptable. However, be aware: if you’re removing reviews, customers will notice, and you should be prepared to answer for it. You may have your reasons prepared, and your evidence of its falsehood well laid out beforehand – but customers will generally side with other customers as a rule.

But you don’t have to chase your tail around the internet deleting malicious false reviews. A “closed loop” system, where only verified purchasers of the product are contacted to leave a review, saves you a lot of running around – and potentially, your reputation.

2. A customer posts a negative review that is unflattering but true.

Nobody is perfect, even your brilliant company. Customers expect professionalism, not perfection. Indeed, in an internet landscape where potential customers are constantly on the lookout for scammers and half-truths, a company that demonstrates accountability and responsibility for fixing the issue will attract more customers than one that tries to sweep its dirty laundry under the rug.

Customers expect professionalism, not perfection. - Highlight to share -

Make sure to respond to the review in question – publicly if possible. Offer a solution, a valid explanation, or a make-good. Don’t just apologise – demonstrate your commitment to fixing the problem and satisfying the customer. A negative review can be an opportunity to show off top-notch customer service, and draw in other customers in the process.

3. A customer posts a review that is vulgar, rude, or off-topic.

Do not remove it. Well, unless it is obscene, of course (in which case you should send it back to the customer and ask them to resubmit). Otherwise, use it as an opportunity to demonstrate whatever type of voice and identity you want your company to have. Branding opportunities abound on what is essentially a throw-away review – a low-risk, high-reward proposition.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Reviews are an opportunity to talk to your customers, not censor them.

When (and when not) to remove a review