Negative online reviews from unhappy customers can really hurt your business. As we explored in a recent article on our own blog, studies repeatedly find that consumers are relying more and more on “word of mouth” and much less on actual advertising when making purchasing decisions. It’s rather simple: if you get too many or too damaging of negative online reviews your company may have a very difficult time recovering (or may not recover at all).

It’s not all stormy clouds and bleak outlooks, though. There are things you can do to rectify these issues and, most importantly, to stop them before they begin.

Are Lawsuits the Answer to False Negative Consumer Reviews?

You worked hard to create a positive image in your niche market. It doesn’t seem fair that one person’s negative review can tear it all down, does it? Especially if that review is false or exaggerated. Some company heads see the negative reviews posted by unhappy consumers and think that it’s important to strike back. They see it as the most effective way to show that they were, indeed, false or exaggerated.

We already touched on this topic a bit in our previous article The Dos and Don’ts of Securing Quality Online Consumer Reviews, but wanted to take the time to delve a little deeper into the topic since it has really hit headlines in recent weeks. Some companies are turning to the law to prove their point when it comes to false negative online reviews, presumably assuming that a reactive PR campaign isn’t enough to undo the damage done.

Lawsuits By Companies Against Consumers Are Flooding the News

Last week, we told you about a plumbing company in Toronto that filed a lawsuit against unsatisfied Moore Park resident Bill Genova. But the headlines don’t stop there.

A recent CBC article entitled ‘A year and a half of hell’: Customers, businesses pay price for online reviews discusses a handful of unhappy consumers, including one couple who was sued by Design-Spec Building Group over a negative online review.

In September, CTV News reported about a few more consumers, from a tech solutions consumer to a psychiatry patient who were sued over negative reviews. Similar articles have been posted by CBS and Huffington Post.

So, if you’re asking yourself “Can I sue over that negative review?” the short answer is: yes. Before jumping in and going straight for the lawsuit, though, there are a few things to consider.

The Effects of Lawsuits on Your Company Image

If you read the CBC article about Design-Spec Building Group, chances are that you didn’t come away with a great feeling about the company.

In the interests of honest reporting, most reporters will contact the business for its side of the story. That’s not always the case, though. And, oftentimes, if you are already involved in a lawsuit your company lawyer(s) will advise you not to comment on the matter. What does this do? It creates a situation where the disgruntled consumer’s thoughts and opinions are receiving, even more, attention and you aren’t necessarily able to defend your company’s image.

The Key to Success Could be Graceful Responses

As we briefly outlined last week, the best way to handle a negative review is often to handle it with grace instead of force.

The effect of the negative review itself should be all the evidence you need that your company’s image is a key part of its success. Handling the situation with grace is the best way to protect your company’s image. Not only are you not giving amplification to the complaints, you can demonstrate that your company cares by publicly displaying your efforts to correct the situation. Yes, this applies even to some of those consumers who have posted false reviews.

Why Work To Fix Relations With Those Who Post False Reviews and How Do You Do It?

It seems counterproductive to try to work with someone who is out to hurt your company. Sometimes, though, the old saying is right “you catch more flies with honey.” Publicly appeasing an unhappy consumer shows that yours is a company that cares – a company willing to go above and beyond to ensure customer satisfaction.

But what about the fakers? Does this mean that you will endorse their false reviews? Not at all. You can certainly call attention to the inconsistencies in their reports. You do not have to admit fault. There is a difference between saying “We are sorry we make a mistake” and “We are sorry you feel you’ve had a negative experience.” The whole point is to show empathy and ask what your company can do better in the future to improve the experience of all future consumers.

Stay On Top of Consumer Reviews

Vigilance is key. Although avoidance of any issues whatsoever is, obviously, preferable we all know that just isn’t possible. Even if your company and all of its representatives did everything perfectly there will always be at least one unsatisfied customer who has unreasonably high expectations or who just had a bad day and nowhere else to direct their anger.

Since perfection is difficult to attain and there will always be someone to complain it is important to stay on top of consumer reviews as they are posted. This can be difficult, though, since there are many places these reviews could be posted and it can distract you from other important duties. If this sounds like too much work, you can always outsource your review monitoring to a reputation manager.