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How to combat fake reviews and reduce negative online comments

Posted September 26, 2019
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There are few things better for business than getting a five-star review online. It’s one of the best ways to build loyalty and trust with current and potential customers. In fact, the results of one survey showed that 85% of consumers — and 91% of 18–34-year-olds — say they value online reviews as much as a trusted personal recommendation.

Given the significant impact positive online reviews have on consumer buying decisions, it’s not all that surprising that negative TripAdvisor reviews, Yelp reviews, or any others, would have an equally powerful impact. Of course, there’s something to be said about a company that truly deserves a bad review. But there are those that don’t, and it’s becoming increasingly common that many bad reviews are in fact fake.

A bad review - whether it’s fake or not - causes the same damage to brands, and can be particularly detrimental for new businesses that don’t have an online review ‘track record’ in place. Fake reviews are also a thorn in the side of more mature businesses given their typically larger scope and scale. Incredibly, it’s estimated that approximately 40% of Amazon reviews are fake.

For consumers, it can often be hard to tell the difference between a legitimate negative review and a fake one (they may have even influenced some of your own purchasing decisions). However, with brands recognizing the potential threat, and being proactive by developing and executing a smart content moderation strategy, it’s possible to minimize their impact. Here are a few best practices to get you started.

Be proactive: Stop bad reviews before they happen

One of the most important things you can do in customer service is to be proactive. Consumers value being heard, so ask for feedback from customers before they have a chance to vent online and express their dissatisfaction.

For example, send your customers a satisfaction survey after they make a purchase. This will provide a place to vent privately, and an opportunity for you to correct any errors. The survey should ask about their experience, request feedback about the product or service and include a thank you for their time — even if their comments are negative.

In addition to surveys, you can also collect input via focus groups or by speaking one-on-one with your sales and customer service teams. Once you have the feedback, take action to improve the experience for all customers. By building a track record of positive reviews, it will be harder for people to give the occasional negative review too much credence.

Have a content moderation strategy in place

In order to combat fake reviews, you need to know where to find them, which can be tricky given the amount of user-generated content today. This is why it’s critical to have a content moderation strategy in place. Time is of the essence and having a plan that includes which sites to monitor, can help stop the spread of fake content before it has the chance to go viral.

With 2.3 billion people using social media every day, it’s not easy staying on top of your online brand reputation. Many companies don’t have the necessary resources to proactively seek out fake content, but working with an experienced social support and online moderation partner can help to alleviate that burden of keeping your brand safe and strong.

Try and fix the problem

Here’s the silver lining about online negative reviews and fake reviews: they aren’t chiseled in stone. There is always an opportunity to improve the situation. First, if you receive a negative review that simply doesn’t jibe with what you know about your product, reach out to the customer directly to discuss the issue. By listening to them, acknowledging their dissatisfaction and telling them specifically how you plan to solve their issue, you’re showing your customers how much you value their business. It may even result in the customer revising their rating.

The reality, however, is that fake reviews — the ones created and posted by spammers, bots and trolls — can be trickier to curtail. Fortunately, artificial intelligence can help brands prevent trolls by executing rules on restricted words, identifying questionable language and, at least on your own site, making sure that comments don’t appear online until approved.

For third-party sites and more sophisticated spammers, content moderation conducted by skilled agents is critical to success. Your company needs human intervention to suss out toxic content that technology can miss. Human agents can also reach out to sites and make the case to remove fake reviews by highlighting why they shouldn’t be there (e.g. violating community guidelines), as well as flagging accounts suspected of spamming.

Negative online comments and fake reviews aren’t going away anytime soon. But, having a proactive content moderation strategy in place, and an experienced team to execute it, will help keep your brand’s reputation safe and ensure consumers are basing purchasing decisions on fact, not fiction.

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