Online reviews have a positive effect for businesses; according to our Trust Economy Report, they create the potential to generate 40% more revenue each year.

However, even though 83% of reviews written each year are positive, there are some downsides in allowing customers to feedback openly, such as spiteful, fake or even silly reviews.

Even though we don’t like to dwell on negatives, it never pays to bury your head in the sand. So here’s what to do when faced with the following scenarios. 

When competitors post fake reviews

Faking reviews is not new – there are even some people openly selling this service on online freelancers’ networks.

Large firms have been taken to task for paying people to not only write positive reviews for them, but also to post negative reviews of products made by rival companies.

While the relatively small fines of won’t make much of a dent in a multi-billion pound company, who knows what damage it’s done to their reputation? 

What to do if it happens to you:

  • The best way to avoid fake reviews is to ensure that the online review solution you use has a verification system. It will ask reviewers to provide some sort of order ID, thus authenticating that a user has purchased something from the company.

  • While this ensures that feedback is genuine, it also means that any complaints you do get are real and need to be dealt with in a timely manner.

  • Review platforms that don’t allow anonymous reviews are also something to look out for. Once people know they can be traced, they are less likely to leave fake reviews. 

When customers blackmail companies

A recent survey by Schofields, an insurance specialist, discovered that 8% of people have written a spiteful review online.

While the numbers are small, some reviewers are causing bad publicity with the intent of getting something out of it in return.

Adam Raphael, editor of the Good Hotel Guide:

I have heard of cases of people calling a hotel and threatening a filthy review before they have even arrived in the hope of getting a discount.”

What to do if it happens to you:

  • Have some guidelines prepared so those dealing with customer service know their options and can respond quickly.

  • Don’t overreact. Take any threat seriously but remain calm and professional.

  • Offer options – sometimes people just want to be heard. If they’re demanding a discount, perhaps throw in free postage and packaging instead?  

  • Don’t sweat it! If the majority of your reviews are positive, it won’t affect your business too much.

When reviews become a legal minefield 

Disgruntled customers and companies alike have found that some opinions can cross the mark, veering into defamation and into the courts. While it mostly seems to be happening in America, negative words have cost some dearly.

How it could affect you:

  • You could sue for a bad review – but tread carefully. Back in 2012, author Chris McGrath tried to sue for a bad review on Amazon, but the tables were turned, when the court ruled in the reviewer’s favour, leaving him with a rather large legal bill.

  • Think about the reputation of your brand before employing a solicitor. Companies that choose to silence their customers by taking them to court rather than address their feedback merely bring additional attention to the original criticism.

  • Deleting bad reviews, asking people not to write bad reviews, posting fake reviews or defaming customers in your response to their review could also land you in court. 

When businesses bite back!

The anonymity of the internet seems to bring out the devil in some business owners, who lash out at reviewers. Take John Humberstone, whose hotel featured on The Hotel Inspector TV show.

He was pulled to task by hotel inspector Alex Polizzi for venting his anger online at critical reviews.


What to do if it happens to you:

While it might feel good to vent, it’s damaging to your business in the long run.

  • Don’t ignore negative feedback – it’s vital to deal with any online criticism in a timely manner, responding politely and professionally.

  • Negative reviews can sometimes be turned into a positive. Dealing with a bad review can make a dissatisfied customer feel like they’ve been heard and you may persuade them to do business with you again.

  • Sorting out issues also shows potential customers that you care enough to try and change things – according to the Trust Economy Report, 15% of online shoppers say they are more likely to do business with a company which dealt successfully with a negative review.

  • Learn from feedback. If the same comments are resurfacing, look at how you can improve your service.

  • Allowing all reviews, good and bad, makes feedback look genuine – 30% of consumers suspect foul play when they can’t see any negative reviews.

  • Always remember that word of mouth is the best advertising money can’t buy!

When reviews become silly 

Some products or services seem to inspire sarcastic and funny reviews. The ‘BIC for Her’ ballpoint pen has been reviewed 684 times on Amazon, none of which appear to be serious. 


In this case, the product invited such a reaction and, compared to intentionally spiteful reviews, these type of reviews seem pretty harmless, but could they be damaging to your brand?

What to do if it happens to you:

  • Funny reviews are entertaining for customers to read, which could make them think positively about your brand.

  • Allowing silly reviews can also improve sales. Funny reviews often go viral, thus attracting visitors to your site. It’s certainly not done BIC any harm – the ‘BIC for Her’ is currently ranked 31 out of 2,917 in the ballpoint pen category on Amazon.

  • If it fits in with your brand image, then go that one step further. Hutzler encouraged silly reviews for their banana slicer, commenting via their social media channels on how funny the feedback was. The result? An increase in sales.

  • And let’s not forget the much maligned singer James Blunt who has turned around his reputation via Twitter, responding in a hilarious manner to any negative comment about him. 

Remember: the good outweighs the bad

  • If you’re doing a thorough job and providing a great service – including dealing with any bad feedback – your company will benefit from having online ratings and reviews.

  • While there may be some spiteful reviews out there, most people want to be useful to others –54% of people leave reviews to help others.

  • Worst-case scenarios really are just that. On the whole, allowing customers to leave ratings and reviews is a positive thing for every business.

Consumers actively want to praise great service and tell other consumers about it. Negative reviews certainly present a challenge for businesses, but there’s a lot you can do to mitigate, or even reverse, their effects.