Disgruntled Former Employees Leaving Fake Reviews
I received a call from a dear client of mine one weekend. He had recently experienced some disappointing behavior in a long-time employee, and he had to let her go. The problem was, this employee had the passwords to his social networking accounts, blog, website CMS, and other important online media. Could she login and wreak havoc, out of anger? Would she leave fake, bad reviews about him on Yelp and Facebook?
Unfortunately, this is an HR issue that all businesses face in the Internet era. Here’s another example. Recently, MDPM had a former employee create fake profiles and post negative reviews on Yelp, all within days of each other. The profiles were new and had reviewed 0-2 other businesses. We did not recognize the reviewers’ names, and some phrases they posted keyed us in on the fact that the reviews were fake. However, we can’t get them removed. We followed the advice in this article, and we’ve been as pleased as can be expected, without crossing ethical lines and compromising integrity.
Angry Former Patients Posting Scathing Reviews
Fake and real reviews, more negative than positive, have fueled a multi-million dollar industry of reputation management. Angry people are more likely to vent online than are pleased patients. Late last year, I helped a frustrated dentist as he dealt with a negative review from a one-time patient. The patient was unhappy about the charges for his dental work, specifically that his dental insurance did not cover what he thought it would, yet he still had to pay. The work was done, and done well. He left a long rant on the dentist’s Google Places page, visible to all potential patients. What could the dentist do? Google has no phone number to call when this happens; besides, as a third party, though they provide the means for reviews, they don’t want to get involved in disputes.
This scenario is all too common. In fact, for years, Yelp had dealt with lawsuits in which dentists want bad reviews removed because they are not completely true, and they harm the dentist’s reputation. Recently, Google Places reviews stopped posting properly, and no one seems to know what happened — even Google forum masters.
Will Bad Reviews Harm Your Reputation?
Yelp and Google Places reviews index quickly and get top priority on Google SERP pages. One bad review may top a search engine result, though the dentist has a stellar SEO campaign. I would like to share with you what one of my clients had to say about online reviews. It rings very true, and I recommend you consider the wisdom in his words.
“Someone will contact you offering to help you with those [bad] reviews soon, for a mere 500 a month. Yelp profits from bad reviews. Yelp is platform for haters and shakedown artists. In dentistry, the number one reason reviewers place bad reviews is to harm the business because they owe money and don’t want to pay it. So, to vent their frustration about owing money, they attack the dentist. Most bad yelp reviews are rooted in a money dispute.”
I only wish that the public understood the foul ethics and inequity occurring on review sites. Alas, surveys tell us that a whopping 70% of consumers believe online reviews. So what can you do when a bad review lands you on the hot seat?
Emergency Tips for Bad Online Reviews
If you find yourself in this situation, you need to take action, stat! If you have recently let an employee go, change all of your passwords to Internet sites and systems, including your website, blog, microsites, Facebook, Yelp, Google, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. Use a password generator to come up with hard-to-crack passwords.
1. Change Passwords
Next, do a Google search for your practice name, then your name. See if bad reviews show up in Google results. Make note of any concerns. Then go to your business listing on Yelp!, Facebook, Google Places, and Google+ to see if you find any recent negative reviews from people you’ve never met. Sadly, the reviews may be from disgruntled employees who have created fake accounts. Whether the reviews are real or fake, bad reviews are bad news for your reputation. They will hurt your online reputation and could ultimately harm your business.
2. Search for Negative Reviews and Comments
The most ethical and professional way to respond is to:
a. Post an eloquent response to the negative reviews. If you do not believe that the reviewer is a real person, but is most likely an alias for a competitor or disgruntled employee, your response might mention that you do not recall working with the reviewer, and you welcome their phone call to discuss the issues and find a resolution.
b. Send an email to your very best patients, asking them to post positive reviews on the same review site as the negative reviews. This will counter-balance the negative reviews and give you a median score that is much higher than it would be with only bad reviews.
Your efforts should not end here. If you don’t have a social networking and Internet media policy in place for your employees, create one. There are many examples online. Some of the best I’ve read have the employee vow to not post anything negative, defamatory, or questionable about you or your practice. It further expresses that even their personal social interaction online must be kept on the straight and narrow, because their image reflects your professionalism, in and out of the workplace.
3. Implement a Social Media Policy for Your Employees
While the policy cannot actually prevent former employees from posting fake negative comments about your practice, it will let them know that you’re serious about legal repercussions should a problem arise in the future.
Ask for Help When You Need It
If you’d like to talk with us about your reputation management and marketing strategy for 2013, give us a call today at 972-781-8861. Bad reviews cannot often be removed. However, by countering negative reviews with positive and peppering the Internet with well optimized, informative content about dentistry, you’ll increase your positive online influence and overall SEO rankings.