How to Curb Negative Online Reviews of your Company
By: John Rossheim
What’s better than a beautifully crafted response to public criticism of your company? A negative review that never happens -- because employees are satisfied at work -- or they feel free to express their dissatisfactions and seek redress offline.
Here are tips on how to head off some negative reviews as -- plus remedies to pursue when all else fails.
Head off public criticism with open internal communications. Human resources can serve as a back channel for employee complaints. “Negative reviews can bring up legitimate issues,” says Joseph Sullivan, a partner at law firm Taylor English in Atlanta. “It’s important for the HR department to have an open communication policy for employees who feel they’re not being respected, so they don’t leave company and have an axe to grind.”
Make it a practice to conduct exit interviews with departing employees to help bring closure to existing issues.
Create a trusted forum for in-person feedback. Assume that employees will feel that their expressions of legitimate concerns might be used against them -- and do the hard work of changing that perception by creating a more open organization.
“When you build a safe space that encourages employees to speak their minds and share their perspectives, you can address feelings of dissatisfaction in real time and prevent frustrated individuals from venting about your company on an open forum,” says Andre Lavoie, CEO of ClearCompany, which offers talent management software. “Make them feel comfortable with addressing their concerns in person.”
Give reviewers other ways to contact the relevant people at your company. “Offer a path for reviewers to provide additional feedback -- an email address, website or phone numbers -- as a way for reviewers to talk more about why they wrote the review they did,” says Patrick Gillooly, director of digital communication and social media at Monster. “You might be able to stop a negative review in its tracks.”
Search for root causes of complaints. Employees likely won’t tell the whole story of their experience with your company -- which might be a good thing. Use their remarks as a springboard for a deeper examination of the situation.
“Look into negative comments for the underlying issue that makes employees feel this way,” says Lavoie. If you see many complaints on a given theme -- such as bullying, or lapses in employee communication -- use them to press leadership for needed changes.
Act on legitimate employee criticism. Company reviews can also be useful for identifying more granular issues. “Create a pipeline to float information from the employee feedback to the right part of your business,” says Gillooly. “Think about how you’re bringing feedback to the line of business or to HR to take action. And consider how company leadership will see these reviews.”
Consider asking the employee to remove their negative review. Sometimes it’s possible to tie even an anonymous post to a specific employee. If you feel such comments are unfair, consider asking the employee to remove them. “We usually recommend going directly to the employee and trying to get them to take down the negative review,” says Sullivan.
Ask the review site to remove over-the-line comments. When a review contains inaccurate statements, you can try seeking a remedy through the review site. “If you believe the review is completely false, you can reach out to the company-review site to ask to have it removed,” says Rebecca McClure, an associate with Axia Public Relations.
“Sometimes you have to prove the review false, sometimes the review site researches it.” But beware of starting a game of whack-a-mole: the complaining employee can probably repost similar comments on the same site or others under a different pseudonym.
Defamation may warrant legal action. Perhaps as a last resort, consider getting legal counsel involved. “Once in a while an ex-employee posts a defamatory statement and we issue a send a cease-and-desist letter,” says Sullivan.