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Reviews: moderation and dealing with negative reviews

By Rebecca Milligan

Customer reviews are an important part of your profile page. We look at how customer reviews are moderated, and what to do if you receive a negative review.
review gold stars against a background of grey stars

Customers see reviews as the next-best thing to a word-of-mouth recommendation. They are proof that your business provides the service and standards you are advertising. A profile page featuring a large number of positive reviews – particularly if they are up to date and plentiful – provides huge reassurance to potential customers.

For more tips, check out our article on how to get more customer reviews on your profile. Read on for more about how we process the reviews we receive, and what to do if you get a negative review.

When traders go through our assessment process, we ask the customers we contact whether we can use their testimonials as your first reviews. We know these are genuine opinions from real consumers, because we’ve seen the paperwork to back them up as part of the assessment.

Once you’re an established Which? Trusted trader, there are two main ways that customers can leave reviews on your site – either by filling in and posting review cards to us, or by logging on and reviewing your services online. All these reviews go through a moderation process.

There are some fundamental dos and don’ts for everyone to remember about reviews:

Do:

  • encourage all your customers to leave a review of your work
  • leave paper review forms or logon details when you have finished a job
  • email your customer a link to your review page after a job as a reminder
  • respond to all reviews on the site – whether positive or negative
  • use appropriate language on the Which? Trusted Traders site – defamatory, obscene or offensive remarks will be removed
  • be honest if you have a personal connection to a customer (eg if they are a friend or family member).

Don’t:

  • put paper reviews in the post on behalf of your customers
  • write online reviews on behalf of your customers if they’re not comfortable using the online site. In this instance, give them a paper review card or contact your account manager for advice
  • write reviews of your own business
  • encourage reviews from friends or family, as these are not allowed
  • put pressure on your customers to leave positive feedback
  • manage the feedback process for your customers.

Moderation of reviews

Most reviews come to us on the paper review cards, although online reviews appear more quickly on your profile page. Paper reviews have to go through an additional process to make it online.

We read and check all reviews before they appear on your profile page to ensure they meet the terms and conditions of being posted. These include, among other points, ensuring that the review:

  • uses appropriate language and is not offensive, obscene or defamatory
  • does not seek to promote or advertise their own services
  • does not infringe the copyright, trade mark or intellectual property rights of another person.

If we have any concerns about the review, we will make additional checks. This may involve contacting you, your customer or both parties. In this instance, we ask for your co-operation to help us work through the process.

Negative reviews

We know that no one wants to receive a negative review. But a single negative review among a clutch of positive ones is unlikely to damage your business.

It’s important that you respond to a negative review, to give your side of the story. This can turn a potentially bruising set of comments into a positive, as it shows other customers how you respond to criticism, and that you’re willing to work with your customers to find a resolution. If you have genuinely tried everything you can, then express that in your reply.

Our article about how to deal with negative reviews has more tips.

On receiving a negative review:

  • if it’s unclear that it’s a genuine review, we remove it from the site while we investigate – this usually involves asking the customer for proof of purchase of your services
  • we always encourage the customer to contact you directly in order to try to resolve any issues
  • we check that what they’re saying is within the bounds of the law, ie it is not defamatory or obscene – this can involve working with our legal team.

We DO NOT:

  • publish reviews from customers who we don't believe have used and/or paid for your services
  • always have the capacity to fact-check negative reviews, but remember you have the right to reply to a review online if you feel it is unfair
  • have the right to give you the customer’s details if they wish to remain anonymous. We encourage customers leaving negative reviews to let us share their details with the trader concerned, but the Data Protection Act forbids us to share customers’ personal information without their permission
  • remove negative reviews that we believe are the honestly expressed opinion of a genuine paying customer.

Although it may feel frustrating, we don’t take down negative reviews that pass our checks. It’s important that we are honest and show the negative reviews on the site – this proves to customers that the reviews are genuine. Customers do understand that even the best-run business will have problems sometimes.

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