As business owners we work hard to provide quality products and services to others. No one ever goes into business trying to do a bad job. Yet stuff happens. Sometimes there are things that we can’t control, other times there are people that are impossible to please. At the end of the day, the internet can make or break our online reputation. Bad reviews can really cause problems.
What Can Business Owners DO about a Bad Review?
One of the biggest issues many business owners have with social media reviews is that they can’t get them taken down, no matter how ridiculous they are. Most platforms allow a business owner to write a response to the review, but the poor rating still brings down the total score. Here are some ideas you can try:
- SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND -Contact the customer directly to try an address the issue privately. This is important for so many reasons, before you post a response. When you contact the disgruntled customer see if there is a way that you can “make it right.” It is always important to listen first and react second.
- THEN SEEK TO BE UNDERSTOOD – If the customer does not wish to work with you in most cases, you have the opportunity to tell your side of the story.
First Amendment Protected Speech & Defamation of Character?
Any review that contains a customer’s opinions or factual information about your business would be covered under free speech. Some examples of content that would be covered under the First Amendment include:
- “That business was not profesional!”
- “I wasn’t happy with the finished product.”
- “They had terrible customer service.”
- “I think they charged me too much.”
A review that contains lies that directly harm your business could be defamation. IF the lies hurt your ability to do business such as claims that you cheated them, or stole something, or were not properly licensed to do the work, those claims could be grounds for a defamation lawsuit. Here are some of the things you need to consider before going the legal route:
What repercussions do you have with the sites that host the bad reviews?
Believe it or not, you can’t sue website platforms that host bad reviews like Yelp, Google, and others. The reason? They are protected under the U.S. Communications Decency Act. A quick history of the bill, it was approved in 1996, Congress enacted a major free speech law. In particular the section 230.1 Section 230(c)(1) which states the following:
Internet services categorically are not liable for third-party content, subject to a few statutory exceptions including intellectual property claims and federal criminal prosecutions.
Some even refer to this as a stronghold for the First Amendment of free speech. In Section 230.1 it is established that websites are not liable for publishing any content written by a third party. Legally, sites like Facebook, Google My Business and Yelp are all absolved of responsibility of the content of reviews on their platforms.
In essence, as long as the social media platform where the review is posted doesn’t change or alter the content, left by a third party, they are protected. Freedom of speech allows individuals to say what they want, as long as they do not say anything potential libel to your business. Unfortunately people can suck. Thankfully, businesses have the power to say what they did to try to make things right, and defend themselves.
If potential customers read the bad review they will also see how you responded to the problem. That says a lot about you as a business owner and often the responses can gain you more customers than losses. It is important to handle these situations with care, and always try to be the bigger person.
What Can Businesses Do After A Bad Review?
There are a few things that you can do as a business to help your review ratings after you get a bad review. As a best practice, you can actually do all of these things to help improve your overall rating over time.
- Ask your satisfied customers to leave you a reviews when jobs are complete or at the point of purchase
- Send reminders to previous customers asking for a review
- Thank people that do leave you a review
LESSONS LEARNED about bad Reviews:
At the end of the day I think it was stated best by poet John Lydgate and later adapted by President Abraham Lincoln: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”
No matter what business you are in, the power you have as a business owner is how you respond to adversity. Be the better person and the outcome will be in your favor even if it hurts short term. As long as you truly try to do the right things, most people will see it.
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