As Amy Gesenhues points out in her April 9, 2013 article “Survey: 90% Of Customers Say Buying Decisions Are Influenced By Online Reviews” “an overwhelming 90 percent of respondents who recalled reading online reviews claimed that positive online reviews influenced buying decisions, while 86 percent said buying decisions were influenced by negative online reviews.”
The moment I saw the increased benefit of marketplace reviews I was concerned about the “dark side”. How is this going to be manipulated: people placing bad reviews on a competitor, owners “requesting” employees to create positive reviews, purchased reviews, etc. If you spend some time looking at reviews it is very easy to see suspect reviews. Are your reviews suspect? How are you handling both positive and negative reviews?
Paying a company or employees to write fake reviews will end up costing you, according to the FTC fake online reviews are illegal. In September, 2013 New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced “9 companies had agreed to cease their practice of writing fake online reviews for businesses and to pay more than $350,000 in penalties. ”Operation Clean Turf,” a year-long undercover investigation into the reputation management industry, the manipulation of consumer-review websites, and the practice of astroturfing, found that companies had flooded the Internet with fake consumer reviews on websites such as Yelp, Google Local, and CitySearch. In the course of the investigation, the Attorney General’s office found that many of these companies used techniques to hide their identities, such as creating fake online profiles on consumer review websites and paying freelance writers from as far away as the Philippines, Bangladesh and Eastern Europe for $1 to $10 per review. By producing fake reviews, these companies violated multiple state laws against false advertising and engaged in illegal and deceptive business practices.”
Let’s face it, a bad review is bad for business. It doesn’t matter if it WAS a competitor, a disgruntled employee, or a customer who just had bad service, but it’s crucial how your company handles the response. Take a deep breath before you respond and make sure you are speaking rationally…remember once you put something on the Internet it can haunt you forever! If you aren’t sure about how to handle bad reviews or bad press you may want to hire or consult with a company who specializes in online reputation management.
For example, our client had a scathing review show up on Google. We advised the President of the company to contact her directly about the situation and he worked with her to resolve her complaint. In fact the company ended up implementing some new policies based on her complaint. The review writer was so pleased with the outcome she retracted her previous review and wrote about how the President contacted her directly. This spurred several follow-up reviews by other customers who tell of their great experiences with the company. This review still appears on the 1st or 2nd page of Google, but her retraction is shown along with all of the other positive reviews.
Not all bad press found on the Internet can be turned around such as lawsuits, arrests, Health Department code violations, etc. But how you handle the situation can directly impact your business.
The bottom line – paying for reviews is illegal. With the increasing number of review outlets on the Internet someone on your team should be viewing and responding to both positive and negative reviews about your business. If you aren’t sure where to start or how to proceed give us a call or send us an email to discuss your legitimate review options.