Positive online reviews are a major asset in any businessâ€™s local SEO campaign and can go a long way in boosting the companyâ€™s reputation. Negative reviews have the opposite effect and badly affect their fortunes. Recent reports indicate that businesses are taking a very serious view of bad reviews and suing the reviewer â€“ which could be a consumer or a competitor.
Online Reviews Influence Buying Decisions
Now how much do online reviews matter to consumers as well as businesses? Most consumers read online reviews before they make a decision about a company. A BrightLocal consumer survey conducted in 2014 revealed that during the previous year, almost 9 out of 10 consumers had relied on reviews to make a decision on a local business. This means that reviews do matter for businesses. In this knowledge-driven world, reviews can boost or break the reputation of shops, restaurants, service providers, establishments and even hospitals.
Staten Island Womanâ€™s Negative Review Lands her in Trouble
The Daily News recently reported on how a local customer in Staten Island, New York, got sued for giving negative reviews against a business. The woman was so dissatisfied with the service provided a floor refinishing business that wrote negative reviews in two business listing and review sites, one of which was Yelp. The business took her to court and the Staten Island Civil Court judge ruled that she had crossed the limits of freedom of speech and ordered her to pay the company $1000.
The companyâ€™s lawyer pointed out that the judge had made the right decision as the woman had used words in her review which, instead of voicing a genuine complaint, had made the attack seem personal in nature. It was if she intended to damage the ownerâ€™s business reputation. On her part, the woman has vowed to appeal the verdict and â€śfightâ€ť the business owner â€śtooth and nailâ€ť.
Fake Reviews Will Land You in Big Trouble
While it is rare for businesses to take people posting negative reviews about them to court, since it causes more harm to their prospects, instances such as these are a possibility. But whatâ€™s even more severe is posting fake reviews. While the concept sounds deplorable, it is still practiced. But the consequences of getting caught could be pretty severe.
It hasnâ€™t been long since the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) of Taiwan fined Samsung to the tune of $340,000 for employing writers to post positive reviews and comments regarding its products as well as negative reviews of their competitors. The American equivalent, the Federal Trade Commission, is always on the lookout for fraudulent practices, so fake reviewing would only cause much more harm than good not only monetarily, but also in terms of precious reputation.
Incidents such as these convey an important message – be careful when you write an online review. Going about it the right way will not get you sued.
How to Write an Online Review
But this Staten Island instance does throw light on how far you can go in posting negative reviews. The lady has used words such as â€ścon artistâ€ť to describe the business owner who offered her poor and hugely dissatisfying service. She said he was running a â€śscamâ€ť to â€śrobâ€ť people. As a consumer, you may be wronged by a business establishment. You are free to put up negative reviews, but make sure you go about the right way. Here are some points that you need to keep in mind when you write reviews – good or bad.
- Be honest and do not make up stories, especially damaging ones as these will definitely put you in legal trouble.
- If you intend to write a negative review, make sure itâ€™s true and that you have solid proof. If are taken to court, you need to prove that what you said is true.
- Be specific about your problem. Risks of inducing litigation would be minimal with a well-written, explicit review.
- Talk to the company directly. Tell them that they are not up to the mark. Having a record that you acted conscientiously will work in your favor.
The same goes for positive reviews. If you believe a business has provided great service or products that exceed your expectations, make sure you detail those positive points honestly, instead of piling up adjectives and sounding as if youâ€™re hired by the business.
Advice for Businesses – Get Positive Reviews through Better Service
The best way to get positive reviews for your business is to provide better service for your customers and then encourage them to post favorable reviews on social media or business listings. This can be done through email requests that are not spam-like in nature. The emails should be of the kind which your customer wouldnâ€™t delete on first sight, but rather go through them and possibly carry out the action. Good reviews can even offset the effects of negative reviews. If you do get a negative review, respond carefully. You can also get professional advice on managing your online reputation from an outsourcing company that provides reputation management services.