People trust people. That is why word-of-mouth marketing is so successful. In 2016, we have taken word-of-mouth marketing further than our immediate circles. It now includes strangers from the internet. Online reviews have revolutionized the way we make purchases + choices around where to eat, vacation, + more. In fact, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. An infographic by Invesp shares more on this topic:
- 90% of people read online reviews about a business before visiting the physical location.
- 86% of people will hesitate to visit a business with negative reviews.
- A 1-star increase in rating can add a 5-9% revenue increase.
Unfortunately for many businesses, the online review system is sometimes used as a way to show disapproval for business practices, policies, or other events by people with no connection to said business. Over the past several years, many businesses have been bombarded by negative reviews for things one employee did or other issues that have little control over.
People have made online review sections a place for their vigilante justice. If they read a news story about something they don’t like, people who have never been to these places will still leave negative reviews. Though review sites try to combat this, the system is somewhat broken. I occasionally have people (who have never even been to Austin) give some of my clients’ poor ratings for things that happened many years ago.
Online reviews are not the justice you are looking for.
For many people, writing negative reviews is a soapbox for them to share a bad experience or opinion about a business. That is the entire purpose. However, when you do this for a place you have never been, you not only compromise your credibility as a reviewer, but you call into question every recent negative review that could be authentic. You’re using this powerful tool incorrectly. It isn’t right to review a place or product you have no direct knowledge of, and in fact, on many review sites, it is forbidden.
When a business has an influx of negative reviews, likely from media coverage, it ruins their rating- which is the intended goal of these reviewers. However, it also pretty much negates all the ratings. If I’m looking for negative reviews about a product + all I see are 1-star reviews from people who have never used said product, I didn’t learn anything about it. To me, the product is perfectly fine. I have no reason not to purchase the product aside from the ramblings of issues unrelated to my needs.
A great example of this happening right now is in regards to the Memphis Zoo. Neighbors are mad about the overflow parking policy, however to a tourist, this issue doesn’t matter or affect their zoo experience.
Another thing to keep in mind is an influx of reviews either positive or negative will draw the attention of content reviewers who are very likely to take down your review. The only thing you have accomplished is a little stress on the business owner + annoying social media managers around the world.
If this happens to me, what can I do?
If you’re a business who has faced this issue, there isn’t a lot you can do, unfortunately. For Facebook, you can disable the review section of your page. For other sites, there is a way to report reviews as fraudulent or spam, but companies usually air on the side of the consumer. However, if you have a large influx of negative reviews they will likely look into the issue.
The best way to handle any negative review is to implement a customer service or reputation management policy. You should largely handle all negative reviews the same way. Invesp has some ideas on how to do that. Don’t forget to acknowledge positive reviews, too. All consumers love engagement + see social media as appropriate channels to praise or raise issue with the service they receive.
On another note: If you’re a business who sneaks a non-disparity clause into your terms or contracts, you are worse than these online vigilantes + are inadvertently opening yourself up to their wrath when customers go to the media about your clause (as they should). Non-disparity agreements will likely be illegal in the near future anyway as courts fight to protect consumer rights. Don’t look like the bad guy or open yourself up to this PR nightmare. Take your internet licks just like everyone else.
What’s your take on this issue? Are you pro-vigilant justice or do you side with me and the system? Tell me in the comments.