The Darker Side of Online Reviews

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If you are like me before I eat at a restaurant, download an app, book a trip or do just about anything that will require me to spend any of my money or time on it, I go online and read reviews.


Based on a 2013 survey by Dimensional Research, sponsored by Zendesk and nicely summarized by MarketingLand I’m not alone in reading reviews before making a decision. According to the survey 90% of people who read a positive review and 86% who read a negative review stated their buying decision were influenced by the review.


Let me repeat that: 90% are influenced by a positive review and 86% are influenced by a negative review.


While business owners may not know the exact percentages of the Dimensional Research survey and the other similar surveys out there, many if not most are aware of the importance of getting good reviews for their store, service, or brand.


In some cases the need for a good review is driving business not to make sure they are doing a great job worthy of a positive review but to buy, coerce or threaten their way to good reviews.

Buying a Good Review

From Facebook likes to links everything associated with a web or social media page is for sale and reviews are no different.


Through a quick search on Google you can find several websites offering positive reviews for your business but you also come across stories of businesses that have been caught and penalized for purchasing positive reviews.


While it isn’t okay to buy good reviews, it is okay to ask for reviews from your customers. So instead of putting time and effort into buying reviews use them to ask your customers to review you.


Many times if it is a bad review they will tell you directly instead of blasting it across the internet since you proactively reached out to them to find out what their experience was.

Coercing Your Way to a Good Review

While I personally read reviews it’s not often that I post my own reviews, a friend on the other hand regularly reviews restaurants and hotels she visits.


A year or so back she gave an honest but less than favorable review of a hotel she had stayed at. Shortly afterwards she received a direct message on the review site from the hotel offering her a free meal and stay if she removed her negative review and gave them a positive review instead.


She refused and while before receiving the request from the hotel she would have been willing to give them a second chance after the request she was done with them.


As a business don’t ask for negative reviews to be removed, use them as a way to improve your business and earn the great reviews you deserve.

Threatening a Bad Review

In the last couple months there has been a few stories of businesses threating customers with fines if they give a negative review. In August a hotel that threatens guest with a $500 fine for each negative review received national coverage and more recently there was the case of a guest being charged £100 ($156) for a negative review of a hotel in England.


In both cases the stories have gone viral and the hotels have received negative press from national media outlets most likely causing more damage than one bad review would have.


So while it may seem like a good idea to prevent negative reviews with the threat of a fine, the risk associate with getting called out on this practice comes with consequences that can do much more damage than a few negative reviews.

Embrace Your Negative Reviews

In all three of these cases while the policy may seem like a good idea the results can be much worse than a few negative reviews. So, instead of taking steps to prevent a negative review after your customer has left, use the time, energy and money to make sure they have the best possible experience when they are dealing with your business.


But in the case that you do get a negative review relax, embrace your negative review, sincerely thank the customer for the it, use it as an opportunity to get better and then invite the reviewer back to try prove that their experience was the exception not the norm.


By taking these steps you are more likely to improve as a business, gain genuine good reviews and help your business grow.

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