Mosquitoes & Online Reviews

My personal take on internet reviews is I don’t like them, don’t trust them, yet when they pop up in my face I read them. I am sure on some level they influence me. Are they like mosquitos that we live with, develop extreme ways to try to eradicate, yet in the end get bitten anyway?

The concept of not buying a pig in a poke by reading what other buyers think of your prospective purchase is appealing on the face of it. Who can argue with the benefit of knowing how others found the service or goods from a vendor you are considering? The concept has merit. No more guesswork when you have written evidence of previous customers’ experiences.

What could go wrong?

Lots, apparently. Mostly who ARE these reviewers? Allegedly they are typical consumers, just like us who take the time out of their busy schedules to deliberately rate and rank an item, a store, a business because they feel, for the good of humanity, their opinion counts.

Since the reviewing sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor are trying to stay in business (ever wonder who pays them?), they put some effort into getting legitimate feedback. They by require the reviewers to submit to a light verification of their legitimacy  and importantly, submit their own emails, to prove they are fine, upstanding citizens not quacks in the night. Sometimes after you purchase an item, there is a follow-up satisfaction questionnaire, I suppose these processes prove, in fact, you are a trustworthy reviewer.

Not so fast, oh guileless one! I maintain the entire reviewing system is flawed and can be easily corrupted by mischievous and/or malicious souls. Let’s be realistic here. Most persons are too busy or too disinterested to participate in a questionnaire about something that has little impact on their lives.

You went to a restaurant last week and had an acceptable meal. Are you really going to take the time to contact YELP to tell them this corner eatery was just fine. Not exceptional, mind you. But okay. No you are not! You won’t do it, don’t lie to me!

Hi, Lunch!

However, if the food was awful, the service worse and the prices crazy, you might be annoyed enough to take the time to “F” it online. So now the genuine bad reviews will outnumber the mediocre ones by a large margin due to simple human nature. Right? Stay with me here.

Now you go to a store and the service is exceptional and they make you feel like Prince of the Day. They uncover exactly what you need at a price that was under budget. You even discover the clerk is from your hometown and knew your Spanish teacher. What do you do?

Do you run home and write a review on this nice experience or just put it away in that special place of pleasant things that happened this week until it gets buried by higher priority stuff. You may think it (Ima gonna write an online review, sure I am, as soon as I get a little time). After getting dinner on table, fixing the flat tire, and grounding your teenager, it is gone. Even Mary Poppins does not take the time to write online reviews for every positive experience of the day.

So now that we have unanimously decided that most reviews are written by curmudgeons with too much time on their hands, family members who want to help Ralphie out and the occasional generous spirit how do we discern the value of the reviews and how do we as responsible business persons not fall prey to the malicious among us?

Like with mosquitos, you must pay attention to the buzzing insects. Or scratch a lot. Can’t ignore them, try as you might.

Since good reviews are a blessing and like the best-behaved students require little attention, as we concentrate on the bad boys in the back so the room does not blow up.

Bad reviews are a nightmare, but do not be overwhelmed. They are manageable mosquitoes.

Negative reviews only come in three varieties: True, Totally Exaggerated and Outright Lies. And each can be managed, if not totally eradicated. Here are my suggestions on how to handle:

1) True Negative Reviews. Whether you agree or not, this reviewer believes he did not have a good experience with your business. It does not matter if you concur, you must fix it! Below the negative post, reply immediately by apologizing and offering a solution.

For example: the review states you opened the store later than your advertised hours and she had to wait for the store to open. Never mind that your water heater flooded your house and the car wouldn’t start (or whatever).

When you respond to the issue, address it directly without excuses, apologize sincerely and offer a compensation of sorts.

Here is an example what you can write in the comment section under the complaint: “Please accept my sincere apologies for not opening the store on the posted hours that day to greet you! I know this was inconvenient for you. I hope you give us another chance to serve you promptly! Please stop by and we have a hot mug of coffee awaiting you. We try real hard to be responsive to our customers! Your Name, Owner”.

2.Exaggerated Negative Reviews. Again, you must put your personal sense of injustice aside, and remember the goal is to defuse a complaint, not win a debate. Yes, even if the person is wacko. Remember the readers will determine that when they read your kind and considered response. You cannot win by arguing in this arena.

Buzzz off

The same tactics of responding here apply as they do above. For example, if the reviewer says she was badly treated by an employee in your store, was insulted and will never return, your comment below should be as follows:

“As the store owner, I am so disappointed you had a negative experience in our store. Please know we are sincerely sorry that happened to you. We are addressing your issue with our staff and making every effort to ensure every customer is king or queen in our store. We hope you give us an opportunity to apologize in person. We have a big mug of hot chocolate waiting for you!”

3. Outright Lies. This is a whole different category. A malicious reviewer can be anyone with a personal grudge of unsavory competitor and unfortunately, can stain your reputation. The good news is the reviewing websites like YELP and TRIP ADVISOR, want to eliminate this practice as much as you do. After all, it affects their credibility as well as yours.

 What I suggest you do. Once again respond immediately in the comment section and state succinctly: “This reviewer has posted an unfounded claim that is currently being reviewed by Yelp advisors. Please disregard.”

Immediately contact the reviewing resource to lodge a complaint and request the review be delete. For YELP, contact them here: https://www.yelp-support.com/article/How-do-I-report-a-review?l=en_US

For Trip Advisor, contact them here: https://www.tripadvisorsupport.com/hc/en-us/categories/200056887#c0

The most important takeaway is this: online reviews like mosquitos, are here to stay and can help or harm your business. More and more people are looking to reviews for guidance on who to do business with. We are forced to consider the  overall impact they may have on our efforts to do business

For the foreseeable future, you must monitor your business reputation online.

A quick way to check your standing is to do a simple google search of your business name and see what comes up. Sometimes the complaints are stand-alones, but mostly they are curated by the big Two: Yelp and Trip Advisor. There are wannabees out there too, so you can check them also.

Help be here. Yum.

If you discover reviews of concern, address them immediately on the site you found them, in the comments section below the review, as suggested above.

Then to ensure you did not overlook something do the following search: “(your-business-name) complaints.” I recommend you check your reputation frequently. This is one place where being pro-active will literally pay off in dividends!

Ultimately, maybe someday on-line reviews and mosquitoes will be eradicated from the face of the earth…to be replaced with bigger, badder bugs, who knows? In the meantime, use all your preventive measures liberally and often.

Excellent resources: