If your business has ever considered using legal contract language to prevent, penalize or sue customers for leaving a negative review, the FTC recently issued Final Consent Orders on five companies that will give you reason to reconsider.
According to the FTC…
Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved final orders settling charges that five companies violated the Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA) by including provisions in form contracts that bar their customers from posting negative reviews.
The offending five companies range in services that include, trail riding, vacation rentals, property management, floor coverings, and electric heating & cooling. This provides a good indication of the wide scope and variety of business types affected by this ruling. And, although it’s easy to see why these companies wanted to sneak the non-disparagement clauses into their standard service agreements, the FTC clearly says: no can do!
- Actionable Strategy — Just Don’t!Not convinced? During the August MasterMind Meetup, Mary Bowling shared a recent news story about a former client being sued by the legal firm she hired over the negative review she left online after the work was completed You see the firm’s client contract included verbiage restricting clients from leaving negative reviews.Well, not only did the firm NOT win the case, they were forced to pay a settlement to the woman they were suing. The firm was then also found to have incentivized staff into leaving positive reviews online, which is no small matter. The FTC sees fake reviews as false advertising and there are regular news reports of businesses fined millions of dollars because of shady review practices. Like this car dealer who was fined 3.6 Million dollars.So, if you have a client who insists on breaking the review guidelines, we suggest that you share stories like that with them and then if that doesn’t work you should consider parting ways. Reviews play a powerful role in Google’s ranking algorithm so they’re taken very seriously. To learn more about how they factor into things read Mary Bowling’s article, The Make or Break Facts About Reviews & Your Local Business.Learn to Love Your Negative ReviewsSo we know that customers have the right to leave negative reviews and (unless the review was left by a former employee) there is no way to make them go away. So, here are some best practice tips on how the pros take negative reviews and spin them on their heels:
- Be responsive AND thoughtful: Don’t wait any longer than 24hrs to respond to a negative customer review. The faster you respond the better but take enough time to be thoughtful with your response. Firing off a hasty reply isn’t going to help anyone.
- Be kind: Thank the customer for taking the time to leave the review and sharing valuable feedback with you.
- Fix what’s broken: Take the feedback to heart and fix the issue they’re telling you about. No egos allowed here.
- Explained what’s changed: In your response tell the customer what you’re doing to change this moving forward and how ‘thanks to their feedback’ future customers will have a better experience. People leave feedback to help future customers so show them how they’ve accomplished their goal.
- Don’t take it personally: If you can’t change anything because someone just didn’t like it then don’t take it personally. You can’t please everyone.
- Do apologize: Take a moment to acknowledge their displeasure and apologize for their negative experience. Yes, even if there was nothing you can do to fix it.
- Do something nice: This can take so many different forms. It can be a refund on the services they paid for, an extra perk that they weren’t expecting, a discount if they come back and if nothing else then an honest apology will do
Remember, future customers are reading these negative reviews and the way you handle them makes ALL the difference on their decision to work with you or not! No one is perfect but a solid company takes the negative feedback, fixes the issue and then continues to improve. This approach makes every single negative review an opportunity for growth and not something to be feared!
At Rainmaker For Contractors, we offer coaching on a variety of topics, which include professional tips on how to respond to customers on YELP and other popular review sites. Utilizing our online resources will keep you AHEAD of your competition and prepared for your next business opportunity!