Many industries have been heavily influenced by online business reviews making online review management a hot topic today. One study conducted by Bright Local found that 86% of people between the ages of 18 – 34 will read a review before visiting a business because they trust such reviews. This means that reviews are now an important means of getting advice about products and services.
The “Problem” With Online Reviews
Unfortunately, there are still some problems with online reviews, including:
- People are “gaming” many of these online review sites, creating false impressions of the businesses and their services or products and a nightmare when it comes to online review management
- Companies find themselves having to ward off unfair, unwarranted, and fake reviews their competition has posted about them
It may surprise you to learn that there’s a whole industry whose “job” it is to distribute fake reviews about competitors while creating positive reviews for their clients.
Business Aren’t Permitted to use Contracts to Prevent Negative Reviews
According to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) companies have tried to prevent negative reviews by creating contracts in which consumers are prohibited from creating negative reviews. This is something that’s explicitly prohibited by the 2016 CRFA (Consumer Review Fairness Act). Businesses can’t prohibit consumers from leaving these types of reviews or threaten them with legal action for doing so. Of course, as a business you can be rightfully concerned about how much of an impact these types of reviews would have on your reputation. It’s just illegal for you to prohibit your consumers from voicing any concerns that they have after doing business with you.
There are many consumers who will review online ratings prior to using a business. Businesses may think it’s a good idea to use a “gag clause” to keep these positive. Unfortunately for businesses, gag clauses aren’t legal. In fact, if you choose to ignore this fact and use them anyway, you’re subject to civil penalties. This means you can’t limit what your consumers say online. Since March 14, 2017 businesses have been required to tell their customers who may have unknowingly entered into such a contract with them. Such contracts are now void and businesses aren’t allowed to enforce them, which means that customers who’ve signed these contracts can still post honest reviews – even negative ones.
When Businesses are Permitted to Remove Reviews
When you have a negative review left about your business, the CRFA says you can remove it if it:
- Contains confidential information
- Is libelous, obscene, harassing, vulgar, or abusive
- Inappropriately intrinsic characteristics like race, sexuality, or gender
- Doesn’t relate to your products or services
- Clearly contains false or misleading information
Handling Online Review Management Today
Things have clearly changed. In the past unhappy customers would call a business and give them the opportunity to correct things. However, today they’ll go online and destroy your reputation in a matter of minutes. This is why you must monitor social media and customer review sites quickly and efficiently. You must also remain calm while doing so because studies have shown that it’s very rare for businesses to win an online argument. Instead, by approaching the situation with humility and goodwill you can prevent a bad situation from becoming worse.
When you need help with your online review management it’s best to leave the work to the professionals who have a thorough understanding of what is and isn’t allowed. For this reason you should consider hiring the Affordable SEO Company to do this work for you. Many businesses have already done so and are glad they did. Yours should be next.