Naperville Business Attorney on Handling Negative Online Reviews

review, Naperville business lawyerIt was not all that long ago that when you would visit a restaurant, your server would hand you a customer satisfaction survey card and ask you to complete it. At the time, such cards were about the only way for the restaurant—or any other small business—to gauge how well the business was serving its customers.

If you own a business today, you know all too well that the internet has completely replaced paper customer surveys. In fact, we have reached the point that a person can offer his or her opinion of a particular business even if that person has never interacted with the business. Unlike paper surveys, online business reviews are usually public, which means that anyone can see them and use them to make decisions about doing business with your company. With this in mind, it is important to know how to deal with an online review that does not reflect favorably on your business.

Being Proactive Can Prevent Phony Reviews

Negative online reviews can generally be broken down into three basic categories: the phony review, the exaggerated review, and the legitimate review. Those with legitimate complaints can sometimes exaggerate, but the phony review usually stands alone. The phony review may come from a competitor, a disgruntled former employee, or someone else with a proverbial “ax to grind” with your company. There is no real way to stop someone from giving your business a one-star rating on Google or Yelp, but you can minimize the negative effect by staying active on your review pages.

If you periodically scan your reviews and respond to those who take the time to leave their thoughts—both positive and negative—other visitors to the site will see that you are an engaged owner who is interested in maintaining your reputation. When it is clear that you participate in meaningful conversations with your reviewers, a would-be troublemaker is less likely to post a negative review without justification.

Getting More Information

The next category of negative reviews includes those based on exaggerations. An exaggerating reviewer might claim that your service was unbearably slow or that the quality of your products was far below their expectations. If you have a reason to suspect that a negative review is an exaggeration, do not be afraid to engage the reviewer and to ask for more details. If the reviewer really was upset at something that happened at your business, your questions should give him or her the chance to explain what happened.

Unfortunately, however, many exaggerators are simply seeking attention and cannot be appeased no matter what you try. In such cases, your efforts will show others that you attempted to resolve the issue reasonably—which could offset the damage done by the exaggerator’s low rating.

Offering a Sincere Apology and Making Things Right

Finally, there is the “legitimate problem” category. None of us is perfect, and from time to time, our customers will not have an ideal experience. When such a customer leaves a negative review, it actually creates an opportunity for you as a business owner. If the customer had stayed silent or just told others by word of mouth, you would have never known there was a problem, and your business might have suffered as a result.

If you find an online review that recounts a legitimate issue that one of your customers experienced, reach out and gather as much information from the reviewer as you can. Use that information to determine exactly what happened and what you can do to prevent the problem from happening again. Then, offer to make things right with the affected customer. Be humble, and ask for the chance to earn their business again. Even if the customer refuses, others will see that you are committed to learning from your mistakes.

Call a Naperville Business Lawyer for Guidance

At The Gierach Law Firm, we help business owners of all types protect themselves from negative online reviews. We also provide guidance and representation in a full range of business law concerns. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, call one of our experienced DuPage County business law attorneys at 630-756-1160. Let us help your company thrive.



U.S. Small Business Administration