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When customers threaten to post negative Yelp reviews

It can be upsetting when a customer threatens to post a negative review, but there are ways of handling any form of extortion when demands are made in order to prevent that negative review.

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The state of online reviews

It is a common behavior for brands to pay for positive online reviews or offer discounts and free goodies, and the same often goes for consumers removing negative comments. Many online review sites have taken extensive steps to attempt to secure valid, untainted reviews so consumers have unfiltered opinions about goods and services, but the system is not perfect, it is subject to offline behavior as well.

According to CBS Sacramento, a restaurant says a customer claimed he got food poisoning from the venue, sought a refund, learned there are no refunds, but was offered a refund in the form of a gift card that could be used at any local restaurant.

In response, the man allegedly threatened to post a horrible review of the restaurant on Yelp unless the restaurant coughed up a $100 gift card. “I’ll be doing a scathing review on you on Yelp… and I’ll report you to the health department. But if you give me a $100 gift card, then I won’t do it.”

The restaurant owner refers to the demand as “flat-out extortion,” and refused to budge. The customer has not received his demanded gift card, nor has he posted the negative review. “I hope this inspires other retail establishments and restaurants to push back on extortion,” he said.

How other small businesses can combat threats

Everyone now knows that they have a voice online and that it is relevant – after all, people trust strangers online as equally as they do their own family members now, and particularly trust online reviews over a brand’s voice. This is empowering and in rare events, the new empowerment has caused people to attempt to abuse their voice in exchange for a payoff.

Public relations expert, and founder of Silver Strategic Communications, Bob Silver said, “This sort of thing is inevitable for any business that engages consumers and encourages social interaction through peer reviews and user generated content. People are going to be people and pricks are going to be pricks.”

Silver added, “These guys handled exactly the right way. Proactively called the bluff of the unhappy customer, made the story public on their own terms and by doing so, set the public perception by being open and willing to engage in the discussion. Everyone’s going to be a critic these days and face it, you’re never going to make everyone happy. So do your best to participate in the public conversation openly, honestly and without being defensive. It may be painful at times, but you’ll benefit in the long run.”

An alternative response

Some will tell you that the customer is always right and that appeasement is the proper route, but Silver asserts that engaging in discussion is the most beneficial in the long run, even though it is difficult.

Christopher Barger, SVP of Global Social Media, Voce Communications/Porter Novelli, and author of The Social Media Strategist suggests three steps.

Barger said, “First, some preventative maintenance: have a presence on relevant networks. Interact with reviewers, both those who love you and those who are negative. Make sure the community gets to know you and trust you. You’ll have a hedge against manufactured negativity if you’ve earned the trust of the community.”

“Second,” he added, “also preventative maintenance: Develop your own “owned” presence online. Make it a blog or something outside of Facebook’s walled garden, something that will show up in search. You need a place to tell your story in your own words. But you can’t just start it up when you have a problem, you have to be out there before there is an issue.”

“Third: When faced with an extortion situation like this, I’d fight fire with fire,” Barger said. “Tell the story of what’s happening to you on your blog. You might well even name names to make sure that everyone who reads (including other small business owners in your field) knows who this person and what they’re about and what they tried to do. Make sure that you include a line in the post telling readers to feel free to share the link or the story. Tell the story or post the link within Yelp or whatever the network is. Be proactive and make the reviewer’s conduct the story, rather than letting them set the story arc and define the situation for you. This is especially something I would do if I had an email or IM or something in writing that could prove my side of the story.”

The risk and reward of being proactive

Barger notes, “Yes, you’ll risk people thinking that you’re picking on a customer or using a bully pulpit. But I’ve found that most bloggers and online reviewers have an innate sense of fairness, and this kind of a story will disappoint and anger them as much as it does you. Additionally, in my experience, bloggers and reviewers realize that brand bullying, when it happens, paints the entire online community by association, gives them all a bad name, and lessens the likelihood that businesses will be willing to work with anyone online or reach out to any of them in the future.”

“Many of them will quickly shun or disown the bad apple out of their own self-interest,” Barger added. “And whether the person ends up posting or not, you will have cast enough doubt on their story by going out first that the bite of their negative review might be lessened.”

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Frugyl

    May 31, 2012 at 7:21 am

    Yikes!

  2. OwnerListens

    May 31, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    The best way for businesses owners to protect their online reputation and combat these problems with Yelp is to use OwnerListens.com. OwnerListens is an alternative to Yelp that businesses can offer their customers. Customers use OwnerListens to send feedback directly and privately to the owner/manger. The owner/manager can then respond and address the issue in real-time and prevent negative reviews from ever being posted online. Over time, this leads to a higher overall rating on Yelp; the best part is OwnerListens is completely free. Sign up at https://ownerlistens.com

  3. Sarah

    December 27, 2017 at 10:01 am

    If given the situation, the negative review is unwarranted, how ethical is it to leave a negative review in return? At my company, we worked exclusively with small business owners. If a negative review is unfounded, I think it only fair that if they don’t remove it, that we leave a review of our interaction for them as well. Technically, it’s not against review rules considering we’ve had a business interaction. Thoughts?

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Business News

Move over, rented scooters, lil’ baby Vespas are up to bat

(TECHNOLOGY) Scooters + technology + money = a parody of American life, but Lordy, it’s about to get worse (or better, depending on your perspective).

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As Austin learns to co-exist with the multitude of electric scooterists that have taken over its sidewalks and streets (and the detritus that has come to signal their top of the alternative mobility food chain), the popularity of the service has led to an unexpected evolution: the electric razor scooters may soon be replaced by a new machine.

Well, kind of. Vespa-esque scooters, developed by the company Ojo, are slated to appear on Austin streets by the end of February. These scooters can reach speeds up to 20 mph and, like the Birds scooters and similar existing competitors, are available to rent via an app for low prices.

Although this news may feel a little like opening a door in Resident Evil only to find that the Umbrella Corporation has created a new monstrosity, the subtle shift in the scooters’ design from standing to sitting may help address one of the biggest concerns of the original infestation: user recklessness.

Perhaps because these Ojo scooters resemble an actual vehicle, riders (and drivers) may be more apt to follow traffic laws and behave responsibly. The company seems to share this attitude, calling themselves “the adult commuter scooter.”

The truth is that there are three camps of attitudes about technology marrying neato transportation: those that rent the scooters, those that hate the scooters and want to burn them to the ground, and those that are unaware of their existence because they live and work in the suburbs. Seriously, even South Park has mocked the movement in several episodes this season.

Ultimately, this movement that we enjoy laughing at points out that the public transportation systems in many cities is seriously inferior, so we can laugh at bad riders (drivers?) in ties, trying to navigate a crowded sidewalk while also eating a burrito, but we should also note that there is a reason these vehicle rentals are thriving (and it’s not because of cultural douchiness).

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Business News

Is insecurity the root of overworking in today’s workforce?

(CAREER) Why are professionals who “made it” in their field still chronically overworked? Why are people still glorifying a lack of sleep in the name of the hustle?!

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So you got that job you wanted after prepping for months, and everything seems cool and good… but you’re working way more hours than scheduled. Skipping lunch, coming in early and staying late, and picking up any project that comes your way. You’re overworked.

Getting the job was supposed to be a mark of success in itself, but now, work is your life and everyone is wondering how you can be working so much if you’re already successful.

In an article for Harvard Business Review, Laura Empson delves into what drives employees to overwork themselves. Empson is a professor of Management of Professional Service firms at the University of London, and has spend the last 25 years researching business practices.

Her recently published book Leading Professionals: Power, Politics and Prima Donnas, focuses on business organizational theory and behavior, based on 500 interviews with senior professionals in the world’s largest organizations.

Over the course of her research, Empson encountered numerous reports of people in white-collar positions pushing themselves to work exhausting hours. Decades ago, those with white-collar jobs in law firms, accountancy firms, and management consultancies worked towards senior management positions to gain partnership.

Once partnership was reached, all the hard work paid off in the form of autonomy and flexibility with scheduling and projects. Now, even entry-level employees are working overextended hours.

An HR director interviewed by Empson noted, “The rest of the firm sees the senior people working these hours and emulates them.” There’s a drive to mirror upper management, even at the cost of health.

Empson’s research indicates insecurity is the root of this behavior. Insecurity about when work is really done, how management will perceive employees, and what counts as hard work. Intangible knowledge work provokes insecurity since there’s rarely ever a way to tell when this work is complete.

Colleagues turn into competitors, and suddenly working outside of your regular hours becomes seen as normal if you want to keep up with the competition. You want to stand out from the crowd, so staying late a few days a week starts to feel normal.

This can turn into a slippery slope, and when being overworked feels like the norm, you may not notice taking on even more extra hours and responsibilities to feel like you’re contributing efficiently to the company.

During her research, Empson found that some recruiters admitted to hiring “insecure overachievers” for their firms.

Insecure overachievers are incredibly ambitious and motivated, but driven by feelings of inadequacy. Financial insecurity and disproportionately tying self-worth to productivity are just a few contributing factors to their self-doubt.

As a result, these kind of people are amazingly self-disciplined, and likely to pursue elite positions with professional organizations. Fear of being exposed as inadequate drives insecure employees to work long hours to prove themselves

Even upper level management is subject to this same insecurity.

Organizational pressures can make even the most established leader overwork themselves.

Empson notes, “Working hard can be rewarding and exhilarating. But consider how you are living. Recognize when you are driving yourself and your staff too hard, and learn how to help yourself and your colleagues to step back from the brink.“

Analyze your organization’s conscious and unconscious messaging about achievement, and make sure you’re setting and enforcing realistic expectations for your team.

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Business News

The most common buzzwords (still) used in job descriptions

(BUSINESS) Employers are trying their best to attract really high quality talent, but the buzzwords that continue to plague the process are lame, annoying, and often insulting.

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It’s that time of year again. Year-in-review lists abound and Indeed.com is no exception. The website for employers and potential employees has taken a look back at the year in job descriptions and released its list of the weirdest job titles used in online listings.

They found the usual suspects — yes, sadly rockstar and hero still make the cut — but a few other keywords skyrocketed up the charts in 2018.

Indeed recognized seven top-performing buzzwords in its research: genius, guru, hero, ninja, superhero, rockstar, and wizard. Among these Top 7, some were up over previous years, while others’ popularity seems to be fading.

Employers really loved referencing masked assassins in their descriptions this year, resulting in a 90 percent year-over-year jump for ninja, and a 140 percent increase for the term since Indeed began tracking these stats in 2015.

Wizards and heroes didn’t fare as well. Job titles containing “wizard” were down 17 percent from 2017 and use of the word “hero” was down a whopping 44 percent since last year. Superhero ended the year up over 2017 (19 percent), but is still down by 55 percent since 2015.

So which states are touting these weird (some might say annoying) titles the most? The answers aren’t too surprising. California tops the list for ninja, genius, rockstar, wizard, and guru. Texas, whose capital is Austin, aka Silicon Hills, loves using hero, superhero, guru, rockstar, and ninja. Populous states New York and Florida make the list for using several of the buzzwords — no surprise there. But a few smaller states snuck into the Top 4, including Ohio (No. 1 “superhero” user) and Utah (No. 4 on the “rockstar” and “wizard” lists).

While many companies like to use these so-called creative terms to convey a sense of a hip and cool company culture, does using these “fun” titles actually find the best candidates? According to Indeed, the answer might be “not exactly.” Job seekers aren’t necessarily searching for terms like ninja or guru, so they might not even find the job they would be the perfect fit for. And truth be told, many experienced job seekers are turned off by these weird titles and might not even apply to the job in the first place.

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