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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.”

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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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The sad truths you missed about the US Women’s Soccer Team lawsuit

(NEWS) The US Women’s Soccer team dominated headlines by suing for equal pay, but there was so much more to the lawsuit that could have a ripple effect in the business world.

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Recently, on International Women’s Day, the United States Women’s Soccer Team (USWNT) filed a lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation. The timing of the suit is not only a sign of the team continuing their decades long fight against the organization (only three months before they are set to defend their World Cup title in France), but a recognition of the symbol that they have become in the larger battle that women and other minorities are waging in order to be given the same resources as the men leading in their fields.

It should go without saying that the women’s soccer team is unparalleled in its athletic success: over the past twenty years they have won three World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals. These players, as ESPN acknowledges, are among the most accomplished and best known women athletes in the world.

Their counterpart, the Men’s National Soccer Team, leaves much to be desired (they failed to qualify for last year’s World Cup, for example) yet they consistently receive much more support from the US Soccer Federation.

Although the pay disparity between the USWNT and the male soccer team is certainly stark, the “gains” that the women athletes are fighting for go beyond monetary compensation.

According to Mashable, “This [suit] includes how women frequently play on a dangerous artificial surfaces when the men do not, fly commercial when the men travel by more convenient, comfortable charter flights, and the alleged allocation of fewer resources to promote women’s games compared to men’s.”

As if being the best players in your sport in the world and having to share hotel rooms after getting torn apart by the seams astroturf and receiving less-than-world-class medical care wouldn’t be infuriating enough, it’s truly this final point that highlights the glaring mistreatment of the USWNT.

Without support from the US Soccer Federation, not only in the form of payment but in promotion of their games and general good-will toward their players, the USWNT will not be able to grow their following so that they can establish a consistent revenue near what the men’s team attracts. This “lack” of revenue continues to create the chicken/egg excuse that the Federation has for not propping up the USWNT like they deserve.

It’s simply the opposite of “sportsmanship” for the US Soccer Federation to use these players’ love of playing the game (that, again, they are the best in the world at) and their country as a way to gaslight them into playing for less.

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Think about automating tasks instead of replacing workers

(BUSINESS) Automation is great, unless you obsess over it and try to cut down on payroll – there’s a smarter approach that successful businesses take.

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automating tasks not people

The concept of automating your workflow is a tempting one — especially as payroll continues to be one of the evergreen highest costs of business. However, in contemplating how to streamline your workflow, you may do better to step back from the idea of “replacing workers” and instead think about you can optimize your existing employees by strategically tweaking their workflow.

As Ravin Jesuthasan and John Boudreau write in The Harvard Business Review, if the goal of automating is to ensure that your company is operating at its most cost effective and efficient levels, then chances are you’d still need knowledgeable employees to help you scale and capitalize.

Where automation can truly help your business is by transforming the ability of your organization to focus on the tasks that truly require a human touch or deep knowledge. For example, automation will not help your employees perform complex, interactive, or creative work like collaborating with clients to come up with solutions or designs.

However, it can help the process of brainstorming or co-designing these solutions easier by replacing some of the mechanical tasks that aid this high-level workflow.

For example, it may be helpful to automate basic research tasks for your designers. If your designers must create a client profile to help them launch their projects — basic information must surely exist at some other point in the process before this point. Maybe your firm has an intake form or contracts where a basic description of the goal of the contracted service has been created. By automating the sharing of that data between departments, perhaps in a content management system, you’d be able to free up time that the designers might spend on basic data collection so that they could instead use it for their more complex, empathetic work.

Jesuthasan and Boudreau offer up other advice for thinking about which specific tasks within your company’s workflow are the best candidates for automation.

Is a task simple? Routine? Does it require collaboration?

These kinds of inquiry are not only useful when thinking about your organizational processes, but they are good refreshers for thinking about the individual value and skills that your organization and its workers offer clients.

So instead of looking at how to cut down on payroll, consider automation as an option to improve the value you’re getting from your team, and freeing them from mind-numbing tasks that have nothing to do with their expertise. Win-win!

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Megabrand, Amazon failing to support their working parent employees

(BUSINESS NEWS) Policies are changing at American companies to be up to par in supporting parents, but Amazon, despite being one of the most profitable companies in history, is not one of the evolving brands.

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working mothers amazon

Households in which both parents work is so much the norm in this country that we rarely ask new mothers if they’ll go back to work knowing it’s only a matter of when they’ll go back to work.

And once new mothers re-enter the workplace, the expectation of their time rarely changes to account for their new status as working mothers. Schedules change and so do childcare needs.

However, some progressive companies are changing their policies to accommodate their employees’ need for childcare, but Amazon isn’t one of them. Yet.

Dubbing themselves the Momazonians, a group of working mothers at Amazon is demanding that the online retail giant provide a back-up childcare benefit.

Back-up child care, for the uninitiated, is a perk that offers workers access to subsidized care for the times when school is closed, reliable childcare is temporarily unavailable, or in the event of sickness or emergency.

Why is this important? For starters, women who return to work shortly after giving birth are often left feeling unsupported and burdened by their choice to continue their careers instead of feeling empowered to enter into the next chapter or phase of their career.

Some companies believe that babies just aren’t good for business and once a woman makes the choice to expand her family, she’s often passed over for promotions or thought to no longer prioritize her career. Of course, these companies are wrong and that’s why it’s important for working mom’s to feel empowered to make their voices heard.

Will the Momazonians make any headway in getting the help they deserve? Time will tell.

They’ll be meeting in the next few weeks in an attempt to make a deal. However, whether or not Amazon complies with their demands, it’s worth thinking about for companies pondering parental policies in the future. As more and more millennials are marrying and having children later in life and thus further along in their careers, it would behoove companies to offer more flexible benefits to families. While it may seem cheaper to hire entry-level employees, in the long run, it’s more cost effective to hold onto experienced workers.

What’s more, while it’s incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to have it all, companies could make it easier to at least manage work-life balance better. When you offer mothers and fathers flex-time and work-from-home benefits, or even subsidized care, you are purchasing peace of mind and a peace-filled mind is a productive one.

Any woman who has gone back to work knows the hardest part of their day is dropping off their new little one in someone else’s care so why not make these transitions easier if it means holding on to experience? In the long term, it leads to employee retention. Children aren’t children forever and if they’re parents are offered support, those parents will probably perform better.

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