Earlier this year, Yelp updated their Consumer Alert program to include graphic warnings aimed at companies who attempted to bribe reviewers into changing their tune from bad to good.
Now, they’re going after the truly vindictive companies who are threatening to sue consumers who left a bad review. If you happen to land on one of these companies, you’ll see this new graphic:
“Consumers don’t necessarily know that these threats are sometimes empty or meritless (and often both!), so the threat of legal action is enough to scare them into silence. We don’t think that’s right.”
And we agree.
Coercing unhappy customers into changing their reviews, be it with a bribe or a threat, is a bad idea. What you should be doing, is using that time and energy to figure out what went wrong and fix it.
Of course, this only works if you’re a legitimate company with a sincere interest in serving the public. So often, an angry response to a bad review comes from a sense of deep denial or deep guilt. If you’re a hotelier who lost your passion years ago or a baker who doesn’t know sugar from salt, you should find another line of work.
As a business owner, it’s easy to get caught up in your own situation, but take a look around. If your competition is undercutting your prices then doing shoddy work, wouldn’t you want him exposed on Yelp?
A trustworthy, online review system is in everyone’s best interest. Right now, there are two pieces of legislation in Washington related to this issue. The Consumer Review Fairness Act (aka The Right To Yelp bill) would prevent companies from including a gag clause in contracts. The Speak Free Act would make it easy to end frivolous lawsuits brought against people who write bad reviews.
Would these laws also make it harder for innocent businesses to protect themselves against vindictive trolls? Yes. But in the majority of cases, the best defense against a few bad reviews is providing excellent customer service in order to get even more good reviews.
Finding a 1-star review on your Yelp profile can ruin your day but finding one of Yelp’s Consumer Alert warnings on your page can ruin a business. Play by the rules and you’ll do fine.