Last week we told you about the latest controversy on the consumer review website Yelp: a California dentist who’s suing because of a negative review.
It’s easy to see why the dentist was frustrated by an unflattering and inaccurate review. But she’s received lots of bad press from free-speech advocates for her lawsuit.
It doesn’t seem like legal action is necessarily the best way to deal with a bad review.
There’s no turning back the clock. A pre-Internet mentality is no longer relevant. Like it or not, customer review websites do exist, and they’re only getting more popular.
“Litigants have this pre-Internet mentality where they think they can control messages about themselves in public,” Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, recently told the SF Weekly. “But the online community will see this as a slap in the face and retaliate. … It blows up in [the litigant’s] face.”
Managing your reputation online
Even if you’ve never submitted your business information anywhere, chances are excellent that you’re already listed with one or more of these websites. You can find out what patients are saying about you by searching for your name and geographic area on any of these sites.
Most of these sites allow business owners a degree of control over their listings. A good listing should include your name, dental practice name, address, phone number, hours, and treatment specialties. You should correct any inaccurate information.
Uploading photos to your listing is also a great way to give prospective patients more insight into your practice. A photo of the lobby offers a sense of ambiance, while a storefront photo can make it easier for new patients to find your location.
What do you do about a bad review?
Well, you can sue, but that won’t necessarily solve the problem, and you could end up getting a lot of bad press.
Or you can decide not to worry about it. This is certainly the easiest thing to do! Don’t waste too much brainpower on one unhappy customer who wants to complain publicly.
But some business owners just can’t ignore the one-star reviews. either because they’re personally upset or because they feel it will hurt their business.
Reaching out to the owners of the review website will not always be effective. Yelp, for example, will not remove a review unless it violates their terms of service. Moreover, the site does not permit business owners to directly respond to any reviews, comments or allegations.
The most effective strategy for removing a bad review seems to be to convince the reviewer to change their rating. While this is great for unhappy customers, it’s frustrating to business owners.
“The power for [Yelpers] to put a bad remark can crush us,” said a San Francisco florist in an interview with the SF Weekly. “So we have to do 10 steps above everything. We literally overdo customer service.”