In September 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown broke new ground when he signed into effect Assembly Bill 2365, which some refer to as the “Yelp Bill”, that protects consumers’
rights to review a business, whether positive or negative. The bill prohibits businesses from punishing consumers who leave unfavorable reviews about their products or services. Companies are banned from including provisions in their contracts or proposed
contracts that waive the consumer’s right to make a statement regarding the company, their products, and/or services. Businesses that violate this law may be liable for fines that range from $2,500 to $10,000. It is wise for businesses that are required to
comply with California law to review their agreements to ensure they do not include non-disparagement clauses.
In today’s age, consumer reviews have become an important factor in determining whether or not to use or purchase a particular product or service. Many consumers will routinely seek out the experience of others when considering doing business with a company.
While a glowing review is preferred, sometimes consumers are less than pleased or even upset about their experience. How your company handles reviews speaks to the character of your business and can influence potential customers. Here are a few tips that can
help companies handle online comments about their business:
- Monitor what people are saying. Routinely conduct online searches of review sites, social media, blogs, and comment sections of online newsletters for comments about your business or employees. Business
Consumer Alliance (“BCA”) will be launching a Business Reputation Management service that will help companies monitor what people are saying about them online. Stay tuned.
- Evaluate whether or not the situation requires a response. You may not have the ability to respond to every post, comment, or tweet you find about your company so it is best to pick your battles. Focusing on the most recent occurrences give priority to
issues left on prominent sites and that concern problems you can resolve.
- Offer full disclosure. Some companies pose as consumers and respond, defending the company. When this occurs, it is often obvious that the person responding is not an unbiased consumer. Instead of adopting this method, be honest and admit you are representing
the company when addressing comments.
- Use your manners. Whether or not you believe the poster has a legitimate dispute or issue and regardless of whether the post is negative or rude, keep your responses professional, polite, and direct. Ask the consumer if you may contact them privately by
email or phone to discuss the matter. Remain professional if they do agree to take the conversation offline. Doing so may help defuse a bad situation and you may be able to win over a disgruntled consumer.
- Research the matter and follow-through. If the person takes the time to vent about a product or service, there is usually a good chance that there is some amount of truth in their complaint. Even if it comes down to a simple misunderstanding, taking the
time out to look into the matter and provide a thorough response is a way to show you care about your customers and their opinions. Make sure you follow-through on any promises made.
- Know when to walk away. There may be instances where you are not able to resolve an issue amicably. If you have made reasonable attempts to calm an angry customer, politely thank them for bringing the matter to your attention, offer a sincere apology for
any inconvenience, and end the conversation.
- Be thankful. Not all reviews and comments are negative. When you receive positive feedback and accolades, take the time to thank the poster.
BCA’s website allows customers to see a third party rating from an independent organization and allows customers to also rate their experience with the company through consumer reviews. Our reviews are monitored for authenticity by experienced staff. When
a review is provided, we notify the business of the consumer’s comment and allow the company to respond directly to the review. Is your BCA contact information current? Why not login to check
on that today. Also, encourage your customers to leave reviews about their experience with your company. You can make it easy for them to access your report by installing your BCA dynamic seal on
your website. With the seal, your customers are only a click away from leaving their comments and rating your services. You may obtain the code to install the dynamic seal from your BCA storefront.
Keep in mind that although negative reviews may be viewed by others online, they can also view how you respond. Knowing you sincerely try to rectify issues and make every attempt to satisfy unhappy customers can help shape the opinion others form about your
business. How you respond to issues gives consumers an idea of what to expect should they choose to do business with your company.
About Business Consumer Alliance:
Business Consumer Alliance (BCA) is a non-profit company which started in 1936. The broad purpose of BCA is to promote business self-regulation. BCA's mission is achieved by assisting consumers in resolving complaints with businesses and using that
complaint information, along with other relevant information such as customer reviews, to forecast business reliability. With community support, BCA can identify trustworthy and ethical businesses and warn the public to avoid unscrupulous businesses whose
purpose is to defraud the marketplace. BCA obtains its funding from member businesses who support the mission and purpose of the organization and who agree to abide by high standards of ethical business practices.