What to Do About a Bad Review: How to Protect Your Mobile Home Park’s Commercial Reputation
On TripAdvisor, Trustpilot and Yelp everyone is an expert and word of mouth travels faster than a fibre optic cable connection. Studies show that two-thirds of customers form an opinion after reading only four reviews. Good or bad, truthful or otherwise, online reviews matter and managing them should not be an afterthought.
In this article Morgan Wolfe, a Solicitor in IBB’s Park and Holiday Homes advisory team, offers practical, low cost and easy to action tips for residential and holiday park owners on minimising negative reviews, leveraging the positive ones and protecting your commercial reputation from the digital naysayers.
40% of online consumers expect a response to a complaint within an hour. That may not always be feasible but do your best to respond quickly. Read reviews regularly and carefully. You shouldn't necessarily take up every suggestion but ensuring your customers feel heard can go a long way toward soothing any bruised goodwill and may even strengthen your business.
Don't be defensive
Our brains are hardwired to focus on the negative. That explains why customers are more likely to share bad experiences than good ones. A bad review can really get your hackles up but resist the urge to attack publicly. Be polite, don't blame the customer and, where appropriate, explain the situation, bearing in mind that the complaint may be based on a misunderstanding.
Maybe it's you, not them
If you notice a pattern in negative online reviews, consider what could be contributing to the perception. Try to put yourself in your customer's shoes. Why might they be seeing things this way? What can you do to make it right, even if you’re not technically in the wrong? It's unrealistic to expect five stars from everyone, but multiple references to the same issue could signal a systemic problem.
Choose review sites with care
When someone visits a review site, they expect honest feedback and are rightfully suspicious of paid reviews. Fast Company's Chris Terrell advises businesses to select sites whose rankings are based on reviews from past customers, not advertising, and to consider using an industry-specific site which screens member businesses and verifies all ratings and reviews before publishing them.
See them in court?
A review which hurts your business’s reputation might be defamatory in the legal sense but that doesn’t mean you should sue. Defamation claims can be expensive and difficult to prove. Not only must you show that your business suffered (or could suffer) financially from the comments, but the person who made the statement (if you can find them) can plead a defence of telling the truth (no matter how bad) and/or honest opinion (no matter how subjective).
If someone posts 'false words’ about you or your business with harmful intent, you might be able to bring a claim against them for malicious falsehood. You don't need to show reputational damage, but you must prove that the statement was false and made with 'improper motive’. In either case, you have one year from the date the comment or post was first published to make a claim and the usual remedy, if you win, is a monetary award of damages, which could end up being quite modest.
A simpler, less risky and more cost-effective solution may be to ask the operator of the website on which the comment was posted to take it down. Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Google and others have facilities for reporting inappropriate content which can be found in the help and support pages (make sure to read the guidelines and terms). Many also offer advice on how to optimise your listing.
A robust reputation management strategy is considerably cheaper, and arguably less reputationally damaging than a public and protracted court battle. Authentic reviews posted on reputable sites will go a long way toward engendering customer trust and loyalty and overcoming the potential damage of a (hopefully) few rogue comments.
You can't control what people say about you, but you can take proactive steps to shape the narrative.
If your business is facing the challenge of a commercial dispute or litigation, we can help. Call business dispute resolution solicitors today on 03456 381381 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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