We’ve all seen negative reviews for good companies. It goes against your perceptions and makes you question, ever so slightly, if that company is really worth your time and money anymore.
But it might also make you question the validity of that negative review. Why would a company with such a good reputation have a negative review? Was it deserved? Is the review from a troll?
The problem is, we can never truly know. In the world of online reviews, it’s their word (businesses) against ours (the customer) – the problem is, those words may not always be entirely truthful.
Some businesses live and die by the adage “the customer is always right.” However, some businesses have had enough and are positioning themselves so they are no longer at the mercy of their customers.
Are online reviews protected under the First Amendment?
It can be reasonably assumed that businesses with good reputations offer a great service to their customers. The irregular one- or two-star reviews sprinkled amongst the many four to five-star reviews could be written off as the occasional bad experience.
It’s when bad reviews begin to pile up that businesses begin to suffer. Just ask Joe Hadeed, whose carpet cleaning business has suffered immensely due to seven anonymous negative Yelp reviews. Mr. Hadeed claims these reviews are false.
Allegedly none of the reviews made any sense in terms of location, sales data, or time that he could match to his records. Whether these reviews are real or not, Joe Hadeed’s business has lost revenue as a result.
As such, he has brought his case to the supreme court to have the anonymous reviewers identified. There’s one hitch, however. Yelp has stepped in, claiming reviewers are protected under the First Amendment.
As such, no one can say for sure where the case will go, but the chances of the reviewers having their identities revealed are slim to none.
Businesses fight back
One bad review. That’s all it takes to tarnish the otherwise spotless reputation of a business. Businesses know it, and customers know it too. This perception has given many consumers the illusion that they hold a position of authority over the businesses they frequent.
Joe Hadeed’s case should serve as a warning. Online reviews can do just as much good as they do harm. And while you can do your best to fight bad reviews by offering a good service, there will always be the possibility that you will attract bad reviews, deserved or not.
One way to combat this problem would be to implement a two-way review system, such as what’s found on Airbnb, Uber, Completed.com or Upwork. This type of system allows customers and providers to review one another, encouraging both parties to be honest.
Businesses could also implement a system in which the customer is held in check with penalties, such as blacklists implemented by restaurants and other venues when customers act out of line to the point of being banned from the establishment.
This particular system has already been implemented by numerous businesses, such as restaurant reservation coordinator OpenTable, and Expensive Habits Barbershop in Riverside California. Both businesses have penalties in place for customers who miss too many reservations.
No one can say what’s to happen with Joe Hadeed’s Supreme Court case, but it’s evident that businesses are no longer laying down as customers lord over them with the threat of bad reviews.
Some businesses are letting their customers know that they’re still in control and that they’re willing to fight back.