Last year, a Virginia judge ruled in favor of a small business owner who had launched a suit against the online review company, Yelp, citing the reviews for his carpet cleaning service were false, malicious and not from actual customers. In his 25-page ruling Judge Petty stated: “Generally, a Yelp review is entitled to First Amendment protection because it is a person’s opinion about a business that they patronized. However, if the reviewer was never a customer of the business, then the review is not an opinion; instead, the review is based on a false statement and not subject to First Amendment protection”. This monumental ruling can now be used as case law in other pending suits and litigations, giving business owners the power to combat negative reviews.
Positive online reviews, on the other hand, are great for a businesses’ reputation and can even attract new customers who are impressed by the stellar feedback the company is receiving. A recent Yodle survey discovered that three quarters of those polled, “say that having reviews either sets a local business apart from its competitors or is expected of local businesses.” Surveyors also found that business owners aren’t harnessing the power of satisfied customers. “Fewer than one in 10 consumers have been asked to write a review of a local business even though the vast majority are willing to do so, if they had a positive experience and were asked.”
Yodle’s CEO Curt Cunningham recommends businesses leverage their positive reviews for maximum benefit. By featuring positive reviews prominently on social media pages and the company website, a business can generate new customers and retain existing ones.
Utilizing online directories is also key to establishing a strong web presence and capitalizing on all potential reviews.
411.ca is Canada’s largest online directory, with more than 20 million visitors to their site annually. Registering a business on 411.ca is an excellent way to reach a wider client base and get word out about your product or business. 411.ca reviews allows customers to review services and products; these reviews are then associated with the accompanying business.
Following up on the success of their directory and the reviews, 411.ca has now allowed reviewers the option of uploading a photo to accompany their online review. “We believe that authenticity in the 411.ca reviews section is of the utmost importance,” Diane Lai of 411.ca adds. “As customers ourselves, we value being able to verify that reviews are legitimate and factual, and this new feature allows for a more comprehensive and transparent review process.”
The anonymity of the internet is in many ways a double edged sword. On one hand, it can be beneficial to mask your identity. However, if a person has legitimately had a bad or unfavorable experience with a company, posting negative anonymous reviews allow the customer an opportunity to vent, but it doesn’t facilitate any sort of resolution because the poster is anonymous. New services and laws that require customers to validate and authenticate themselves before posting reviews has the potential of creating beneficial change for customers and businesses alike. Businesses can weed out defamatory posts easier and customers can get legitimate feedback from actual customers.