Congress Backs Bill on Customer Rights for Online Reviews: What Does this Mean for your Business?

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Have you heard? Two days ago, Congress backed a bill on customer rights for online reviews. This bill will allow consumers to post negative reviews without legal repercussions. According to ABC News, “Supporters of the bipartisan bill say it is needed to ensure freedom of speech in a growing online economy. It was written in response to businesses that have made customers sign non-disparagement clauses and then sued if a bad review showed up.”

As marketers, we are all for the free exchange of ideas and opinions. At Whiteboard Marketing, we definitely support freedom of speech… on both sides of the fence. While we are thrilled to see that Congress is protecting the free speech of consumers, we will be watching this issue closely to learn of any systems put into place that allow for slanderous reviews. Companies should not be able to remove public reviews simply because the business doesn’t like what a client has to say about a service experience. Sometimes, however, there are legitimate reasons to take it down. For example, the review is slanderous, fake or explicit. We are hoping that in the final bill signed by President Obama, there are safety nets put in place for both consumers and businesses.

So, what does this bill mean for your business?

We tell our clients to not be afraid of negative reviews. In today’s world, as a “digital sharing economy,” every company is bound to receive a negative review at some point in time. It is impossible to please every single person you come into contact with while running your business. We recommend to our clients that you develop a proactive review strategy that includes the following:

  • Encourage reviews from your customers on several review sites, including Google, Yelp and Facebook. Even if you get a negative review, it can easily be drowned out and discredited if you have loyal supporters on these sites. One negative review amidst hundreds of positive reviews loses its power.
  • Respond to ALL reviews. Demonstrate that you are actually reading and acting on the feedback you are receiving by taking the time to respond to your customers.
  • Develop a response protocol for the reviews you receive, including these steps:
      • Answer as soon as possible – You don’t want to leave an unanswered negative review on a public site. The sooner you answer, the sooner the public gets both sides of the story.
      • Designate a reputation manager in your company – Don’t waste time deciding who should respond. Decide in advance who will fulfill that role; preferably someone who won’t be personally offended by a negative comment and will be able to give a professional, timely response.
      • Gather information and respond appropriately – Make sure to look into the situation the reviewer is addressing so you get all the facts. Some concerns that clients bring up may even be helpful issues you want to address within your company. For more tips on how to respond to negative reviews, read our blog about it!

While this may seem like more work, don’t forget how important your online reputation is! Reviews are often the first place prospects go to decide if they want to buy a product or service from you.

We want you to know that we will be watching this issue closely and will keep you updated on its status. So make sure to check back in for more insights and advice!