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Angie's List: Devil or Savior?

Angie's List: Devil or Savior?

November 07, 2013

Business owners are divided when it comes to the mega-popular site, Angie’s List, which lets customers review and grade service providers, from roofers to plumbers to chiropractors.


Good reviews can be a huge boost for your company. But bad reviews could sink your business!


So, should you use Angie’s List?  Or perhaps Yelp?


The Power of a Critic

Some time ago, the most powerful man on Broadway was not even on Broadway. Neither a performer, producer, director, nor a dancer, Frank Rich was a critic for the New York Times whose reviews were awaited with baited breath by everyone involved in a new show. His reviews could single-handedly launch a show to great success or close a show down instantly, putting hundreds of people out of work. He even earned the nickname “The Butcher of Broadway.”


Today, that power of reviews has been handed over to the masses. Thanks to Angie’s List, Yelp, and other websites, grades and reviews are provided by customers who are well-informed and savvier than ever before.


The Power of MANY Critics


Businesses that amass high grades and positive reviews benefit from the unbiased testimonials. An East Coast window contractor let’s call “Josh” says that Angie’s List has been a great marketing tool for him. Having people describe their experience, including the job price, and giving an “A” or a “B,” has served him well. For Josh and others sporting positive reviews, Angie’s List, or Yelp, can be a savior.  


However, low grades and bad reviews can be harmful to the reputation of a business.  In fact, several business owners have sued over bad reviews (FYI: suing your customers is generally frowned upon).  One Chicago concrete company sued a woman for $10,000 claiming that her grade of an “F” damaged their reputation. Another contractor launched a $750,000 defamation suit against a Virginia customer over her one-star review. For these businesses, and others with negative reviews, Angie’s List, or Yelp, can be the Devil.


What to do with a Bad Review


While a lawsuit may be excessive, business owners are terrified of getting clobbered by bad reviews. Some, like a lumber company in Yonkers, New York, with scads of negative reviews all over the web, should indeed be concerned. They’re doing something wrong — and the review sites are hastening their comeuppance. But most companies with solid performance, good customer service, and a positive reputation can rest assured that a few bad reviews won’t sink their ship. 


In fact, it can sometimes be eye-opening to learn what can be improved upon. “Knowing that people are grading you keeps you at the top of your game,” adds Josh. He takes a proactive approach to negative reviews, and he speaks with customers about their concerns in hopes of maintaining a good relationship.


What should you do and what should you not do? Here are a few tips:


  • Do not ignore bad reviews. Respond to the writer directly to show that you are committed to customer satisfaction. 
  • Do ignore reviews with inappropriate language or distasteful comments. You never want to stoop to that level. You can also flag inappropriate posts.
  • Do offer customers who have written negative reviews a small incentive, such as a discount or coupon, to give you a second chance.
  • Do not give too much away or others may take advantage of your well-intentioned offer… write a bad review, get a free pizza.
  • Do encourage your customers to write positive reviews without being pushy or “bribing” anyone.  
  • Do not try to “game the system,” by loading the site with false good reviews. It’s unethical and probably won’t work; review sites have algorithms to prevent this from happening.
  • Do read your reviews regularly and take them seriously.  Should you see legitimate criticism or a pattern emerging in the reviews, address the problem internally and make changes as necessary.  Then, let the public know (in your marketing) what you have changed.  For example, if there are several complaints about your service being slow, fix the problem, then market the fact that you now feature faster service than ever before.
  • Do (if it does not conflict with the rules of the site) use positive reviews in your favor.  For that matter, you can also utilize third-party endorsements from the Better Business Bureau or other recognized organizations (e.g. Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval) to market your business.

So, Angie’s List, or Yelp: Are they for You?

Any site that lists businesses and allows customer reviews can be a benefit if your house is in order. But you need to monitor the reviews you receive, be ready to respond, and be patient.  It takes time to build a good reputation, especially in a world where everybody is a critic.


Got a story about bad reviews?  What did you do?  Send me your solutions at jongoldman@brandlauncher.com.


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