I've recently seen a lot of articles online and in print about how to handle bad online reviews. With the explosion of review sites, both for weddings and for everyday businesses, anyone can post anything, and the occasional bad review, or even a mediocre one, is pretty much inevitable.
The majority of these articles advise people to leave the bad review up and use it as an opportunity to respond to the complainer in a public forum. Demonstrate your customer service skills, so to speak. Not every review that I've received has been perfect, and I agree with the customer service angle to a certain extent, but not in every case.
When one blogger posted that perspective, and made the point that websites that only have good reviews are less credible than those that have a few bad ones thrown in, everyone who posted comments agreed wholeheartedly, and the tone get a little self-congratulatory, if you ask me. It quickly became obvious that the idea of leaving a bad review up and responding to it is considered to be more virtuous than having it removed.
I posted a question to the author asking how she would suggest handling reviews on sites that didn't allow responses, since many wedding review sites don't let the vendors respond. Nobody answered my question. Another poster repeated the question, and nobody responded to that either.
Well, I'll respond. I say that if a negative review goes up on a site that doesn't allow responses, you need to decide if the complaint has merit, or whether it's full of it. If it has merit, you need to pick up the phone and deal with the client individually, but if it doesn't then you should have the review taken down.
Some situations turn into something more than a bad review, they mutate into fake-review territory. That's when you have to draw the line.
Unfortunately, there will always be people who, for whatever reason, use review sites to post anonymous garbage. I know people who it's happened to, and it's happened to me, too. In the past few years I've had a couple of reviews taken down after determining that they were, shall we say, "without merit."
One was someone who said that she had come to a tasting appointment and didn't like the cake, in fact she said it was the worst cake that she'd ever had. Problem is, the person who wrote the review had signed up for a tasting, but was a no-show for it. So she never tasted my cake. Okaaay..."without merit."
Another was someone who called the day after her wedding wanting a refund. After I checked with the reception site and a couple other vendors who had been there and found out that the problems that she reported with the cake didn't actually occur, I told her that I wouldn't be issuing a refund. In the ensuing "conversation" it became apparent to me from several remarks that she made that she had overspent on her wedding budget and was trying to recoup some of her costs by trying to get refunds from her vendors. She threatened to "get me" online if I didn't give her money back.
Interestingly, about ten minutes after I got off the phone with her, a scathing review went up on a wedding review site. The name was someone else, the details were different, but it was obvious that it was written by her based on the timing and the emails that she'd sent which misspelled the same words that were misspelled in the review.
I contacted the website directly and explained the situation. They looked into it, found that they couldn't verify the email address or identity of the poster, and deleted the comment.
Now some people would say that I should have left that review up. I don't think so. If someone is going to give me a public flogging I should at least deserve it. If anyone can give me a good reason as to why leaving fake reviews up is a good idea, especially ones that you can't respond to, feel free to tell me that I'm an idiot and let me know why.
Everyone is going to get a less-than-stellar review at some point, it goes without saying that you can't please everyone all the time. However, reviews that are posted in order to threaten or intimidate a business are just not cool, serve no purpose, and should be removed. Luckily, most people are normal and don't post fake reviews, but I say that if it happens to you, and you know that the review is a fake, then you're totally within your rights to have it taken down.
Have you ever received a bad review, or a review that you knew was exaggerated or totally fake? How did you handle it?
Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA