A few weeks ago, I received a call from a friend who owns a thriving local business about 20 minutes from our Gurnee office. He told me he had been invited to attend a “review party”, the newest way to boost your presence online. During these parties, you have the opportunity to meet new business owners, exchange reviews-for-reviews and walk away with 5-star business online. When you meet another business owner, you both agree to write a 5-star review of the each other’s company over the various platforms (Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, etc). By the time the party is over, you have a shiny-new rating online.
In addition, earlier this year, we saw Google debut a new part of the search algorithm which factors Google Plus reviews (and rankings from several other review-based platforms) into your ranking. The more and higher rating you have, the better you’ll rank.
A Business With Ethics
During our company formation, we listed transparency as one of our company core values. Transparency with both our employees and with our clients. Transparency ensures honesty, assurance, and accountability.
If your clients are like ours, they do not fully understand the particular industry you work in. For us, this is especially true in the search engine optimization and very technical areas. We don’t expect them too either (isn’t that why you hire an expert?).
Are Review Parties Ethical?
In short answer, no.
Reviews online rely heavily on honesty whether it is a fair review or not.
We’ve seen several cases in the news where companies have used fake reviews to make their product or service look better. There are many websites where you can buy fake reviews (similar to buying fake “likes” or “followers” on social media). When you receive a review from an account with whom you have not done adequate business, it is not an honest review.
Fake reviews promise good business to future clients of the company. When I put myself in the shoes of my future clients, I would be highly disappointed if I found out that I was reading fake reviews. It is misleading! Whether or not the business delivers a good product or service, surely doing good business will lead to honest reviews.
We choose not to exchange our business ethics for more business
If you have not done business with us, please, do not review us with a 5-star review. The same applies to you. We never review businesses with whom we have not done business.
Review parties are not all bad
One topic that is discussed at review parties is dealing with negative reviews. In business, having one unhappy customer is bound to happen – you can’t make everyone happy. What you can do, however, is properly respond to those negative reviews. Eric Ozarowski is the President of Oh! Social, a social media management group in Chicago. Over the past several years, one of the traits I’ve come to see in Eric is his ability to understand people and their situation in a matter of minutes. Eric noted his approach in dealing with an angry customer online:
98% of the time people just want to be heard and what business owners need to understand that it’s an incredible opportunity when people vent on platforms like Yelp. Every business makes mistakes, it’s part of being human and people understand. It’s all about how you make up for your mistakes. Here’s my typical recipe for a response: 1) Apologize and own the mistake (Don’t make excuses), 2) Acknowledge all points the guest/customer makes, 3) Be sincere in the response (The length of the response should be equal or close to the length of the review), 4) Ask for another chance (Offer a discount only when absolutely necessary) with the understanding that you will never be able to make every single guest/customer happy.
Pursue Honest Reviews
Pulling all of this together, I do encourage you to request reviews from your customers. Reviews help you attract leads online. Used fairly, they help you to gauge the effectiveness of certain aspects of your business. While encouraging you to be transparent with your future customers, online reviews provide reassurance that your business delivers what you promise with high customer satisfaction.