How to Address Bad Online Reviews

“Negative reviews can feel like a punch in the gut”. According to a recent study, three out of five consumers have changed their minds about a recommended purchase based solely on negative information they found online. If you are looking for hotel reviews, you look at Tripadvisor. For more local stuff, you search reviews from sites such as InSing, HungryGoWhere, Google places. For more niche topic like Wedding, you read forums like WeddingForum.Sg.

The truth is you cannot stop the proliferation of technology, even Singapore government is embracing social media website like facebook, youtube in the last election. The only way out is to learn how to manage and control it.

To learn how to address bad reviews, you must first understand are sort of reviews. Generally there are two types of review: (1) constructive criticism and (2)Cyber-bullying

Constructive Criticism – that is, a negative review left by an unsatisfied consumer, leaving business owners with information they can use to actually improve their service offerings.

Cyber-bullying – Cyber-bullying content is normally defamatory and blackmailing in nature. It could from competitors trying to ruin your business by leaving bad reviews or an unhappy customer who did not get what they want.

Should you respond?

Depending on the type of bad reviews, you then decide to reply or not. If the reviews is legitimate, you may consider Offering your apology in public comments. You can further explain how you will take steps to ensure that the situation doesn’t happen again. It is important that you do not be argumentative, and no matter how justified you feel, don’t be defensive. This will also show current and future customers that you care about your customers and may even win you some ardent online supporters.

If you feel the remarks left is defamatory, you may contact contacting the site owner or take legal action against the person who left the remark.

Can you sue for defamatory reviews?

Yes and No, let us first understand what is Defamation first:

  • Someone made a statement;
  • that statement was published;
  • the statement caused you injury;
  • the statement was false; and
  • the statement did not fall into a privileged category.

Defamation law will only consider statements defamatory if they are, in fact, false. A true statement, no matter how harmful, is not considered defamation. In addition, because of their nature, statements of opinion are not considered false because they are subjective to the speaker.

For example, Mary is looking to buy a wedding gown and she signed up a wedding package with a bridal shop XYZ. After signing up, she realise that she is not able to find a wedding gown that she like. She then leave states bad remark  “I am disappointed with bridal shop XYZ as I cannot find a wedding gown that I like”, Such remark is not defamatory since liking is an opinion.  Even if the bridal shop bring 100 of their customers to attest that they have the best selection of wedding gowns in Singapore, Mary is still entitled to her opinion.

Unfortunately, defamation law covers only “provable” facts, you cannot sue her my making that opinion as  she is “merely expressing an honest opinion based on facts which existed at the time”.

What then to do?

It is easy if you can prove whatever Mary say is false but if it is an opinion, there is really little you can do about it. That is why it is important to address the situation by building more good reviews with your happy customers.

In the internet world, 10 rights make 1 wrong disappear