MIAMI (CBS4) – The next time you leave a review online for a company, be warned: you might get a phone call from the business asking you to take it down. Some companies are fighting back against negative critiques and sometimes not in a nice way.
More and more critical consumers have reported that they have received phone calls from companies who monitor their online reviews and have been asked to take down their negative comments but the angry tone has some customers on the defensive.
For Eric Winick, it all began when he left a mixed online review about a restaurant. He raved about the food, but said he grew frustrated that it took an hour to be served.
“I said in the review that they had taken a ridiculously long time to bring the food,” Winick said.
He was even more alarmed when he received an email from the restaurant’s owner which asked him to take it down.
“He said that something along the lines of ‘We’re trying to make a go of it in this area, we all have families to feed’ and sort of trying to prey on my sympathies a little bit.”
Many businesses around the country are reaching out to customers who leave bad reviews and they are not always trying to make amends. In an extreme example, an Atlanta restaurant launched Facebook and Twitter campaigns identifying a customer who left a bad review and the food fight went viral.
Social media expert Patrick O’Malley said that the effect of the web posts can make or break a company’s reputation.
“A single person can now go home and get on Facebook and tell 500 or 1000 people what they think of your restaurant,” O’Malley said.
The impact is immense. A Harvard Business School study found that even a one star increase on a businesses’ rating on the online review site Yelp led to a five to nine percent boost in revenue for independent restaurants.
“In the last few years, it has changed the way we have done business,” said Zalmi Duchman, the founder of FreshDiet.com.
He is among business owners who have requested to remove bad reviews and he explains to customers how damaging negative comments can be. He said sometimes it’s effective.
“We’ve found in the past the faster you react to the customer the better chance you’re going to have to get that customer to remove their negative review because they see you take their comments and their feedback seriously,” Duchman said.
Online review site Urban Spoon said it actually encourages businesses and reviewers to connect and warns customers many companies take what they type very seriously.
“For a small business their business is an extension of who they are. There’s a real emotional connection to that,” Kara Nortman, of Urban Spoon.
For Winick, he responded to the restaurant and indicated that he wouldn’t remove his review. The business apologized for reaching out, but didn’t offer any incentive for him to return and give them another chance.
“I thought it was a waste of time, frankly, on the part of the restaurant to do that,” Winick said.