One man, posting anonymously under the username “JT”, shared his thoughts of his rented apartment’s property management company on Yelp. The result: the company is suing JT for defamation. Needless to say, this raises numerous questions about what we can and cannot, or should and should not be writing online. Do your online reviews and recommendations fall under your First Amendment rights to freedom of speech? JT maintains that what he wrote was “not pretty, but it was true.” The property management company claims his opinion is welcome but they merely wanted to clear up inaccuracies. For business, making the hasty decision to file a lawsuit over a detracting comment, post, or review may be the worst idea…ever. It just continues a stream of bad press. Instead, see this detractor as a huge opportunity to flex your customer service skills. Acknowledge, respond in a timely manner, and try to solve the problem to the benefit of both parties.
I recently had a somewhat similar situation happen on the Facebook page of my family’s business, a small dairy company in New Jersey. One of our customers had a displeasing trip to one of our stores where an employee treated him rudely. He was so miffed that he felt the need to write a lengthy and disapproving post on our wall. I wrote him back privately and told him that we were extremely surprised and saddened to hear about his experience, guaranteed we would speak to the employees working on the offending night, and offered him coupons to come back to the store. He wrote me back and said he “appreciated my response” and was “glad to feel welcomed again”. Did I need to incentivize him? Probably not. But, what’s important is that instead of deleting the post from Facebook and ignoring it – I took 5 minutes to address his concern and make sure we didn’t lose a customer. Any company should (and can) use social media to its fullest advantage – creating ample amounts of Advocates willing to recommend you. Oh, and JT’s lawsuit has since been withdrawn. Seems the property management company found a better way to handle the situation.