The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has made it clear for some time now that it won’t tolerate businesses who mislead customers or use fake reviews to enhance their reputations.
In an age where Australian consumers are increasingly relying on online consumer reviews to inform their purchasing decisions, this has never been more important.
Here’s our top five of what to do, and conversely, what to avoid if you’re an Australian small business.
Top 5 ‘do’s’ for business
1. Ask your customers to rate and review you – print business cards so you can hand them to customers asking them to review – one in five are likely to do it. Be careful not to imply that it should only be a positive review, this would be against ACCC guidelines.
2. Always respond to negative reviews online thanking them for their feedback and if the issue is unresolved encourage them to take it off-line so you can sort it out. Once you have resolved or addressed their concern there’s another opportunity to post a comment to theirs to close the loop – consumers really value a business that is prepared to fix an issue.
3. Remain calm if you get a poor review – don’t take it personally, think of it as an opportunity to improve your product or service.
4. Remember that search sites value reviews and comments attached to reviews – the more you have the more likely your business is going to show up online and deliver you new customers. Insert links from your website or email newsletter to your reviews.
5. Remember that consumers understand things are not always perfect – they put more trust in a business with both good and the occasional poor review (that has been responded to by the business) than they do a business with only 5 star reviews.
Top 5 ‘don’ts’ for business
1. Never pay consumers for reviews (nor offer to make a payment to take down a review). This includes incentivising with discounts and other benefits.
2. Don’t pay anyone else to write fake reviews on your business or on your competitors. Remember most review websites have sophisticated monitoring systems that detect this behaviour. It’s also against regarded as false and misleading advertising so it won’t be long before the ACCC comes knocking on your door.
3. Don’t threaten the reviewer or the website publisher with legal action because of a negative review. Spend your energy on responding to the reviewer online. Your visible response to a review indicates you are a customer focussed company, not one that ignores its customers.
4. Never write reviews on your own business or have staff or family members write your reviews, this includes writing a review on behalf of a customer, in the form of a customer testimonial. See point 2 above.
5. Don’t think because you’re a paid advertiser you can have the website publisher remove a negative review. It is against the ACCC guidelines and can put your business and the publisher in hot water.
John Allan is Chief Executive Officer at Sensis