Tag Archives: online reviews

Top 10 ways to undo the damage of a bad review

Are you tired of review sites gloating how “one bad review can lose you up to 30 customers a year?” We were too. So in the spirit of empowering businesses like yours, our team at Wyngspan dug up all the gritty research on how to bounce back from a bad review so we can help you repair your online reputation quickly.

Here’s what we found:

Should I even respond to a bad review? Yes, absolutely! But…only if you respond appropriately. Keep those knee-jerk emotions out of your response. Wait a day if you need to cool off. What you say can be the difference between repairing your image…or damaging it further.

Here’s how to undo the damage…and respond like a pro:

1. Respond promptly.
Yes, cool off first. But make sure you respond within 2-3 days. Don’t let enough time go by for people to start making judgments about your business practices based on a negative review.

2. Identify yourself.
Are you the owner? Manager? Say so and state your name. It’s a nice personal touch that makes readers feel more connected to you + your business.

3. Thank the reviewer for his time.
Oof. We know this one can be tough…but thank the reviewer for taking the time to provide feedback. This instantly builds your credibility + trust in the eyes of your audience.

4. Keep your response factual, not emotional.
When it comes to the Internet: cooler heads always prevail. Never be defensive. It comes off as petty. Remain pleasant, sincere, + helpful. Stick to the facts. Be the rational one.

5. Encourage the customer to contact you directly.
You might be wondering, why didn’t this customer just contact us directly in the first place? We hear you! Encourage this person to contact you offline so you can resolve the issue personally.

6. …but never offer freebies online!
If you publicly offer a discount to someone who’s written a bad review, guess what happens? Review site trolls start coming out of the woodwork! You know the ones…the self-described review-site-gurus who just love to threaten businesses to get free stuff. (Which, ahem, Wyngspan does not allow, ahem.) It’s okay to remedy real complaints with discounts…just do it offline.

7. Find out how accurate the complaint is.
Ask yourself or your staff: what happened with this customer? Was your team having an off day or is the review totally unreasonable? Gather basic facts so your response is informed + sensible.

8. Say sorry if the customer is (actually) right.
Hey, we all have off days. If you did in fact drop the ball: admit it, apologize sincerely, and move on. People aren’t looking for perfection online. They want to know you’re human + that you care.

9. If they’re not right?: Stay cool. Don’t over-apologize.
Sometimes reviews are irrational or (gasp!)… straight up fake. If the facts don’t add up, take the opportunity to highlight your strengths. Something like:
“Over the past 15 years, our family establishment has taken great pride in the overwhelmingly positive feedback we’ve received regarding our customer service….so we’re particularly sorry if you felt we did not live up to the high standards we’ve set for ourselves.”

10. Have someone read it before you hit send.
One extra pair of eyes will do the trick. Just to make sure everything is spell-checked, grammar-checked, and emotion-checked.

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The 5 biggest problems with online reviews

Turning Passion and Vision into Reality

During the last few years of my life, I have had one question asked of me more than any other: “What is Wyngspan?” In the early stages of becoming a co-founder, I answered this question very specifically by saying, “Wyngspan is an alternative to review sites. It’s a place consumers can find and share trustworthy recommendations for professional resources with friends and family.” More often than not, I would see the “Ah-ha” look. “Oh, I get it now,” most would reply. Each time I would feel victorious, thinking I taught one new person about our great company, which is something I set out to do each and every day. I always felt like we were getting one step closer to Wyngspan becoming a household name and changing the way the world conducts business. Little by little, marketing my company seemed to be working and I was extremely excited. It seemed as if everyone I spoke with would just run home and join our online community. Little did I realize, I was doing it all wrong.

Looking back, I can think of numerous instances where I answered that same question. I think back to how I felt when I answered. The reality is, I wasn’t “feeling” at all. I was thinking, but not quite able to convey who we really are and what we’re trying to do. Wyngspan wasn’t launched because a couple of old college buddies thought it might be a good idea. It was launched because we BELIEVED it should exist. I was seeing firsthand how inaccurate and biased online review sites were becoming. I worked at an establishment run by a co-owner that wanted his staff to write fake positive reviews. I met a woman who had spent $5,000 just to have two negative reviews written about her small business removed. I watched countless video testimonials of small business owners whose online reputations were destroyed simply because they didn’t advertise with the big review site players. Back then; I FELT like enough was enough. I realized the world was facing a major problem and business owners were taking the brunt of it all. I knew the world of online reputations was taking focus away from business being 100% about the customer. It was time for a change and we set out to make it happen.

Recently, I’ve turned our team’s passion and vision into reality. Before, I was monotonously answering questions like an emotionless robot). I was telling people what they wanted to hear, rather than presenting what they needed to hear. Now I’m sharing our passion, rather than simply giving an elevator pitch. I start each day thinking about the small business owner fighting for survival. I think about the person who hides behind the computer screen writing 11 paragraph rants about a poorly cooked hamburger served by a rude 18 year old simply trying to make it through college. I think about the stay at home mom who needs a trustworthy pediatrician to take care of her children or a trustworthy plumber to come into her house to fix a major issue. I think about these people and continue to fuel my passion for the change I believe in.

What started happening next was miraculous. When people asked the same question that had been presented to me time and time again, I stopped thinking. I started feeling. My feelings led to sharing and sharing led to connecting. I wasn’t making mental connections anymore—I was making emotional connections. I was getting out of heads and into hearts. People traded in “Ah-ha’s” for “Wows.” Not only was the reality of my passion and vision becoming more understandable, but people were starting to see what we believe so strongly in, and more importantly, why we believe it. It has opened doors I never even realized were closed. It has created opportunity that I otherwise would not have realized existed. Most importantly, I have started helping people believe that change is on the way, because they can feel my passion.

This was a dramatic change for me. In time, I know that what we are doing will make a drastic difference in the lives of consumers. We will make the process of purchasing products and selecting services better than ever. Our focus will continue to be on the power of trust. Trust in friends. Trust in family. Trust in business. Our focus is, and always will be powered by passion and vision. Without those things, why bother?

Andrew Markey

Who do you Trust?

When searching for our next meal, purchase, service, etc., it is common for us to resort to simply Googling whatever resource it is that we need. The results seem intuitive; the highest links are the most reliable (I admit I don’t even venture past the first page). But how exactly are these particular businesses promoted over their competitors? In most cases, this comes as a result of popularity. Usually the business with the most online reviews, regardless of the grade, are the most likely to populate the first page of our search results.

Another important question to ask is, “Who writes these online reviews?” More and more evidence is surfacing that links online review sites to cases of promoting fraudulent reviews. These sites are being discredited as reliable sources for “honest feedback”. While only a small percentage of online reviews are deliberately false, it is still difficult to trust the remaining anonymous reviews.

In Christian Weaver’s recent article,”We all have to be Honest about Online Reviews,” a simple question is raised over who we are choosing to trust when it comes to recommendations.

In this Internet-driven era, we have moved away from simply asking a friend for their opinion. We now rely on the opinions of strangers, which begs the question, “Do we trust the anonymity of online reviews and the strangers who wrote them?”

We have to, as Weaver puts it, “review the reviewer” by examining their motives, tastes, and interests before being able to actually place our trust in them and their opinions.

Wyngspan differs from these anonymous review sites in that it promotes trust, rather than forcing users to rely on others who rate a service or experience based on a single encounter and inevitable fluctuating tastes. Instead, Wyngspan encourages users to connect with those who they actually trust, share trustworthy resources with one another, and create a platform that is built on trustworthiness and shedding a positive light on reliable businesses. Wyngspan is building a network where users can avoid uncertainties and anonymity in where they are putting their trust and more importantly, their money.

In many ways, we are creating an online home for reliable word-of-mouth recommendations that cultivates trust and eliminates the unavoidable anonymity and fraudulence in current review site options.

Next time you are looking for a restaurant to visit, a doctor for your sick child, a plumber for your leaking pipe, or a mechanic who won’t charge you an arm and a leg for a simple repair, don’t rely on the uncertainty of online reviews. Instead, turn to your trust circle and Wyngspan.com—The Trust Network.

News Round-Up: Business Owners Questioning Fairness of Online Reviews

Online reviews have become a major focus for consumers and businesses. For consumers they provide presumably authentic information describing the quality and reliability of a service provider. For businesses they’re a marketing tool that can be leveraged to gain an advantage over the competition. This past month there have been articles and stories regarding both the legitimacy and authority in which reviews are displayed. And no, not all reviews are treated equally.

This becomes most apparent when observing how Google ranks its own reviews service. Will Scott, CEO of online marketing firm Search Influence, questions the weight given by the search giant to its own Google+ Local reviews. Google has a responsibility to provide accurate search results, and with a vast amount of the online population using search with the expectation to find reliable reviews, the best reviews should be ranked highest. Scott notes that after Google’s battle with TripAdvisor in 2010, during which TripAdvisor refused to let Google feature reviews from the travel site on Google’s own pages, Google has since altered search engine results pages to feature Google reviews over all others. Besides Google’s own assumption that it provides the most reliable information, there is no evidence that Google reviews are any more trustworthy than those of other services. Perhaps one of the most infuriating things for businesses with an online presence is seeing positive reviews pushed to the bottom of results, or worse, not displayed at all.

Last month Yahoo officially announced its partnership with Yelp. After only a month businesses are already witnessing years’ worth of positive reviews from customers disappearing. As Angus Loten, a writer covering small businesses and startups for The Wall Street Journal, explains, Yelp reviews are replacing those already on Yahoo. This creates two major problems. Many businesses had built a strong reputation on Yahoo, ensuring they had an adequate amount of reviews to convince consumers of their trustworthiness. Now some businesses must once again start from scratch. Secondly, owners who previously relied on Yahoo’s service must now come to terms with Yelp’s infamous “filtering” practices. Yelp claims its process, which is far from transparent, increases the legitimacy of search results. However this system is far from perfect and faces strong opposition.

Lee Schafer, a business and economics columnist for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, decided to test Yelp’s filtration process with a review of his own. Soon after he created an account and wrote a completely legitimate endorsement for a bakery in St. Paul, the review was relegated from top of the page to all but taken down. The review can still be found, he says, but only by choosing to view reviews “not currently recommended.” Business owners and users are forced to guess how reviews are judged which only invites more allegations against Yelp. Few will argue against the need for a filtration process, but it seems the industry incumbent cannot defend its own system.

As business owners struggle to make sense of practices by the major players in online reviews, they need to be diligent when choosing and leveraging their presence on a select few platforms. Wyngspan offers a no-nonsense algorithm as a solution to current problems facing the industry. The quality and quantity of Trusts received by a business or professional are two main factors among many that determine a Trust Factor. No reviews are filtered or pushed to the bottom of a results page, and business owners have a platform to easily communicate with verified consumers. The Trust Factor leaves little room for confusion and you can be certain Trusts are being issued by actual consumers.

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Now More Than Ever, Web Credibility Has a Greater Impact on Consumers

You may remember our post a while back outlining the biggest problems with online reviews. It describes how the online review industry has exploded to the point where consumers face a muddled landscape when trying to use these reviews to make purchasing decisions. It’s also no secret that there is an increasing amount of companies looking to game the system by manipulating organic search results. But a simple endorsement still holds a high level of value, especially when submitted through a trusted platform.

The first thing many potential customers will look for is some kind of social proof of your product or service. Aside from word-of-mouth recommendations from a friend or relative, online testimonials provide the best insights into exactly what a customer can expect. At Wyngspan, we like to call these endorsements “Trusts,” and for good reason. Businesses need to build a strong reputation and trust to be successful and increase the bottom line. In the business world this is referred to as “web credibility.”

Credibility is the foundation of a good business. Endorsements are the best conversion tool for businesses, of any size and industry. A product or service can typically be evaluated based on three categories: time, quality, and price. Imagine a triangle, with each point representing one of these categories. Ideally a service will be of the highest quality for the lowest price and delivered in the shortest amount of time. In the competitive landscape, accomplishing all three would be near impossible. Reviews tell a potential customer what can be expected. Without trustworthy endorsements, how can someone with no experience with your product know which factors you are satisfying? Most likely you will lose the sale to a competitor with a high number of quality trusts because this information carries more weight than brand messaging.

Review sites show no signs of slowing down. The percentage of people checking reviews before making a purchasing decision continues to grow each year. According to a survey conducted by dispute resolution firm PeopleClaim, seventy percent of respondents check online reviews before making purchasing decisions and sixty-three percent are more likely to buy from a site if it has reviews. Being able to showcase reviews has transformed from a best practice to a necessity.

Traditionally the filtration process of evaluating reviews has been left to the consumer. Because individuals hold and realize different biases, people’s decision-making processes will vary from one to the next. Due to this unavoidable reality, sophisticated algorithms are needed to mitigate the amount of misinformation. Wyngspan’s algorithm considers many influential variables in order to deliver the most trustworthy information and provides an intuitive platform for businesses to showcase their Trust Factor. Users are also able to connect with friends and family to see which services they recommend. No anonymity. No false reviews.

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News Round-Up: Your Behavior Sets You Apart

The second installment of our monthly News Round-Up series focuses on behavior and how it impacts the trustworthiness of your business. This past month saw stories and articles written about the consequences of responding poorly to negative reviews and the best practices for avoiding such situations. Here are some of the highlights:

Timothy Geigner, of online publication Techdirt, comments on yet another case of an owner responding to a negative review with legal action. A customer wrote a seemingly genuine testimonial on a popular review site, but it was not accurate according to the shop owner. After the review appeared on Google, the owner enlisted a lawyer to serve the reviewer with a defamation lawsuit. This response escalated the situation to viral levels. Businesses should always beware of the Streisand Effect. This term, stemming from when Barbra Streisand unsuccessfully sued a photographer for uploading a picture of her Malibu mansion to his website, refers to cases when an attempt to suppress information backfires.

It takes some longer to learn than others. Lisa Freedman, a writer for The Knot, reports on the growing trend of wedding vendors adding clauses in contracts preventing clients from writing negative reviews. Sure enough, news of vendors suppressing clients from publishing opinions has reached the masses, to which vendors have responded by advancing the legal jargon. While the threats have certainly been the cause of worry for consumers, they are not founded on an adequate amount of legal precedence to hold up. In contrast, one way to find a trustworthy professional would be to look at how a vendor responds to a poor review. If handled in a mature and reasonable fashion, it’s safe to assume the vendor understands its flaws and aims to correct them.

This type of response coincides with advice from public relations expert Allie Danziger, founder of Integrate Public Relations. She wrote a piece in the Houston Business Journal describing the proper tactics for responding to online reviews. Danziger recommends planning for worst-case scenarios by analyzing your own reviews and those of competitors. Have a plan of action that does not include deleting a review. This involves knowing when to respond publicly versus privately, politely suggesting a reviewer refrain from hyperbolic language, responding within a few hours of the posting, and then making sure to follow up.

Another expert on the matter, Michael Fertik, sat down with Ian Mount of The New York Times to discuss managing one’s online presence. Fertik founded Reputation.com in 2006 around the idea that parents would want to safeguard their children’s online reputation. He quickly found that his service had a far greater appeal to business professionals. When asked how to handle particularly nasty reviews from customers, Fertik cautioned away from responding in kind: “When you wrestle with a pig you both get covered in mud”—a common saying from Kentucky, he says. If the claim by a customer proves to be true, injecting humor into the discussion and including a commitment to regain the trust of customers should be the go-to protocol for a business.

These articles are all in response to a flawed online review system. Businesses and consumers alike have become more aggressive and opinionated online. There may also be confusion when interpreting a review, as a four out of five one place may mean another somewhere else. A system less prone to manipulation and with a more sophisticated rating structure needs to exist.

The intention of online reviews is not to start a battle between businesses and consumers, yet conflicts sometime become an unintended consequence. While both parties should practice a fair amount of restraint, it is the good name of the business at risk. Make sure you have a plan of action for responding to negativity and untrustworthy reviews before you actually encounter a situation. Preparedness facilitates appropriate reactions. The Streisand Effect is a real thing, and discouraging negativity through legal action or responding in equal fashion does more harm to the reputation of your business than a bad testimonial ever could.

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The Power of Networks: How We Found Resources Before Online Reviews

In 2014, when we need a recommendation, most likely we turn to the Internet scrolling through countless postings by total strangers, trying to guess what’s real and what’s not. Recently, the Wyngspan team took a moment to reflect back and ask ourselves this question: What did we do to find a trustworthy professional before the Internet?

Once upon a time, way back in the 1980’s and 1990’s there was this ancient, huge, overwhelming yellow book that contained every businesses number listed alphabetically, in a specific geographic area. While it was nice to have every business listed, this format also meant that Al’s Plumbing service had the better position to rein in a new customer than Zeek’s Plumbing. Also, if Al had purchased a large advertisement, customers may have been more likely to choose his business rather than a better plumber with no ad. The Yellow Pages may have been an overabundance of information without any filters but it was a start.

In addition to the Yellow Pages, there was (and still is) the Better Business Bureau, which really started the review trend. By engaging the BBB, consumers are able to formally report a complaint and then other consumers can investigate if a business had complaints before patronizing it. It shortcomings are primarily that it narrowly focuses on only the negative experiences of consumers with businesses.

Although these two old-school outlets were available before the rise of the Internet, one type of review that has stood the test of time is word-of-mouth recommendations. These occur between our personal networks, including our friends, family members, and colleagues. We have all asked friends for the name of a trustworthy mechanic, landscaper or dry cleaner. We trust the experiences of those within our network.

Back to 2014, when there are too many untrustworthy online reviews sites to count. Wyngspan, however, is different. We are a place that brings the concept of word-of-mouth references to life on the Internet. Instead of texting ten friends to find one business, fill out a Wyngspan profile for a one-stop shop. To learn more about us visit www.wyngspan.com, Follow us on Twitter or Like us on Facebook.

News Round-Up: Calls for Transparency in Business Highlight Importance of Trust

News Round-Up: Calls for Transparency in Business Highlight Importance of Trust

Businesses are constantly making the news for being untrustworthy. Consumers feel they deserve to know the workings behind the products or services they consume. The purpose of our monthly News Round-Up series will be to analyze these events in the hope of sparking conversations about restoring trust in businesses.

Here are some recent stories that caught our eye this month:

Deidre H. Campbell, an executive with the public relations firm Edelman, contributed an article to CNBC outlining five tips for improving trust. She mentions that finance and business continually rank at the bottom of the list of most trusted industries. One of the five methods proposed by Campbell to reverse this is, what she calls, the “surround-sound effect.” In other words, companies should find new channels to echo their messages. With online search being one of the primary ways to consume information, Campbell suggests that a company is better served maximizing the value of its content by delivering tailored material to targeted audiences. She also concludes that transparency has become essential, requiring companies to adapt or lose.

The next article, from CBS MoneyWatch, takes us from Wall Street to Main Street. Journalist Aimee Picchi analyzes how advertising revenue factors in to business rankings on review sites. She quotes Consumer Reports senior editor Jeff Blyskal as saying that when consumers pay money for information, there is an expectation that the source can be trusted. Angie’s List has been facing accusations of tampering with what should be organic search results. Nonetheless, marketing firm Yodle found that a vast majority of consumers still place a high value on positive online reviews. Conversely, sixty-eight percent of small businesses say they couldn’t care less. Seems to be a disconnect here.

James Surowiecki, in his recent column for The New Yorker, warns that brands better start caring. Surowiecki has made career of covering business and financial topics. He argues that businesses face more pressure than ever before to deliver on promises, concluding that any brand is only as good as its last product. The Internet is an empowering tool for the consumer. Surowiecki maintains that a company can no longer rely on brand loyalty to generate profits. Businesses now must compete for the best online endorsements. This is a welcome change for some. Smaller players can now challenge the incumbents. Hidden gems can be discovered by a simple search. Shady business practices are exposed.

While consumers welcome platforms that allow more transparency, they are also smart enough to realize the major flaw in the system. The online review environment is a hive-mind for storytellers. Rachel Feltman, a journalist for Quartz, comments on the discrepancies of consumers’ trust in online reviews. She says, consumers’ level of distrust can be multiplied by the importance of the decision. According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School, forty-three percent of participants did not trust the information provided online about physicians. Asking a family member or friend is still the preferred method for finding a doctor. The risk of facing bad consequences has always factored into decision-making, and the risk of believing a fake review invites further hesitation.

Why should consumers have to settle for reviews from strangers when it’s honest transparency they are searching for? Social proof can be a powerful convincer. Social proof complemented with endorsements from familiar faces—now that’s a solution you can trust.

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Unmasking the Problem with Anonymous Online Reviews

Why do robbers wear masks and spies wear disguises? The reason is simple. It’s because their true identities are protected from backlash or, in some cases, severe punishment. The same is true of online review sites. Giving reviewers the ability to hide behind a mask, or in this case, a screen name, allows them to write things they would never say face-to-face to a businesses owner. It also allows them to exercise hyperbole and, in many cases, just plain lie.

Let’s use the experience one of our executives posted on our Facebook page as an example.

“While managing a restaurant, a guest and his friend came in, one of which was clearly intoxicated. He made his way to the bathroom where he got sick, leaving a mess for staff members to clean. They were asked to leave, as clearly the man required medical attention. It was unsanitary and unsafe for him to be in the restaurant. The sober man was understandably upset, so to calm him down a bit, I explained why his friend had to leave and offered him a gift card and a free appetizer to enjoy upon his next return. He was appreciative, shook my hand and left. Two days later, the same man wrote a one star Yelp review citing he was treated disrespectfully by being asked to leave when he wasn’t even drunk and that the management showed ‘little care’. As usual with Yelp, there was no way to contact this man in an effort to rectify all harsh feelings so we simply had to deal with a very unfair one star rating.”

Face-to-face this patron accepted the gift card, but behind the mask of Yelp, he took aim and got revenge. Whether reviews being posted are accurate or over top in a positive or negative way, people using these reviews to make decisions shouldn’t have to guess.

Wyngspan’s Trust Score system unmasks whether businesses and professionals are trustworthy. No disguises no masks. Just the value of having a review system you can trust.

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The 5 Biggest Problems with Online Reviews

We all know them and, if you are a business owner, you probably fear them. We’re talking about Angie’s List, Yelp, CitySearch and all of the other online review sites out there. While millions use these sites every day to help them make decisions on where to eat, shop, get a check-up and do just about everything else, there are some serious problems everyone should know about before they consider trusting what they are reading.

1) Reviewers are not Average Joes.
Only a small percentage of the population post reviews. Typically, reviewers have to be motivated by an exceptionally good or bad experience to take the time out to write about it. So, not only are the people that post reviews not reflective of the entire population but also their experience probably isn’t representative of the typical interaction with that business. There is an inherent adverse selection problem with online reviews, which makes it tough to believe what you are reading.

2) Lack of context.
Who is the reviewer? Are they related to the doctor they are reviewing? Or did the owner of the business they are posting a negative review of just dump them? All of this data is critical to understanding the context behind the review. Without it, the review simply isn’t trustworthy.

3) Rankings are subjective.
What one reviewer considers a one-star spa might be what someone else considers a four-star business. Without clear criteria at each level there is not an accurate way of determining a scoring system that these review sites are using.

4) Most sites goals are not clear.
What specifically are users looking for in a review? TripAdvisor allows for the filtering of results by price, rankings, location etc. But ultimately for other sites the goal is to find a service or professional that is trustworthy, but the sites do not explicitly call out that goal and reviewers aren’t focused on that specific attribute.

5) The A-Word.
We’re talking about advertising in exchange for better rankings or reviews. Many of the online review sites struggle to turn a profit without having businesses pay to improve their rankings or even get on their lists to begin with. There is no way that an online review or ranking system can be trusted if there is money changing hands between the site and the businesses being reviewed.

Asking your own contacts for their feedback would get you a more accurate picture before patronizing a business or hiring a professional. Until now that wasn’t possible unless you wanted to email, chat or (gasp) call individuals in your network. But with Wyngspan a trustworthy ranking in the form of a Trust Factor is at your finger tips.

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