Be fair, objective when reviewing a service provider online

  • By Angie Hicks
  • Tuesday, June 17, 2014 2:33pm
  • Life

Online sites that allow consumers to describe or rate their experiences with contractors and other service providers are a fact of modern life.

But there are those who try to prevent consumers from putting reviews on sites like Angie’s List. You can imagine that, as founder, I bristle when I hear about members and other consumers being asked to sign a contract that includes what’s legally known as a “non-disparagement clause.” I would call it a gag order, pure and simple.

I believe service providers should never ask customers to surrender the right to free speech. This became an issue for me a few years ago, when my team learned that a few doctors were asking patients to waive the right to post online reviews about their experiences with the physician.

Negative reviews are a legitimate concern for companies. But a reputable contractor shouldn’t fear hearing the truth about what customers’ experience. On the other hand, I don’t think customers should consider a company’s periodic negative review to be a deal-breaker. Nobody’s perfect, and what matters most, in my opinion, is how a company responds to customer feedback.

It’s also important that consumers play fair when posting reviews or comments. Here are my cardinal rules:

  • Keep it honest.
  • Keep it objective.
  • Keep it polite.

If you’re describing a negative experience, provide constructive criticism when possible. Don’t negatively label someone. It’s one thing to say that someone showed up late and did sloppy work. It’s quite another to call him a crook.

Keep in mind that review sites are not equal. Many allow anonymous reviews; ours does not. In addition, we allow service providers to respond to reviews.

I take seriously the right of consumers to freely communicate about their service experiences. If my team learns that a company is requesting speech restrictions, we contact them. If the behavior continues, we won’t allow the company to remain available to searches of our site.

Online reviews can play a part in improving the overall experience that consumers have with their local service providers. Positive reviews tell a business what’s working. Negative ones give them a chance to make things better.

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews at www.angieslist.com.

More in Life

Leanne Smiciklas, the friendly lady who served customers of her husband’s Old School Barbeque from a schoolbus parked in front of the Reptile Zoo east of Monroe, has died at 64. (Dan Bates / Herald file)
Without her, beloved BBQ hotspot in Monroe can’t go on

Leanne Smiciklas, who ran the now-closed Old School BBQ along Highway 2 with her husband, died.

Taylor Johnston waters a philodendron at her home on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Three guidebooks to help the novice houseplant gardener

Indoor plants are popular again — and we’re not talking about your grandma’s African violets.

Plant of Merit: Fatsia japonica ‘Variegata,’ Japanese aralia

What: Fatsia japonica ‘Variegata,’ or variegated Japanese aralia, is an evergreen shrub… Continue reading

Don’t call Justice Brewing owner a gypsy — he’s just ‘homeless’

After an unexpected hardship, owner Nate McLaughlin won’t be moving his brewery to downtown Everett.

A mild December makes for easy winter cleanup in the garden

If you haven’t finished your November gardening tasks, here’s a list of chores to do this month.

Beer of the Week: Justice Brewing’s Outlook F——d, Northeast IPA

The brewery’s new beer with a vulgar name is a tropical IPA that riffs off its Outlook Hazy recipe.

Yummy Banh Mi offers cheap sandwiches with rich flavor

Classic Vietnamese meets fast food at new restaurant in downtown Everett.

Could a law to bring down the mob be used in Weinstein case?

The federal anti-racketeering law was drafted to bring down organized crime but it isn’t limited to it.

This author is throwing a virtual party for book lovers

Jennifer Bardsley is hosting a Facebook get-together for young-adult book authors and readers.

Most Read