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

Marysville theater stages Noel Coward’s timeless ‘Blithe Spirit’

The cast and crew at the Red Curtain Arts Center do a fine job with the 1940s British play.

Stringed instruments get workout at Cascade Symphony concert

Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings” is the orchestra’s first concert of the season.

Animating Van Gogh paintings proves to be trippy yet flawed

“Loving Vincent” relates the circumstances of the great painter’s death.

Confusing, muddled thriller confounds talented director, cast

“The Snowman,” based on a Scandinavian crime novel, suffers from catastrophic storytelling problems.

‘Breathe’ ignores all the inspirational movie cliches

It tells the story of a polio patient and his wife who helped change attitudes about the disabled.

New Edmonds bakery showcases owner’s mastery of pastry

Desserts are the highlight at Ganache Patisserie and Cafe on Main Street near the theater.

What you’ll see Thursday night on Everett, Edmonds art walks

Third Thursday evenings in Everett and Edmonds offer chances for interesting strolls.… Continue reading

Fur & Feathers: 4 lovable dogs need homes

Meet Lola, Sadie, Scooter and Chance

Shrimp and grits, rendered healthful and Italian? We’re in.

This recipe features a sauce made with olive oil, tomatoes and herbs instead of cheese and cream.

Most Read