Rules for writing — and reacting to — online reviews

  • By Angie Hicks
  • Tuesday, August 19, 2014 4:38pm
  • Life

As online reviews become an increasingly common tool to help consumers make everyday decisions, from where to eat to which roofer to hire, it’s important to keep a few basic guidelines in mind.

I’ve been in the consumer-review business for almost 20 years. Here are my top three rules for consumers to consider before sharing a business or service provider experience with the world:

Be honest. You have the right to write truthfully about your experiences. But that right isn’t protected if you fabricate information.

Be fair and objective. State your experience as it happened, without exaggeration or unfounded conclusions.

Be polite. For instance, it’s one thing to say that a painter showed up late and did sloppy work. It’s quite another to call the painter a crook.

Ideally, reviews serve a greater purpose than documenting one person’s experience. They help consumers make better decisions about spending money on home and other services, and they can — if approached properly — help companies fine-tune business practices to better serve customers. But the reality is that people have always discussed their experiences with companies and service providers. Online reviews simply amplify that practice.

Smart business owners pay attention to their online reviews and work to make things right when consumers aren’t happy. Here are my top three rules for how businesses should respond to negative reviews:

Be thoughtful. Don’t react in the heat of emotion. A tactless, angry or defensive response could hurt your business more than a single review.

Be aware. Don’t ignore negative feedback. A thoughtful response that shows you’ve looked into the problem can increase consumer confidence.

Be open. A single bad review every now and again isn’t the end of the world. But a pattern of negative feedback tells you something is wrong and needs attention.

How a business owner responds to reviews, particularly negative ones, tells a prospective customer a lot. I wouldn’t hire someone who’s dismissive of a negative experience, but I would consider a company that works to resolve a problem. I’m even more impressed when a business takes time to respond with thanks to positive reviews.

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

More in Life

‘Last Jedi’ is the best ‘Star Wars’ movie since the first one

This instant-classic popcorn movie makes clever references to the past while embracing the new.

Jesse Sykes brings her evolving sounds to Cafe Zippy in Everett

She and Phil Wandscher make a return trip to a club that she values for its intimacy.

Red wine usually costs more, but you can still find bargains

Here are five good-quality reds that won’t drain your grocery budget.

Beer of the Week: Skull Splitter and Blood of My Enemies

Aesir Meadery of Everett and Whiskey Ridge Brewing of Arlington collaborated to make two braggots.

Beer, wine, spirits: Snohomish County booze calendar

Ugly Sweater Party and Canned Food Drive at Whitewall: Marysville’s Whitewall Brewing… Continue reading

Student winners to perform concertos with Mukilteo orchestra

This annual show is a partnership with the Snohomish County Music Teachers Association.

‘Ferdinand’ a modern take on the beloved children’s story

The lovable bull is back in an enjoyable but spotty animated film from the makers of “Ice Age.”

Playwright alleges misconduct by Hoffman when she was 16

A classmate of Dustin Hoffman’s daughter says the actor exposed himself in 1980.

Art mimicks reality in engrosing ‘On the Beach at Night Alone’

The Korean film tells the story of an actress recovering from an affair with a married director.

Most Read