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

Beer and cupcakes: Snohomish brewer, baker form unlikely duo

Pacific Northwest Cupcakes uses SnoTown’s brews to make beer-infused sweet treats.

The art and science of weathervanes

They told the direction of the wind and aided in forecasting the, well, weather.

Hundreds of ways to pamper your home and yourself

Find fancy fridges to sparkling jewelry under one roof at home and gift shows in Everett.

This is exactly how a cleaning expert organizes her space in 20 minutes

Try these realistic and attainable tricks to land yourself a cleaner home.

Snohomish brewer flavors beer with chilies from mom’s back yard

Beer of the Week: Smoked rye forms sturdy foundation for SnoTown’s well-balanced Loose Rooster.

Fall is just another blooming season

October can be a time of spectacular colors in your garden.

Woodward Canyon Winery continues to weave masterpieces

Owner Rick Small uses grapes from vines he used when he made wine in his back yard in the 1970s.

Great Plant Pick: Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo,’ purple-leaf ninebark

Grow it with shrub roses and perennials, and it combines with with ornamental grasses.

Beer, wine, spirits: Snohomish County booze calendar

Dash to Diamond Knot: Flying Unicorn Racing is teaming up with Mukilteo’s… Continue reading

Most Read