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Napa, CA 94559

Online Reviews

Dear Mary, I recently found out that a customer left a bad review of my company on a review website. Is there anything I can do about it?

As a business owner, it can be daunting to know that customers can post reviews of your business at any time, with very little oversight by the host website.

Word of mouth continues to be the best, most cost-effective advertising any business can use. With the growth of online review sites such as Yelp, word of mouth has become even more popular and people are rating everything from their plumber to their dentist. Many people are skipping the Yellow Pages and heading straight for the Internet.

But what if a rogue customer gives you a critical or hostile review, or worse — a review with false content?

If you can prove that a malicious review contains untrue statements, your first step should be to contact the review site and ask them to remove the posting.

Unfortunately, review sites are very wary of removing postings. As an alternative, several sites, such as Yelp, allow business owners to respond to reviews directly.

If you read that someone has had a bad experience with your business, and you don’t believe that the review is false, you may want to contact that reviewer directly and offer amends. An apology and a gift certificate, discount, or invitation to try the business again can go a long way.

On the other side of the coin, you may also want to thank reviewers who have given you great reviews. Use their generous words on your website, brochures and other marketing materials.

Contrary to what you might think, buying advertising on a review website will not affect the content of your reviews. However, encouraging your customers or clients to review your products or services can be extremely beneficial. One bad rating won’t affect you as much if you have a dozen or more high ratings. And don’t underestimate having the highest rating among your type of business in your geographic area.

People will post reviews of your business whether you want them to or not. Try not to take it too personally, and understand that you can’t please everyone. Google yourself regularly to find out what people are saying about your business and make sure review sites have your correct information.

Online review websites offer a huge potential for you to update the way you promote and market your business. The instant feedback on these sites is also an opportunity for you to listen to your customers and improve your services or products.

Mary Luros is a business law attorney with Hudson & Luros, LLP, in Napa, and can be reached at or 418-5118. The information provided here is not intended as legal advice, nor does it form an attorney-client relationship with the author. The author makes no representations as to the reliability or accuracy of the above information. In a perfect world we wouldn’t need disclaimers — or attorneys.

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