Everyone has a voice and these days, everyone has valuable tool to broadcast their voice and that tool is the Internet. Tune in as Chris Bucholtz, Editor-in-Chief of CRM Outsiders, joins Brent Leary to explore customer relationship and online reputation management, and one case in particular, the Casey Movers threat on Yelp.
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Small Business Trends: Chris, can you tell us a little bit about the case of the Casey Movers Yelp threat ?
Chris Bucholtz: I wrote a piece on CRM Outsiders  about Yelp and about how customers are getting more sophisticated about what they see in terms of comments.
Customers are learning to use it better. But for some reason, certain businesses simply are not learning how to use this or know what the etiquette is. Frankly, in this case, I think the company brought a little bit of bad manners along with them to the social media world.
Here is the situation. A customer and his parents had an experience with an outfit called Casey Movers. There were some issues with the move and some things got broken.
Small Business Trends: Moving is stressful. When you are the child of elderly parents getting ready to make a big move and they are really depending on you to help out, you turn to a moving company that you hope will make this experience as easy on them as possible.
Chris Bucholtz: And it wasn’t. It wasn’t the parents that put the Yelp review up. It was the son’s wife. It was a negative review and time passed.
Small Business Trends: A lot of time passed.
Chris Bucholtz: Eighteen months passed. That’s eons in business.
Small Business Trends: Let me read the letter that came a year and a half after the Yelp review. I have to stress the time here because it didn’t ask how can we make it better? What can we do to alleviate this situation? If they were really interested in helping, they would have done it well before a year and a half, correct? Here’s some of the letter sent to the customer:
“While we appreciate constructive feedback, it is Casey Movers firm belief that your review is unnecessarily damaging to the company and to the employees and families that this company supports.
Although, we respect that you may have opinions regarding the service, Casey Movers shall not be damaged by following Federal moving procedures as this review is unnecessarily deceiving to future clients.
I am politely asking you to remove the review. Please be advised that if the review remains online, Casey Movers will be filing a libel suit against you in which you must travel to Hingham District Court in Hingham, Massachusetts as a defendant.”
Chris Bucholtz: This is a letter sent to the customer. So these people saw this review and actually took the time and trouble to look up the information on the customer – so they could write them and deliver this wonderful letter telling them that they are going to be sued if they did not change their Yelp review.
Small Business Trends: And it’s from a sales manager. Not a legal counsel, not the president of the company, simply a sales manager.
Chris Bucholtz: Yes. This is exactly the way NOT to do it. You are essentially blaming the victim. You have already caused some problems with these people and you have already made them an unhappy customer.
Trying to intimidate people leaving reviews on Yelp, asking them to take their reviews down or modifying their review, is a little bit unsavory.
Small Business Trends: Everything has been done wrong. The question is, given this history, what could a company do differently?
Chris Bucholtz: l think the first thing to do is reach out to the customer who is wronged and try to make it right with them. Just be creative in engaging directly with the customer in a forthright way and if something went wrong, admit it went wrong. The customer was there. The customer is the one making the judgment call about how well you did.
In situations like this is when it comes to Yelp, every now and then, you’ll get a negative review. It’s just the way it works. If you run a business, you’ll get a negative review here and there. Don’t freak out.
The people who are motivated to write either had a really good time, or had a really bad time. Customers who are reading Yelp nowadays are a lot smarter than they used to be. It is not a thing where they fixate on the one bad review out of 30. You have 29 positives and one bad one – don’t fixate on the bad one.
Small Business Trends: This brings up a conversation I had with the CEO of a company called Boloco, a burrito chain. John Pepper said something I will always remember. He said, “When we get criticism for our service from a customer, I view it as one of the best opportunities we can get. Because that allows us an opportunity to build a relationship if we respond accordingly, fast, and show that we intend to change and do it better the next time.”
When you look at Casey Movers, threatening customers is never a good thing. Being a year and a half late to respond to a customer request, or a customer criticism is never a good thing. You have to be responsive and you have to be open to working with the customers. Not trying to force them to change their negative opinion of a negative experience.
Why not focus on changing the negative experience instead?
Chris Bucholtz: Exactly. There are certain things that you have control of. Once something goes up on social media, you don’t have control over it anymore. But you can control your reaction to it and you can control it in a way that is positive, as a lot of companies are doing these days, and taking the customer’s input to heart and using it to improve the way to do business.
Small Business Trends: You have to be a company that creates a culture of wanting to listen to the customer. A lot of companies haven’t. They talk a good game, but when it comes down to it, when it gets to the negative Yelp review, all bets are off.
Chris Bucholtz: Reviews can be stinging. But in this case, I think the pain really came from the response – not from the actual review itself.
Small Business Trends: It came from the sales manager and it came a year and a half late. By the way, not only did the Yelp commenter not take down the comment – she added another review .
This interview about online reputation is part of the One on One interview series  with some of the most thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This interview has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click on the player above.