Customer reviews are the backbone of organic, online word of mouth. That's what many shoppers rely upon before making a purchasing decision. There are several case studies and research that show a solid connection between Web-based customer ratings tools and business growth.
Then there are those that post negative comments - based in truth or not. And those that sue them and the sites that host the comments, claiming the postings had a negative impact on their business. Recently, the social networking site Yelp, where users share local finds, was the subject of two lawsuits as such. A lawyer and a dentist attempted to sue people who wrote negative reviews about them on Yelp and the social networking site itself. The cases seem to have been settled. Yelp is not responsible for the negative posts, thanks to a safe harbor law.
These incidents draw more attention to the negative posts and create the opposite effect by generating more negative buzz than its worth. The negative news do not only affect the suing parties. They create a halo effect for those who want to raise their voices or provide balanced reviews to their online peers. If these types of lawsuits increase and get in the headlines, would consumers be as willing to post their honest opinions? Would they post at all?
Studies show that most online customer reviews are actually positive in nature. Those who post act out of concern for others. Businesses actually benefit from genuine comments on their products and services. The better way to respond to a negative comment online would be to juxtapose it with positive reviews and factual content. The better way to do business would be to do right by the customers and joining their conversations.