Online reviews can make or break a company. I have made this type of statement before in previous articles because I have seen it happen. Therefore, I take reviews seriously when I write or read them, but apparently this sentiment is not always shared. Reviews are designed to help people make educated buying decisions, not to attack a business just because they are able to do so. Former customers that get mad and post poor comments have the chance of resolving the matter with the business when they see it. But how does one satisfy a false statement by someone that suddenly picks your Web site one day to review and doesn't like it and makes it appear that your site is potentially fraudulent or untrustworthy? Since my business is fraud prevention, I find this hilarious, but it shows a big problem for businesses that rely on Internet reviews and how fragile it can be to focus online only. I think businesses that rely on reviews as part of their business strategy to petition that review Web sites take more responsibility for reviews being posted when it is clearly not a customer.
Today, I received an email from someone that I don't know by the first name of "Jam" that my company received bad reviews on Yelp.com and he/she could help me remove it. This sounds like someone trying to get business for doing very little. Jam must not realize that I have professional experience handling company accounts for SEO management. Additionally, I have taught students how to create/manage online profiles at Miami-Dade College as an adjunct professor. When I visited the site upon the urging of Jam, I saw only one review by someone named "Derrick," who never used the company services. I find it strange that all the other reviews I saw on his profile were restaurants that he actually visited and tried their food. Those types of reviews are fine because there is an actual experience involved.
However it leads me to wonder, why was my business reviewed in the first place, and why would a non-customer think they could give a fair and honest assessment? Why would Yelp allow this, if they claim to monitor the site? Apparently, this review was posted on January 1st of this year, and I am just finding out about it from a total stranger in March? Why didn't Yelp confirm the review before allowing it to post by phone, if email doesn't work for them? This could cost me business and maybe has already!
People and companies ought to be careful when carelessly posting potentially harmful information. I find this biblical verse to be true, Galatians 6:7, "You will always harvest what you plant." Worst yet, it may come back in a way never expected. This individual gave a point of view that was misleading and decided not to reach out via the Web site where comments are stated as welcomed. Instead, he complained that the Web site didn't have pricing as if it was left off to take advantage of customers ("bait and switch"), but the nature of the business requires a personalized approach because no two ceremonies are the same. The company Web site clearly states this as a factor and there is a price listed within the payment portion, unlike what the reviewer said. On www.jmkflweddings.com the payment page includes a "here" link that takes you to the company's other site www.jmknotaryandservices.org with the package and "No Frills" options, which is the least expensive deal the company has for ceremonies completed in Miami-Dade County.
As for notary service prices, they are fixed by the State of Florida, so there is little need for a price list, if it is the same price and listed on the state's Web site. There is transparency in this business for price because notaries are required by law to give a certain price and may be reported otherwise. The only opportunity for a notary to charge more than the allowable state fee is when he/she travels, and requires reimbursement for materials (i.e., paper). If he had been a client, he would have learned about our price list that can be provided to serious inquiries once more information is gained from them. Luckily, my company is well-established online for over five years with stellar awards for #1 performance, price, and other notables, which some have been featured in reality shows. Although, I worry for new businesses that want to advertise on sites, like Yelp without an established customer base. One bad review may not kill a business, but it is not fair to have a good, or yet to be proven reputation smeared with misleading statements. This behavior can harm small businesses, which have reportedly been driving the economy that helps everyone.
Personally speaking, I take issue with Yelp and the individual in a few areas. I am troubled by the fact that unhelpful non-customer reviews are being listed, Yelp's lack of policy regarding reviews being approved with confirmed notification to the company named in the profile before allowing it to post on the Internet where it never really disappears, and people like Derrick with the lack of courtesy to consider how powerful their words can be for businesses to thrive in an already difficult economy. Notaries are in fraud prevention, so they are generally trustworthy to work with because they are background screened and some go beyond that and become certified to work with bank documents, credit bureaus and government entities. The majority of my business doesn't come from individuals, but from corporations and the government since I have been certified and screened. But, what if it did come from doing work with individuals such as Derrick, I could end up losing business unfairly as Jam is indicating by offering to help me remove the review for JMK Notary & Services in the email I read today.
In conclusion, making reviews that matter is important especially in Miami because of the fraud issues. Miami has been listed as the #1 in fraud in the U.S. Therefore, it is irresponsible for reviewers and review oriented Web sites to allow comments that have little to no merit but can influence potential customers' buying decisions. I hope that Yelp will take action, and remove from their site all reviews such as Derrick's because it doesn't help anyone. Worst of all, it plants a seed of distrust for no good reason that can impede economic recovery. There are enough bad businesses out there to review, so they are the ones that should be spotlighted with evidence of an authentic experience. Additionally, I hope that small businesses take a stand against review sites that avoid accountability and keep doing other marketing strategies as before because the Internet is still too unregulated as my company's experience proves with Yelp. God bless!