4 Tips For Handling Bad Reviews

These suggestions from an attorney (who specializes in remodeling) may surprise you

November 29, 2021
how to handle bad review

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Tip #1: Remember Your TRUE Audience

The first thing that I tell a contractor that calls me to discuss a negative review is that you are not trying to draft your response to convince the homeowner that you were correct and that the homeowner was wrong.

Your audience is all of the other readers of the review, not the homeowner. In most situations, you have already lost the business of the homeowner. The purpose of your response is convincing the other readers that the homeowner is incorrect and that you, the contractor, are correct. 


RELATED: What Rights Do Remodelers Have When Clients Refuse To Pay?


 

Tip #2: Do Not Be Emotional

The purpose of the homeowner writing a negative comment is to harm the contractor or provide the homeowner some type of leverage in future negotiations. For example, the homeowner may say, "If you provide me a discount, I will remove the negative review." As an attempt to make the contractor look as bad as possible, the homeowner may use emotional, hyperbolic language. 

 

fake online review

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The contractor’s response should be objective, not emotional. An emotional response tends to indicate to other readers that the contractor is not in control or does not have facts to support their position. Everyone has read a response or series of responses between contractors and homeowners where it breaks down and essentially becomes a “pissing match” between the homeowner and contractor.

In those situations, the contractor ALWAYS loses. The reason that the contractor loses in these situations is because the contractor is the only one that has something to lose (i.e., other clients). The other readers will avoid a contractor who falls into this trap. 

When I write responses for a client, I draft the response as though I was delivering the argument/response to a judge or a jury in a courtroom. I use persuasive objective statements that make it difficult for the homeowner to dispute the statement. In addition, by using objective statements, it makes the homeowner’s complaint appear unreasonable. Typically, the other readers will side with whomever has a more reasonable position.

The importance of writing a well-reasoned response cannot be understated.  

An emotional response tends to indicate to other readers that the contractor is not in control or does not have facts to support their position.

Tip #3: Legal Options

Many homeowner reviews cross over the line between legally allowed reviews to illegal defamation. As a result, and in conjunction with drafting a response that goes online, I will typically send a cease-and-desist letter.

A cease-and-desist letter states that the homeowner has defamed the contractor and that the homeowner has a set time period to remove the post or else the contractor will pursue a lawsuit. When the cease-and-desist letter comes from a law firm, the homeowner tends to take the demand and the threat of a lawsuit seriously. In my experience, cease-and-desist letters work well to convince the homeowner to remove the post.

If the cease and desist does not result in the homeowner removing the post and if the post meets the legal elements of defamation in your state, you may consider a lawsuit to have the post removed and/or to have the homeowner pay for the damages you suffered as a result of the defamatory posts. 

 

lawyer bad review

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Tip #4: Non-Disparagement Clauses in Contracts

Many clients ask me, “Can I just put in my contract a clause that says that the homeowner cannot post negative reviews (what lawyers refer to as a non-disparagement clause)?" The simple answer is NO! The problem is that there is a federal law called the Consumer Review Fairness Act, which prohibits non-disparagement clauses in “form” contracts.

Typically, contractors use a contract that was either drafted by the owner or an attorney that they use for all of their construction projects. Those types of contracts typically would qualify as a form contract. The Consumer Review Fairness Act is enforceable by the attorney general. There are several cases where the attorney general goes after companies that use non-disparagements in their contracts. Before adding a non-disparagement clause to your contract, speak to a knowledgeable attorney. 

 

If you have further questions about this topic, feel free to contact our office.

Disclaimer: What kind of lawyer would I be if this article did not contain disclaimers? Please note that nothing above is considered legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. Your rights will depend on your specific facts and your particular state laws. Any results or outcomes stated above cannot be relied on for future results or outcomes. 
 

About the Author


About the Author


Thomas Croessmann is the managing partner of Croessmann & Westberg, P.C., a construction law firm that focuses on representing residential and commercial contractors with all aspects of their business. Thomas Croessmann can be reached at twc@cwattorney.com or by phone at (703) 483-3550.

Comments

Comments

I enjoyed Thomas Croessmann's Article on this subject. One of the best set of suggestions I've seen in the industry yet. Good, practical suggestions.

I agree with Thomas about not being emotional when responding to reviews. However, making an argument/response in my opinion is not advisable. It's a no win even if you are right. We respond to all reviews respectfully with the approach "less is more". I also recommend drafting your response and holding it until the next day to avoid saying something you will later regret. Always answer negative reviews empathically and apologetically. We often hear from our customers that they appreciated our responses which means a lot to us.

The most frustrating and difficult reviews to handle are those from Yelp!. Most of our negative reviews are from consumers that are not our customers. Sometimes they are callers who request a service that we do not provide, or their budget is unrealistic. Yelp! allows those reviews while suppressing/filtering authentic reviews for actual clients. Generally, Yelp! does not deliver qualified prospects for our service. It's just disappointing to have a 4 star reputation on Yelp!, when everywhere else we are 5.

Debating or litigating against a consumer and attempting to make them appear unreasonable will likely not turn out to be a win or work to get the review taken down. If you have thoughts of fighting bad reviews with legal action, that will only exacerbate the problem, cost you time and money. In the end, you will just create bad will.

i have a bad review by someone i don't know and never worked for.
should I just ignore it?

Hi Fred,

I would not ignore any review. My suggestion is to politely reply that you don't know this person and they are not a customer. I would also reach out to the review platform and ask them to remove it.

Best!
Gregg Cantor
Murray Lampert Design, Build, Remodel
www.murraylampert.com

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