Last week, the guys behind TWiP (This Week in Photos)
tackled the issue of photographers who were suing clients who gave them bad reviews. In this day and age, when social media and the Internet are major ways for new and established photographers to get the word out about their works, a negative review on Yelp or on their Facebook or G+ page can cause all kinds of headaches.
That said, suing a bad reviewer is probably the worst way to handle such a thing unless you can prove that he was maliciously defaming you as a photographer (and even that can be tough to prove in the United States). Instead, there are better strategies to employ to handle a negative review. We'll share some of them with you in this post as they are often things we use in our Customer Support efforts.
1) First things first, familiarize yourself with the Streisand Effect
. Oftentimes lawsuits, takedown orders, or other negative reactions to a bad review can draw more attention to the review (and to your reaction) than just ignoring the review. So, if you're going to go after a negative reviewer, it's better to either resolve the issue with them or to show their demands to be unreasonable in the extreme than it is to try to quash the review.
2) Read the review and consider the issue. You may often be forced to ask the client to provide more information. Sometimes the review will be "DON'T TRUST THIS PERSON." So, you'll need to try to coax out of them what it was that upset them and see what you can do to make them feel better. This may sometimes necessitate you to smile and bear it when the customer says that you should know exactly why they are upset. If they do this, simply apologize for not being able to remember exactly what may have upset them but restate that you would like to know so that you can see what you can do to make it right.
3) Take time to research the issue. If you recommended a specific brand of camera or gear
and a client who followed your advice shows up screaming about how terrible your suggestions are, ask them to provide the exact models they're using. Sometimes newer stuff has some bugs to work out in the software and firmware. Point them to solid tutorials online. Look to see if their problems are known issues and, if so, point them to support forums.
4) Encourage your clients to leave reviews but never force them to do so -- Reviews are something that should be offered, not forced. Some businesses think they can drum up great reviews by making reviewing them a required step. Most of these businesses have learned the hard way that trying to force someone to do something is a great way to score a negative review.
5) Don't ever sock-puppet. Don't ask your family and friends to leave you false reviews and testimonials. It's better to be unreviewed than it is to have your spouse or parent be the only ones giving you a review.
6) Talk to the client at the end of every session or step and see if they have any feedback. Sometimes a lot of negative reviews could be prevented by stopping and doing a five minute re-shoot the day of the problem!
-- da Bird