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Handling a negative review posted online

How often do you go online to vet a restaurant you’re interested in by looking at the reviews of what people have posted? Generally, most of the reviews are positive, but the ones that aren’t may range from just minor complaints to ones that sound serious enough to make you steer clear of that restaurant. For many enterprises, a highly negative comment could be quite damaging to its reputation.

In the collection industry, there will always be negative complaints from debtors. Like looking at the reviews of a restaurant, most complaints are probably not serious enough to be troubling, but occasionally a complaint has the potential to be quite damaging – and perhaps completely undeserved. The collection agency or attorney under attack may wonder whether it is it worth responding to a significantly negative comment.

Why we should.

Responding can:
  • Help you set the record straight, especially if the content of the complaint is severely inaccurate
  • Allow you to recognize that a mistake or problem had indeed existed, and that a public apology would be viewed as a very respectable reaction
  • Humanize the “scary” collector or attorney by removing stereotypes about collection professionals and entities
  • Defend your business’s reputation in a public forum from a libelous claim
If complaints concern you, be proactive and find where reviews of your company are posted. If they’re in places where potential or current clients could be influenced by their content, it might justify considering some action.

Why we shouldn’t.

Responding to a negative claim may turn out to be more trouble than it’s worth, with the possibility of backfiring against you. A response might:
  • Legitimize the complaint and give some notoriety to the debtor
  • Lead you into a frustrating back and forth with an irrational or angry participant
  • Take too much time from other productive pursuits
  • Be inadvisable from a legal standpoint
Negative reviews that are serious enough to invite response are likely rare and not usually the top concern for many legitimate collection professionals and entities. But should it seem necessary at some point to make a response, take care to seek means most likely to generate positive results. Pick your battles wisely.

Thomas W. Hamilton more

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