Many readers will have seen the story about the solicitor who successfully sued their client and won £25,000 in damages, plus an order for Trustpilot to take the offending review down. Is this a strategy that we would advise?
First: here is the offending Trustpilot review:
Second: on what basis did the judge make the award in favor of the claimant (the firm of solicitors)? We will let the judge speak for himself:
To fully appreciate this we need to look at two before-and-after scenarios: on Trustpilot and, far more importantly, on Google.
Before: 7 February 2021 on Trustpilot:
Before: 7 February 2021 on Google
Today, twenty-four hours later, on Trustpilot
The point here is much more a PR question than a legal one. We cannot be positively sure what our exact advice to Summerfield Browne would have been without access to all the facts of the case, but based on the review itself this would have been as follows:
1. Respond to the review on Trustpilot - no need to join or pay Trustpilot, simply respond on the site with a reasoned and reasonable answer to all the points the review raised, remembering not to breach confidentiality and that the reviewer always has the right to post a subsequent review.
2. Adopt a proactive review management strategy to get a consistent flow of reviews to both Google and Trustpilot, with the objective of ensuring that the overwhelming majority of reviews reflect the reality of the business.*
*Bearing in mind that the CMA regulations stipulate that any business inviting reviews must enable all of their customers to do so. See here for more details on this important subject.
But we have no doubt whatsoever that the impact of both the multitude of press coverage plus the company's image in search and on the review sites, both Trustpilot and much more importantly Google - where they had a reasonably clean sheet up until last week - will be detrimental.
- ensure you have a proactive review strategy in place: playing catch-up when things go wrong simply doesn't work. This business will take a long time to recover, even if they do adopt the right strategy going forwards
- have professional advice a phone call away; if a lawyer can get things so wrong, what chance an ordinary business?
- always respond to all reviews. And always take professional advice before responding to complex negative reviews
- There are tens of thousands of businesses like Summerfield Browne, who thought they could safely ignore reviews until something like this happens. Get a considerable presence on the review platforms that matter: Google first and foremost. What is a 'considerable presence'? 100 reviews, minimum.
- Don't pay a reviews site. Google is free, and it is by far the most powerful in terms of reach and influence
- Never resort to litigation unless you are absolutely sure that the negatives aren't outweighed by the advantages.