BBB business tips: Handling customer reviews

Whether good or bad, honest reviews should be welcomed as an opportunity to build trust. Check out these tips on handling reviews at your small business.

Whether good or bad, honest reviews should be welcomed as an opportunity to build trust. Check out these tips on handling reviews at your small business.

By Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland

Open and honest communication is a necessary part of an ethical marketplace. Recently, a settlement from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sparked interest in how businesses handle customer reviews. A California-based online fashion retailer Fashion Nova, LLC was charged with blocking negative reviews of its products and will be required to pay $4.2 million to settle FTC allegations.

Some businesses, in hopes of preventing negative reviews, include illegal non-disparagement clauses in their contracts or terms and conditions, prohibiting customers from public criticism. Businesses may even demand financial compensation or impose fines if a customer fails to comply or engages in public criticism. 

In 2016, the Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA) was passed in response to a rising number of businesses taking action against honest customer criticism. Non-disparagement clauses violate the CRFA, which “protects people’s ability to share their honest opinions about a business’s products, services, or conduct, in any forum, including social media.” In addition, businesses cannot impose fines or otherwise punish customers who engage in public criticism. 

Whether good or bad, honest reviews should be welcomed as an opportunity to build trust. BBB offers these tips for handling reviews for your business:

● Respond and respond promptly. Consistently monitor reviews on various websites, so you can quickly respond to customer comments. Whether the review is good or bad, it is important to respond. According to a BrightLocal survey, 97% of consumers read company responses to reviews. Prospective customers consider the newest reviews to be the most relevant and accurate. 

● Be sure to claim your business profiles. Claim your profiles on as many review platforms as possible. This will allow you to respond to comments and reviews.

● Be respectful when responding to negative comments. Avoid making denials or excuses, even if you have a different perspective on the events. Acknowledge their concerns, apologize for the mistake and illustrate that you value customer feedback as an opportunity for you to improve. 

● Don’t hinder bad reviews. Negative reviews happen, and no matter how damaging negative reviews can be, don’t be tempted to include a non-disparagement clause in your contracts. Non-disparagement clauses can erode consumer trust and could land you in hot water with the FTC.  

● Take it offline. Responding online is important, but it can feel impersonal for a customer. Tell the customer how to contact you, to give you a chance to reach a resolution that makes both you and the customer satisfied.

● Encourage customers to leave reviews on According to a BrightLocal Survey, Better Business Bureau is, by far, the most trusted review site, compared to Facebook and Google. BBB reviews are vetted by BBB team members and sent to the business before they are published online. 

For additional tips and resources, visit to help keep your small business thriving. Contact your Better Business Bureau by calling 216.241.7678 or emailing Interested in becoming BBB Accredited? Find out how you can apply for BBB Accreditation.


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