Yelp, like most social platforms, has its pros and cons. It’s great for all kinds of businesses to get their name out there, and not just restaurants. I found my co-working space on Yelp. I found a garage door service company on Yelp. I found a gas fireplace technician on Yelp. Do you need a cat groomer who also offers respectable tax advice? That business is probably and Yelp and you can learn if it’s worth a damn or not.
However, a breathless, preposterous Yelp review can tarnish a business’s reputation unfairly. These are most common on restaurant reviews; if a server looks away from the wrong Yelper just a little too quickly, this can result in a 2,000 word screed about how the server “Ignored our table the entire evening” and that the reviewer “Wouldn’t return to this dump with a gun to my head.”
Anyway, I mentioned a story of a California tax preparer a couple weeks back who sued Yelp to obtain the identity of a user who wrote a defamatory review. This prompted a reader to write in about his firm’s own Yelp misadventure:
Earlier this year, a client went onto Yelp to complain about the quality of our services provided to her. Fortunately for us, she also posted the same review word-for-word on our Facebook page. As a result, we were able to look into what happened and you’ll be shocked to know the client was largely in the wrong.
At this point, our tipster said that the situation was made only slightly worse by a willful partner. The tale continues:
Long story short, she (and her husband) failed to provide a 1099 to us, so some income was excluded from their return. The husband realized the mistake two months after they filed, and they asked us to fix it. We said that since it was their fault (the husband admitted he forgot to give us the 1099 in question), we would be charging them to amend the return. This sent the woman into a rage, and after several heated emails back and forth, she did the rational thing and took her complaints to the internet.
There’s nothing quite like a client who takes “The customer is always right” to the extent that they discharge themselves of any responsibility or competence. This is especially effective on the internet where you can bitch endlessly about the injustice you’ve suffered merely because you can.
Accounting firms depend on their reputation to secure their clients but also as a matter of winning new ones. If a bad review like this one goes unchallenged, then what’s lost is virtually unmeasurable. You’d think that most firms would mount a vigorous defense of their honor, but in my experience, many are scared stiff to respond. As if responding to allegations somehow makes them valid or shows weakness.
This firm, fortunately, did not go gentle into that good night. Here’s our tipster’s conclusion:
In any case, had she not posted on Facebook we likely wouldn’t have been able to respond in any way to the allegation, leaving our reputation out there twisting in the wind, but we were able to respond on both platforms (Yelp and Facebook) with our side of the story.
How each firm responds to its online nemesis is a matter of preference. Of course, if you know the identity of the client, you could always call them up and talk to them in IRL, but if that sort of personal touch makes you nervous, there are other options.
A ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ may suffice, however, this could be perceived as slapdash or flippant. If you offer your side of the story, be sure not to match the emotional tone of the OP, so not to come off defensive. And if you did screw up and the scorned client is right, try apologizing. That’s usually a decent way to go. But don’t ignore a (seemingly) serious complaint. The internet is forever, you know.
Have you had a confrontation with a client online? How did you handle it? Share the gory details below or email us the story.