The Real Reason That Review Incentives Are Bad

I’ve written in the past about review incentives and the risks they involve. While a big part of this can be the legal risks you open your business up to, there are other outcomes that just might be even worse.

risk review incentives

Review Incentive Examples (What Not To Do)

My wife visited her dentist the other day and noted a sign in the lobby offering a $10 discount on her next visit if she left the dentist a review. She had heard me before talking about how a business might have their reviews taken down, have their business listing publicly shamed by the review sites or even have the business fined heavily by the NY State Attorney General.

On her next visit she dropped off my previous article on the negatives of review incentives. It was obvious that her dentist had had no idea of the risks and he immediately took down his signage. All is well that ends well although I suppose that my wife gets demerits for not pitching him on the idea of GetFiveStars. Go figure. 🙂

In roughly the same timeframe I took my iPhone to Buffalo, NY to get it repaired. It was a Saturday and I found a small, husband and wife home based repair service that accommodated us, did a convenient early evening repair by appointment and had us in and out in 30 minutes. All very inexpensively as well.

When I left the husband handed me his loyalty and review incentive card noting that I would get my 6th repair for free and “enjoy $5.00 off [my] next visit for each review”.

Yelp offer card

In a rush I didn’t say anything but the next day, in writing a review on Yelp I saw a blistering albeit unreasonable review … but in reading it I realized that there was something worse than being publicly shamed by Yelp or being fined by the NYS Attorney general for review incentives…being shamed by a customer.

Yelp consumer alert

The display of a Yelp notice (example above) accusing you of incentives on your listing goes away after 90 days. While the sting of a government fine might persist, the public furor surrounding the announcement of the NYS Attorney General subsides in a few weeks.

We live in a society with a 15 minute news cycle and within six months the notoriety slips away and no one remembers that it was your business.

In this review, that otherwise might have been otherwise perceived as a rant and discounted, the poster said:

“The real red flag was after she told me about the two week warranty. Tessa told me if I leave a nice review on Facebook, Yelp, or Google I will be refunded $5. So all of the positive reviews left to her (the reason I chose to do business with her in the first place) are essentially paid for. I felt a little irked and deceived by that but ultimately was relieved I had my phone back and functioning.”

review incentive yelp

This negative review will sit near the top of the heap at Yelp for a long, long time and thus the accusation is visible for a very long time. The reviewer was annoyed that she was being charged full price again for having dropped her iPad, again. It was a screed that would have normally been written off by most readers (although the wife’s behavior left something to be desired) but her statement about the review incentive rang true and, in fact, was true.

While one might be able to ignore her review, her comment, in one brief moment, called into question the credibility all of the other reviews and all reviews that the business will get well into the future.

It also called into question the integrity of the business and its owners. And did so in a way that carried weight. That to me, is worse than the temporary shame brought upon your business by Yelp or the Attorney General.

Review Incentives Can Motivate A Bad Review

Most customers are reasonable, most are honest, most are kind. But you will have the very few that are both unreasonable and looking for someone else to blame. Offering a review incentive will give them that scapegoat. All of their failures will be pinned on you. And given the chance or a reason to call your ethics into question, they will. Its that call out that might cause your business more damage than anything.

Don’t give those rare customers the grist for their anger mill. Resist the temptation to incentivize your reviews. You will be glad you did.

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