In our customer-driven digital world, online reviews have become an important part of customers’ decision-making process. Good reviews will most likely drive customers to a brand, while bad or negative reviews can cause seriousl damage. They are, in turn, a vital marketing piece for businesses.
But when a business decides to take control of online customer reviews, things can turn ugly.
Case in point: Meriton Serviced Apartments (Meriton).
Last week, the Federal Court found that Meriton engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct in connection with the posting of reviews of its properties on the TripAdvisor website.
Meriton attempted to prevent its disgruntled customers from giving negative reviews on TripAdvisor by inserting extra letters into guests’ email addresses – ensuring that these guests never received TripAdvisor’s ‘Review Express’ prompt emails.
“The Court found that Meriton, at the direction of management, deliberately implemented a strategy to minimise the number of negative reviews its guests posted on TripAdvisor,” Sarah Court, ACCC Commissioner said.
Rather than trying to resolve customer issues and ensure better customer experience, Meriton attempted to manipulate the overall impression of customer reviews on TripAdvisor. But, brushing customer issues under the carpet is unlikely to lead to greater customer experience and engagement – a key brand-differentiator for success in the marketplace today.
The Court’s decision should send a strong message to all marketers and brands, that they must not undermine the integrity of customer review processes as this conduct could mislead or deceive consumers, and be in breach of Australian Consumer Laws.
Brands must develop clear strategies and processes to deal with reviews, especially negative ones, to ensure that they do not mislead or deceive consumers. Having a clear plan around managing reviews on all online platforms where customers are able provide reviews of a service or product, such as social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, is key to maintaining brand reputation.
Rather than ignoring existing issues, companies and brands need to address customer concerns in an open and transparent way. This approach could lead to greater consumer engagement and demonstrate to consumers that your brand cares about delivering great customer experience.
ADMA promotes best practice through its Code of Practice, which requires that Members must treat customers fairly (principle 1), be honest and not mislead consumers, whether through omission, exaggeration or other means (principle 6).
We also have a number of compliance tools and resources on misleading and deceptive conduct, so make sure you check them out below.