Posted On
March 4, 2018

Here’s What Happened When One Reputation Manager’s Dog Got Fleas

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This is a tale of how a series of strange and unfortunate events culminated in a negative online review, customer service woes, a business owner who did the exact opposite of handling a negative review correctly, and…. a lot of fleas.

Yes, fleas.

As a professional at RepCheckup, who focuses on the impact online reviews make, I was surprised that I hadn’t covered a particularly cringeworthy experience. So, this blog will delvie into that situation and breaking down how much of an impact a negative review can have on a business owner – and how to properly handle that situation.

Setting the Scene: Why Negative Reviews Happen

The year was 2015 and I was halfway through my graduate studies in the sunny city of Tampa, Florida. I had an afternoon off and decided to book my little dog, a maltese named Maurice, for a grooming appointment to tame his ever-unruly fur.

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Instead of doing in-depth research on what groomer to go with, I typed “Groomer” into the Google Maps app on my phone and made the short drive to the closest location. Upon arriving, everything was fine and professional. By the time I picked my dog up, his cut was well-done and I had no complaints.

By all counts, this transaction was a success – I left a happy customer, snapping pictures of my dog to post on my Instagram.

….So what went wrong?

In a nutshell: fleas. Lots of them.

That night, I noticed my dog was running around my apartment, frantically scratching himself. Turns out that the poor little guy was covered in a very sudden flea infestation.

The next morning, I called the groomer and explained what I noticed once we got home and asked if they could do something for the fleas. Instead, I was told that my one option was to buy flea medication from the store and the issue was left at that.

So I did what any disappointed customer would do: I took to the web and left a review.

Negative Reviews are Like a Flea Infestation: They Need to be Treated

Though I don’t have my specific negative review anymore (more to come on why this is later in the blog), I remember that I left a detailed review saying that the grooming job was great and I was only looking to find a solution for the fleas. In fact, I ended the review with a sentiment along the lines of “Once this situation is solved, I’ll happily update this to a positive review.”

In a perfect world, this icky situation should have been resolved relatively painlessly.

Preventing negative reviews is key because, like flea infestations, they will need to be treated in order to solve the problem once it begins.

No one likes their pet crawling with parasites just like no business owner likes their professional profiles on platforms, like Google My Business, to be teeming with negative reviews.

At RepCheckup, we’re big proponents of business owners taking all feedback to heart. If someone leaves a good review aimed at one particular employee, go congratulate them! If a negative review is left, take a look at the truth behind the situation and work to improve.

A major component of managing your online reviews is responding appropriately to make sure the situation is resolved professionally. Our software will help you manage your online reputation. It’s absolutely correct that the customer isn’t always right, but you must keep in mind that someone reading that online review (and your response) won’t know the context and won’t know the “truth” of the situation.

How a Future Online Reputation Manager Got Bullied into Removing a Review

A few hours after leaving the review, I called the groomer again and was more direct with that I wanted, which was a flea bath for my dog. The girl at the front desk simply said “Oh, YOU’RE the one.” and transferred me to the owner. Safe to say that wasn’t a good sign of things to come.

In the perfect RepCheckup world, this business owner would have inquired into the situation and offered a refund or resolution to my comments in the negative review. In the real world, I got yelled at and told that I was a liar and that my house was filthy (this is a great time to #humblebrag and say that my house has always been immaculate). However, the owner noted, if I removed the negative review then I could come in and get a refund.

Because of how aggressive the phone interaction was, I brought a friend with me when I went to pick up the refund. The owner passed by us teresy and slammed the door as he left the building. Despite the exchange being super awkward, I got my refund and we headed to my car. That’s when we saw that the owner was in his car, window rolled down, staring at us, and blocking my car in. As soon as we got closer, he sped away and that was that.

For years, I’ve jokingly referred to this experience, but haven’t considered leaving another review for this business. However, I will talk about what went wrong.

Business Owners Need to Look at the Bigger Picture When it Comes to Online Reviews

As a part of my research for this blog, I actually looked the business up again and took a look at their Google My Business profile.

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On first glance, this groomer is actually doing a fantastic job managing their online reputation. In fact, they have the highest number of reviews and even have Q&A’s listed on their Google My Business profiles. It’s likely that the good ratings and close proximity to my home helped me make my decision to go there, like the great majority of people do when searching for a business locally.

However, there’s more to this than meets the eye. And this is something that, as a business owner and customer, you should be very aware of.

Make Sure You’re Responding to Reviews Properly

Humans are emotional creatures and no one in perfect, but you must refrain from posting an emotional response to any review left on your profile. We’ve previously discussed how mishandling customer feedback can turn into a nightmare, like it did for Amy’s Bakery, where the owner often screamed at customers even after Gordon Ramsay did his best to solve the problems present.

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There are a few main pointers that we recommend our clients to keep in mind if they are managing their own online reputations and are responding to online reviews left on their profiles:

  1. Avoid leaving personal information in your response
  2. Do your research to find out if they were a customer
  3. Respond in a friendly and professional manner
  4. Understand that the customer is not always right, but a future reader won’t know that
  5. Invite them to discuss the problem privately, via email, phone, or in person

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As you can see in the reviews showcased here, there’s a lot going on and the owner is doing the right thing and responding to the majority of reviews left on the business’s profiles. However, each response veers off course by including personal information, such as payment history, vaguely threatening people with hate speech, and even publicly accusing a review of being fake.

Responding to Fake Reviews the Right Way

In cases where a potential fake review is suspected, we always recommend that business owners leave a polite response that indicates there is no record of the reviewer coming in as a customer. However, it’s important to keep in mind that usernames don’t always match someone’s real name and that you should still discuss the problem with the reviewer privately.

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All in all, negative online reviews are like an itch you can’t scratch. The reasons behind them are complex, and business owners must carefully navigate online situations as carefully as they do in-store events.

In the end, the flea situation was solved elsewhere and this experience is simply a memory and reminder that your reputation is built off of the hundred of micro-interactions that you have with clients throughout your career. In the case of your online reputation, business owners must be strategic with their efforts in order to realistically represent their business on the web.

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Garrett Smith
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RepCheckup is an online reputation management software that helps businesses enhance and protect their online reputation.

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