Lessons learned from ORM meltdowns 1

negative reviewsI started learning about online reputation by watching three different companies implode when faced with negative reviews. I learned about behaviors brands should avoid during a crisis.  I also learned a great deal about people who file complaints when they have been upset by companies. After watching two epic melt downs concerning Casey Movers and Amy’s Baking Company, I had my own opportunity to battle a nasty company.

In February 2013, I started looking into Acteva. This event management company allegedly collects registration fees and sends money to the organizer twice a month. My wife’s company was using them for the first time and discovered that the money that Acteva was collecting was not being paid out. After several weeks of attempting to collect the money, I started to research Acteva. What I found confirmed my suspicions; this was not a company to use.

I started looking for reviews and complaints. I went to the BBB and soon discovered countless complaints that were ignored or never resolved to the customer’s satisfaction when Acteva failed to respond. Next I checked Yelp and saw complaints with service going back to 2009. I was able to see a clear pattern. Acteva had started off as a great company, but something changed.  They began delaying payments, then they stopped sending payments altogether.

I saw how one of my peers took on Casey Movers. Casey Movers threatened to sue the person who posted a negative review of their company. However, the threat of the lawsuit produced the Streisand effect, a phenomenon that occurs when someone attempts to hid, remove or censor a piece of information with the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely.

I started my own website www.actevasucks.info in an attempt to force Acteva’s hand to make good and pay the money they were withholding. I was unsuccessful as the company ended up being forcibly shut down by the government.  The CEO Pankaj Gupta is currently being charged for several counts of fraud.

This experience taught me several valuable lessons.

  • Customers do not like being ripped off or taken advantage of. While a majority of the money that Acteva was holding belonged to small nonprofit groups who were in danger of bankruptcy, other customers were much more powerful and well-funded. Many of Acteva’s clients connected via various chatrooms and forum. In fact, my website became one central place of people to communicate and get help from each other.
  • Customers do not like being ignored. The biggest complaint was the fact that Acteva refused to return emails or phone calls. The radio silence just infuriated people. A simple email would have diffused a lot of the anger and gone a long way to help smooth things over.
  • Upset people will band together and seek revenge. Some of the people I met contacted other people and groups who were using Acteva and warned them that they would lose their money if they kept dealing with them.
  • An upset client has the memory of the elephant. It has been almost 3 years now and I still have people checking in for a status update. This has become personal for a lot of people.
  • The BBB is not all it is cracked up to be. As complaint after complaint kept coming in, they were powerless to get Acteva to respond. Acteva would ignore the complaint and the BBB would just close the complaint as unanswered. If and when Acteva would respond, the complaint would become reopened and disappear for a month or two. Acteva would say they are willing to make payments and the BBB would mark the complaint as resolved even if the original complainant would not accept the offer. The complaints would be closed, reopened and closed again with no real resolution and with no payments being made.

The only way to make sure that you do not get into the same type of trouble is for you to do your due diligence. Look into and research every business you are about to work with.   Here are the steps to follow:

1)  Check out the company online before entering into any type of business arrangement. A quick Internet search will allow you to find reviews and/or complaints. I suggest using the company name in your search and adding the following terms: reviews, complaints, scam, ripoff report.

It will look like this:

Acteva reviews

Acteva complaints

Acteva scam

Acteva ripoff report.

2)  Check the following websites for reviews or complaints: Yelp, BBB, Ripoff Report and Google, Yahoo and Bing business listings. If you see similar patterns in the reviews or complaints, you will be able to easily tell if this is a business you want to deal with. The BBB has begun posting the transcript of most of the complaints filed with them. This will give you better understanding of the complaint instead of problems with products or services.

3) Ignore website testimonials. Website owners will only post positive reviews or those reviews that paint them in the best light. A negative complaint will not be posted on their website. Testimonials will only show one side of the company.

If you provide bad service, you will receive negative complaints.

sharks circlingThere is no statute of limitations to holding a grudge. Your former clients/ customers will come out of the wood work to trash you even years later. I was contacted by people that had not used Acteva in several years.  Upset people will keep checking back in on you. Even after three years, I still am asked for updates on Acteva.

It does not take much to tarnish your reputation. If you are unable to provide top quality service, then you have to make sure that you address each and every complaint. Ignoring or fighting with complainants is not an option. Take, for example, Amy’s Baking Company. They were featured on an episode of Kitchen Nightmares. During the episode they were seen taking tips from their wait staff. When people started leaving angry comments condemning the practice on their Facebook and Yelp pages, the owners of Amy’s Baking Company started cursing at the negative complaints. The epic and historical meltdown was captured and documented on Buzzfeed for the world to see.

As amusing as many people found the Amy’s fiasco, one thing quickly became clear:  the best rule of thumb is do not feed the trolls and apologize. State that you are extremely sorry and state that you are working on the situation and will resolve it for all parties involved. Defending your position will only make matter worse and add more fuel the fire. If you are already having an issue with your online reputation, you need to take a brief pause and come up with a strategy to rectify the issue before it gets out of hand. You have to make a change and stop the bad behavior. You cannot say one thing and continue to do another. Casey Movers tried to mend their online reputation by posting positive reviews and replying to the negative complaints on Yelp. However, it appears that they kept up their practice of quoting one price before the move and charging more the day of the move.   No matter what you do on social media, you must back up your promises with performance in order to avoid more negative reviews.

If you are facing negative reviews or bad press, you can turn it around. Contact the team at SEO Counsel for our specialized online reputation management services. Call us at (949) 445 3290 today.




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