Pursuing Unpaid Invoices While Maintaining Your Business’ Online Reputation
Most business owners will tell you that they love their customers. One of the most rewarding parts of being an entrepreneur is providing goods or services to people who appreciate and enjoy your work. However, at some point in every business owner’s career, there are customers who are inevitably unhappy and some who fail to pay for the goods or services they receive.
We hear this dilemma regularly from our business owner clients: I love my customers, but there are some, for whatever reason, who just won’t pay us. When this happens as a business owner, you have two choices: take the loss as the cost of doing business or pursue the debt. Some clients are concerned that pursuing a debt may result in online negative reviews. Especially for local businesses, positive online reviews are essential to business success. We know this is a serious concern: 79% of adults in the United States read online reviews before making a purchasing decision. However, your business may end up suffering more if you allow the fear of negative reviews to keep you from making savvy business decisions.
Hiring an attorney to handle your outstanding invoices is a relatively straight-forward process, and it is possible to pursue these debts without inviting negative reviews.
Managing Negative Reviews Online
Bad reviews happen in every business. Sometimes, these reviews are related to something you and your team could improve upon and other times they are entirely out of your control. When they do happen, the best thing you can do is respond, but follow these guidelines:
1. Don’t get defensive.
Especially if you feel the complaint is unfounded, it can be hard to avoid this one. But, it is important to remember that responding to a negative review is about preserving your business’ reputation, not about winning an argument. So, don’t respond right away. Take some time to think about your response, and when you do reply, make sure that it comes across as gracious and genuine.
2. Don’t ignore it.
Ignoring negative reviews won’t make them go away. Instead, they can continue to impact your business long after the matter is resolved. Make sure that you do respond, both publicly and privately, so that the customer and potential customers know that you take their satisfaction seriously.
3. Do respond tactfully.
The best way to respond is to follow this formula: Acknowledge the customer’s complaint and explain your response in a way that promotes a positive view of your business. It’s important to remember that acknowledging a complaint is not the same thing as admitting fault. Instead, simply empathize with the reviewer’s position, make them feel heard, and then focus on the positive.
4. Do invite the customer to continue the conversation offline.
If the complaint is more complex or the customer is more upset than you feel you can tactfully manage online, leave a public reply and then invite the customer to contact you directly to discuss the matter. This demonstrates to other customers that you are handling the issue, but it helps avoid an online battle.
Including Online Reviews in Settlement Negotiations
If you do decide to pursue outstanding debts with a collections attorney, you may find that those customers attempt to use the threat of a negative review as a bargaining tool. When you hire a collections attorney, he or she can manage potential negative reviews as a part of the settlement negotiation process. When negotiating final settlement and payment of an outstanding debt, an attorney can include a requirement that the customer remove any negative reviews and affirm that he or she will not post negative reviews after the settlement.
Ask an Attorney to Learn More
If you are a business owner or manager with outstanding invoices, feel free to contact one of our experienced collections attorneys to learn more about the collections process and managing online reviews. Our phone number is 703-771-9740.