BBB Business Tips: Authentic Customer Reviews

Customer reviews can be very valuable to both consumers and businesses. But it's important to be able to tell a scam review when you see it.

Customer reviews are an integral part of the sales process for both consumers and businesses. But the road to more positive customer reviews is unfortunately laden with customer review/reputation management scams, fake customer reviews, and more. Businesses depend on positive customer reviews and a trustworthy online presence in the current marketplace to build a successful company. Consumers, too, are looking for accurate information about businesses and trusting online reviews as a source for that information.

Fake reviews and businesses offering phony reputation management services are serious problems for both businesses and consumers. Professional writers can stack websites with positive comments about a particular company's products or services – or negative feedback about their competitors. Searching the phrase “reputation management” online returns results of companies promising to – at best – ethically manage your online presence, or – at  worst – offer to change or delete your negative reviews. 

Many of these companies are scams, and it’s important to be able to differentiate them:

Ensure the website address begins with https:// and check the address bar for a not secure message. A trustworthy online seller will have a secure domain, keeping customer information safe from hackers.

Promises that are too good to be true often are. If the company sounds like they’re offering services that seem too good to be possible or a substantial service offering for a below-market-rate price, those could be signs that the company is not legitimate.

BBB always encourages transparency in soliciting ethical and reliable customer reviews. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC’s) Consumer Review Fairness Act prohibits such things as non-disparagement clauses in contracts in which companies threaten customers with fines or legal action if they post a negative review. Such clauses also violate the BBB’s Standards of Trust. Suppressing negative reviews while publishing positive ones also violates FTC regulations.

>> RELATED: How to handle customer reviews

While maintaining a positive online reputation is essential to remain competitive, keep the following guidelines in mind:

The Federal Trade Commission does not allow offering incentives, such as discounts or payment, in exchange for reviews – which is a common way to solicit reviews

Providing any kind of compensation for a review or endorsement requires a disclosure by the reviewer, such as the #AD commonly seen on the posts of influencers. 

The BBB draws on its over 100-year-old reputation as a trusted marketplace resource as it vets reviews and provides them to consumers. That vetting process eliminates fake reviews from BBB websites, thereby providing a valuable tool for both consumers and businesses.

BBB uses a proprietary algorithm to determine which reviews are likely fake and makes every attempt to verify that a review is based on a real marketplace transaction, including requiring a phone number and email address from reviewers.

As a business owner and consumer, it’s important to be able to recognize fake reviews while you research and shop online.

Look for generic reviewer profiles. If a reviewer has a very common or generic name, such as John Smith or Jane Doe, you’ve spotted a red flag. Fake reviewers usually post under fake names, sometimes even just a series of letters and numbers, and rarely do they have a profile picture.

Read reviews by customers with verified purchases. Many e-commerce sites add a badge or otherwise indicate if a purchase is verified, meaning the reviewer bought the product on the same site where they wrote the review. Reviews of non-verified purchases are much more likely to be fake.

Be wary of scene-setting. A study conducted by Cornell University found that truthful reviewers usually include concrete words relating to the product or service they purchased, whereas fake reviewers like to set the scene. They may talk about how “their husband” visited a specific hotel for a “vacation” or “business trip” instead of focusing on the actual hotel experience. This is another fake review red flag.

>> RELATED: Read more by Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland

Check the grammar and spelling. Sometimes sellers outsource their fake reviews to content farms, where people who are not native English speakers write reviews. The result is fake reviews with misspellings and poor grammar. If you read a review out loud and it doesn’t sound natural, it could be a fake.

Find out if the reviewer received a free product. Some e-commerce platforms have programs that pre-release products to customers in exchange for their honest reviews. One example is Amazon Vine. This kind of program is usually legitimate and can be helpful. However, if you notice almost every review of a product comes from someone who received a free product, think twice. It’s also good to take a look at the reviews overall. If the only satisfied customer was the one who received a free product, it may not be worth buying.

For additional tips and resources, visit BBB.org to help keep your small business thriving. Contact your Better Business Bureau by calling 216.241.7678 or emailing info@cleveland.bbb.org. Interested in becoming BBB Accredited? Find out how you can apply for BBB Accreditation.

 
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  • Next up: Back up Power to Create Resiliency and Incentives
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  • Back up Power to Create Resiliency and Incentives

    Watch the GCP Energy Team's recent webinar about finding the right-sized generator for your business and how a demand response program can benefit you.

    GCP's Energy Team recently hosted a discussion about creating resiliency, reliability, redundancy, and return on investment.

    GCP’s demand response partner, CPower and backup generator and monitoring partner, PowerSecure; both market leaders, discussed how you can optimize interior and exterior lighting & controls, HVAC & Mechanical, and Electrical systems, and reduce kWh and your carbon footprint with the right sized generator for your unique needs, and then benefit from participation in a demand response program.

    Watch the recording below:

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  • Next up: BBB Business Tips: Common Business Scams
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  • BBB Business Tips: Common Business Scams

    Here are some of the most common business scams and advice on how you can avoid falling prey to them, brought to you by Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland.

    Scams can impact every business, regardless of location, size or industry. With everything that businesses have had to face over the last few years, from COVID to supply chain issues, being scammed does not need to be on the list. Learn to identify common scams to help protect you, your team and your business.  

    Some of the most common business scams include:

    Phishing scams. Phishing scams attempt to steal sensitive information about your business. These scams often appear to be legitimate emails or text messages. However, when you click on the link, you download a virus that captures personal information or loads a form that asks for bank account or credit card details. Be leery of unsolicited messages and don’t click on links. Instead, hover over the link with your cursor to see the real address. 

    Business Email Compromise (“BEC”). Business email compromise fraud is an email phishing scam that typically targets people who pay bills in businesses, government and nonprofit organizations. It has resulted in more losses than any other type of fraud in the U.S., according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

    In BEC fraud, the scammer poses as a vendor, CEO, or other trusted source who sends an email to you or your employees. The email asks them to wire money, buy gift cards or send personal information, often for a plausible reason. If money is sent, it goes into an account controlled by the con artist.

    Brand hijacking. Scammers often pretend to be legitimate companies to trick consumers. Scammers set up fake websites and “hijack” your company name and address. They may also misuse your company logos and website content in order to impersonate a business and deceive unsuspecting visitors. In this con, the legitimate company doesn’t necessarily lose money, but its reputation is on the line when angry customers who were ripped off by scammers think the real company is responsible.

    Phony invoices. Businesses often receive fake invoices demanding payment for products or services they never ordered or received. This most commonly includes office supplies, websites, domain hosting services and directory listings. Often, if you read the fine print it identifies “the bill” as a solicitation. 

    Directory scams. Con artists attempt to fool businesses into paying for a listing or ad space in a non-existent directory. In some cases, the directory will technically exist, but won’t be distributed to potential customers. Scammers might even impersonate legitimate directories including Yellow Pages. Either way, the business is billed for listing.

    Office supply scams. Businesses receive an unexpected telephone call from someone claiming to represent a reputable company with which the firm often does business.  Sometimes scammers will even call in advance to find out what brand of supplies or equipment the business uses. The scam caller will try to sell the business surplus merchandise at a reduced price, citing a cancellation or over-order by another purchaser. The merchandise doesn’t exist. Don’t be fooled.

    Vanity award scams. A vanity award scheme capitalizes on a company's excitement for an award that essentially holds no value. This con typically targets business owners through email campaigns. The scam email congratulates the owner on their selection for the award and invites them to click a link for further details on how to claim the prize. But of course, claiming the honor involves paying several hundred dollars. Always research the organization offering the “award.” 

    BBB offers the following tips to help businesses protect themselves from fraud:

    Train your employees. Keep your staff up to date on the latest scams and red flags. If your staff is involved in a workplace scam encourage them to come forward so your company can act swiftly and appropriately. 

    Keep good records. Keep documentation of all orders and purchases. This will help you to detect bogus accounts and invoices.

    Be extra careful with payment procedures. Establish payment authorization procedures, including a multi-person approval process for transactions above a certain dollar threshold.

    Avoid some payment methods when possible. Wire transfers, pre-paid debit cards, cryptocurrencies and gift cards are scammers’ preferred methods of payment. Always confirm that any request for payment with untraceable methods such as these is verified by an authorized source. 

    Double-check vendors. Make sure that the business billing you is a business you’re familiar with and normally do business with. If not, question it. Get the name of the person you speak with, the company name, address, phone, website, etc. 

    Protect your devices. Make sure your devices are up to date with the proper computer protection software and a firewall. Don’t click on links inside unsolicited e-mails. They could spread malicious software or viruses.

    Have a plan. No one wants to get scammed, but what happens when you do? It is important to create a recovery plan in case your system gets compromised, you lose sensitive information, or lose money. Know what to do before it happens.

    For additional tips and resources, visit BBB.org to help keep your small business thriving. Contact your Better Business Bureau by calling 216.241.7678 or emailing info@cleveland.bbb.org. Interested in becoming BBB Accredited? Find out how you can apply for BBB Accreditation.


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  • Next up: Connecting Diversity & Inclusion with Sustainability
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  • Connecting Diversity & Inclusion with Sustainability

    Watch GCP's recent webinar, Connecting Diversity & Inclusion with Sustainability.

    In a recent webinar, the Greater Cleveland Partnership's Nicole Stika, Vice President, Energy Services, discussed the Intersection of Equity & Inclusion and Sustainability in the Workplace with Melanie Larkins, Product Sustainability Leader, Tarkett USA Inc., and Monica Jackson, Vice President, Global Inclusion & Diversity, Eaton.

    Watch the webinar recording below:

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  • Next up: A COVID check in: Tips for your small business
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  • A COVID check in: Tips for your small business

    Two years after the start of the global pandemic, it's clear that COVID has changed the way we do business. Now is a good time to make any necessary changes to help your small business successfully navigate uncertain times.

     

    It has officially been two years since the start of COVID. As we begin this third year in a pandemic world, it may be the perfect time to take stock of your current business, review what happened over last couple of years, and make any necessary changes and improvements for success. 

    The pandemic has drastically changed the way we do business. From supply chain issues to employee issues to safety issues, our world has been altered, and not always in a good way. We are dealing with challenges we never anticipated and as a small business, that can be devastating.

    Here are some suggestions that may help you to navigate these stressful times:

    1. Review your current business plan. Now is a great time to review your current business plan and make any necessary changes. A business plan is a fluid instrument and should be reviewed periodically and revised when needed. Since there have been so many unforeseen issues in the past year or two, take some time to revisit your plan and determine what changes may need to be implemented.

    >> RELATED: Start your year off with a plan.

    2. Define your goals. This gives you a framework for the year. It can be something as simple as hiring new employees, enhancing your company culture, or improving your online presence. You decide what is best for your business.

    3. Think about how you can increase your business momentum. This can include launching a new product or service or just changing the way you offer current products or services. 

    4. Review your employee situation. Do you need to hire more staff or invest in staff training? Reevaluate your employees and determine if you can promote from within or if you need to hire or even to reduce your staff.

    5. Evaluate your financial situation. This is a great time to assess your financial situation. Do you need to reinvest in your company or maybe find financial assistance? Determine what has been profitable for you and see how you can make that work even harder for your bottom line. 

    6. Organize. Organize. Organize. This includes office space, files, ways of doing business and anything else. It will make it much easier to do business and it may even invigorate your employees.

    7. Expand your horizons. Is there a class you can take or a new certification you can earn? Continuing to learn can help you to grow your business. 

    8. Ramp up your digital presence. The digital world is here to stay and it is a wonderful tool for small business growth. Take the time to post on social media, send out email blasts or build your website. If you can’t do it yourself, there are many people or businesses out there that can help. Maybe you can even trade for their services.

    >> RELATED: Read more by Tim Dimoff 

    9. Grow your network. Get active in your industry associations or local chambers of commerce. Build a presence on social media site such as LinkedIn and connect with others within your industry.

    10. Avoid burnout. The pandemic has been especially hard on small businesses, and you have may have worked 80-hour weeks to keep going. Take time to avoid burnout and to make sure you are rested and recharged.

    While we don’t know what this year has in store for us, we do know that it most likely will continue to be a challenging time. These suggestions may help you to navigate it and may even contribute to your success.

    President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Speaker, Trainer, Corporate Security ExpertTimothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at info@sacsconsulting.com

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  • Next up: Employee Retention Challenges and Solutions
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  • Employee Retention Challenges and Solutions

    Does your small business struggle to hire or retain excellent employees? Here are nine suggestions for keeping top talent.

     

    As a small business you should be aware of exactly how you are actively supporting your employees’ overall success. The pandemic has shown us that employees are looking for new and better opportunities all the time and that small businesses are struggling to hire and retain employees. Whether it be to thrive in their current role at your organization or to prepare them for their next career advancement, it is your responsibility to make sure your employees grow and thrive in their jobs. Ensuring your team is equipped with the latest knowledge and skills in their field will definitely contribute to your business’s long-term success. Constant employee turnover is costly and time consuming, therefore investing both mentally and financially into your employee’s growth will help with retention issues. Employees know when they’re being supported, and when they’re not.

    Here are some suggestions you can take to increase your employee retention:

    Retention Suggestion No. 1: Open lines of communication. Goals change as we grow. Talk with your employees about their career goals. If possible, create a development plan to help them grow into management, if that is a goal, or other ways in which you can help foster their goals.

    Retention Suggestion No. 2: Enhance communication between all levels within your company. By removing the level barriers, you may find that sharing ideas will help your employees and help your company to grow.

    RELATED: Why employee motivation matters more in a small business.

    Retention Suggestion No. 3: Create an open-door policy. Let your employees know that they can come to you when they have an issue. Creating trust will help with productivity and performance.

    Retention Suggestion No. 4: Create a mentorship program. A lower-level employee can grow into a great manager. Mentoring can help your company’s culture while also providing a way for management and senior employees to get to know junior employees.

    Retention Suggestion No. 5: Invest in employee training. If you have a training program in place for new hires, it helps to avoid any disconnect between current employees and new hires. This can be done virtually or in-person as things begin to open up. And don’t forget on-going training for all employees to increase their skill set, as well as training for diversity & inclusion initiatives, HR and workplace protocols and team-building skills.

    Retention Suggestion No. 6: Invest in professional memberships for your employees. This will provide employees with a means to develop relationships and new skills and come back with new ideas and innovations.

    Retention Suggestion No. 7: Do performance reviews. Even if you have only a couple of employees, performance reviews are a way to let employees know how they’re doing, and what they can be doing differently in order to reach their goals. Be candid, but also constructive. Do annual reviews, but also think about doing quarterly reviews.

    RELATED: Read more by Tim Dimoff.

    Retention Suggestion No. 8: Recognize your employees. Find ways to recognize the accomplishments your employees make throughout the year to encourage them to keep up the good work.

    Retention Suggestion No. 9: Expand their horizons within the company. Offer employees opportunities to delve into other departments—including shadowing a co-worker for the day. This gives them an idea of what others are working on and helps them see how everyone works together to achieve overall company goals.

    By investing in these simple ideas, you are also investing in your company’s growth.

     

    Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at mailto:info@sacsconsulting.com.

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