Some companies and doctors are hoping to suppress negative feedback by asking customers to waive their right to post comments online, but companies rated on Angie’s List overwhelmingly oppose the practice.
That doesn’t surprise Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks.
“Consumers have a right to talk about their experiences and any business that tries to silence them is making a big mistake,” Hicks said.
Intrigued by recent news accounts of retailers and contractors who want customers to sign waivers agreeing not to post negative comments online, Angie’s List surveyed its subscriber base as well as companies graded by Angie’s List members.
Nearly 90 percent of the homeowners responding to the survey were not aware that use of the waivers had moved into the retail/contractor world. A handful of the respondents, however, said they’d been asked to sign one and had refused.
“That’s exactly what they should have done,” says Hicks, urging consumers to read the fine print of any document they’re asked to sign. “It’s something you should do anyway, but these days it’s even more important.”
On the company side, 98 percent of the respondents said they do not ask customers to remain quiet about their service, and 90 percent said they won’t even consider it. Many companies cited word of mouth as a great way to grow their business and said they welcomed the feedback. One company owner said the reports help keep businesses accountable for doing good work.
“Sure, I may encounter an unfriendly client but if I had a bunch writing bad things about me then maybe the shoe fits and I shouldn’t be in business,” said another.
Hicks said the companies’ nearly unanimous reaction is good news for consumers.
“You don’t have to compromise your freedom of speech to get good work done,” Hicks said. “There are plenty of great contractors, doctors and service professionals out there who actually want to hear what you think about their work.”
For the past two years, Hicks has been warning consumers about the waivers after learning that some 1,000 doctors nationwide require patients to sign an agreement promising not to review, blog, or talk about the quality of care they receive. Often the agreements are included with new patient paperwork and are signed without the patient being fully aware of the ramifications. Other service companies try to slide the waivers into contracts.
For online ratings and review sites to be the most beneficial, both consumers and contractors have to follow basic rules, Hicks said.
“Consumers need to be honest about their experiences, and companies need to take the time to evaluate what they’re reading and respond in a professional manner,” said Hicks. “It’s easy to respond negatively when you feel wronged – whether you’re the consumer or the contractor. A cool head when responding to reviews can generate new customers for a contractor while showing customers that the business is willing to make things right.”
Angie’s List gives businesses, free of charge, the ability to track and respond to reports in a professional manner.
“Nobody is perfect. Even the best companies have an unhappy customer now and then, but consistently good service is rewarded with good reviews and comments,” said Hicks, whose company has been gathering consumer ratings and reviews since 1995. “You can learn a lot about a company by how it responds to a problem or a complaint.”
Angie’s List, the nation’s premier provider of consumer reviews on local service companies and health care providers, has offered vetted consumer insights since 1995. Anonymous reviews are not allowed, consumers are held accountable for truthful reporting, and a complaint resolution service helps resolve issues between companies and their customers. Companies rated on Angie's List are prohibited from reporting about themselves but are encouraged to track and respond to reviews free of charge.
Angie’s List collects consumer reviews on local contractors and doctors in more than 500 service categories. Currently, more than 1.5 million consumers across the U.S. rely on Angie’s List to help them make the best hiring decisions. Members get unlimited access to local ratings via Internet or phone, exclusive discounts, the Angie’s List magazine and help from the Angie’s List complaint resolution service. Take a quick tour of Angie’s List and view the latest Angie’s List news.