Lawsuits are a way of fighting fire with fire. But, when it comes to gripe sites, screaming “I’ll sue you” may lead to less than satisfying results. Let’s face it, unless you can get an injunction and shut the site down immediately you’re only going to give the griper more to gripe about. That is what is currently happening in the Axelrod Levinson case. Do you really want to fuel that fire?
I’m not suggesting you do nothing. I’m only suggesting that in anticipating or dealing with this type of situation it may be more productive to fight fire with water. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Build a defensive moat around your company name and your brand names by acquiring relevant domain names. One reason former Levinson Axelrod associate Edward Heyburn could wreak such havoc with his gripe site is because his site contained the company name (levinsonaxelrod.net). Sure, dot com is the most popular commerce site and the domain you probably want for your live website. But other popular extensions are dot net and dot org. You might also want to consider the dot TV domain since video is one of the fastest growing segments of the web. (Did you know that YouTube is the #2 search engine behind Google? Think about that.)
When selecting defensive domain names to register, you might also want to include common misspellings, as well as domains a griper would want. Levinson Axelrod, for example, recently secured both the dot net and dot com version of “LevinsonAxelrodsucks.” I’m not sure if they’ve secured “LevinsonAxelrodreallysucks” or “LevinsonAxelrodreallyreallysucks.” You get the picture.
Are the domain name possibilities infinite? Probably, but for a relatively small cost you can keep a griper from using certain key words in their domain name. You can use the “nice” versions to redirect and drive more traffic to you dot com site, or you can let them sit idle. The main thing is that they’re out of mischievous hands.
2. Manage expectations to avoid misunderstandings that lead to disappointments and disputes. You can’t please everyone all the time, but clarifying what they can expect will reduce disappoints that fuel gripes. Strong customer service programs and refund policies are mechanisms that let a customer know they will be heard and responded to. Mismanage that process and they’ll be sure to tell their “friends” on Facebook and elsewhere. The gripe might be in the form of a comment, a blog posting somewhere, and entry on a gripe site like the Ripoff Report or a dedicated website like Edwin Heyburn hosts to trash talk Levinson Axelrod.
3. Include testimonials from satisfied customers on your website. Trust consumer to be savvy shoppers. They can recognize a whinny, self absorbed, reality star wannabe complainer just as you can. Give them feedback from satisfied customers to give them a balanced view so they can better judge for themselves.
4. Consider sharing how you’ve responded to past criticisms to make your products and services better. Showing that you thoughtfully consider constructive feedback helps validate a customer’s point of view, helps build strong relationships and demonstrates how valid concerns do get serious consideration. It also helps legitimize your authority in a way a lawsuit never will.
None of these suggestions are bulletproof solutions that will stop an Internet gripper determined to trash talk your business, your products, or services. Do you have any other ideas for stopping such cyber attacks?