The Unfortunate Adventure of Danny Venz and Efforts to Effectively Manage Online Reputation
Not long ago we wrote an article about Reputation Management and Managing Online Reviews. In the post we gave some tips on how best to put your best foot forward and insulate yourself from bad reviews. But one thing was missing…
What about this RipOffReport.com website? When it comes to business name specific SEO, there are few sites more powerful. If you’re named in the site, it likely will rank on the first page – if not #1 – on Google for a search of your name. Scary thought. If you can afford it, you might consider hiring THEIR SEO company. We’re good, but “wow”.
Recently, we came across a client who is suffering the sting of a 2009 mention on RipOffReport.com. And quite frankly, it is completely unfair what the mention is doing to his business.
Here’s the gist:
Danny Venz is a State Farm insurance agent in Dallas, Texas. Danny Venz has been a State Farm agent since 1985. State Farm is the #1 property / casualty insurance company in the US.
It stands to reason that if you have millions of customers that you’ll have a few that are less than pleased with their service.
And one of those individuals that were less than pleased decided to take their cause to RipOffReport.com and effectively libel Danny Venz. And in the internet equivalent of 3 inch headlines (H1, H2 AND H3 titles) it reads:
Danny Venz State Farm Insurance is a Ripoff! Fraud, I Say! SCAMMER!
Why it is unfair:
If you know anything about how insurance works, you already know that the insurance agent has absolutely NOTHING to do with the claims process – other than to sometimes facilitate the processing of a claim by a policy holder. Insurance claims often involve adjusters, lawyers, and computer programs that do not care about customer service.
I’d argue that blaming your agent because an insurance company executed a claim in accordance to what is written in the policy – that the policy holder reviewed AND signed – is like blaming your doctor because you got sick after taking more pills than the labeled directed.
So what is Danny Venz to do?
If you follow RipOffReport.com’s advice, your options are limited…or expensive.
You can respond publicly to the report. Not always a good idea since most of the time a reader will side with the individual making the complaint (human nature) and virtually any response will potentially just make matters worse.
Reading through their information, it is obvious that they have been impacted by reverse SEO or negative SEO efforts. They have an entire section of their site dedicated to warning people about the evils of SEO companies. Reverse SEO (or creating internet properties – websites, blogs, etc. – designed to rank for the same type of keywords that the report ranks for – in order to move the listing down in search engines) is difficult, time-consuming and ultimately frustratingly expensive. And it is a moving target.
Of course, RipOffReport.com is a business. And businesses tend to want to make money. As such, they offer a VIP Arbitration Program that starts at only $2000. They openly hide behind the First Amendment as they defend their policy of NEVER removing a report with an arbitration ruling. So basically, libel and slander are now protected by the First Amendment. Not sure that was what Jefferson had in mind.
It is a wonder that RipOffReport.com hasn’t been sued for extortion because charging people a fee in exchange for removal is similar to what got Yelp.com in trouble not too long ago. The judge tossed the case out, but it did lead to significant changes in Yelp’s business practices and put reputation management on the map.
So, again, what is Danny Venz to do?
Since the root of the issue rests in the fact that Danny Venz does not make decisions in the claims process, we recommended that he strongly encourage and solicit State Farm to respond to the report on the site.
If State Farm will not respond, then we recommend that Danny Venz carefully craft a response that sticks exclusively to the general facts – with absolutely no mention of the specific allegations or customer. The facts, of course, consist of the separation between insurance agent and claims processing. I’d also likely mention that insurance is highly regulated for the consumer’s protection and point out that insurance policies are primarily written by lawyers and then re-written by different lawyers so as to be as comprehensive as possible both for the benefit of the policy holder and the insurer.
We also recommend getting as many reviews as humanly possible to show in the business’s Google Places listing. No matter how much SEO your listing has, Google will always rank better. Many consumers will naturally click on the map listing without even reading further down the page. It won’t rectify the situation 100%, but it will help.
Finally, we recommend that Danny Venz not hide from the report. With sufficient explanation of the facts readily available on the report, any consumer who takes the time to read the report SHOULD also have the sense to read the responses.
And, push come to shove, I’d recommend at least investigating the feasibility of a Reverse SEO campaign. However – and remember who is saying this – reverse SEO can be quite a process. I’d choose very wisely when choosing a Reverse SEO company- and I’d ask for multiple references of successful campaigns in the same vertical market.
By the way, we don’t do Reverse SEO, but we do know some very reputable folks that do.
At the end of the day, the best practice may simply be to stop dealing with human beings. We can be such a finicky lot.
Once again, thanks for the dialog. No doubt our readers will appreciate the clarification. However, there are those (myself included) that would argue a company shouldn’t have to pay for a process in order to determine whether a report is “phony”, “false or malicious”. Both Google and Yelp use sophisticated algorithms to help weed out the spammers.
It is not unlike the notion that one should be forced to pay in order to reclaim funds lost due to a stolen credit card number- or else simply deal with the loss. At least with credit cards, the law protects the victims.
Perhaps a complaint and its validity should be verified prior to publishing rather than universally accepted – thus leaving the burden of proof on the business owner.
I believe anyone operating in the realm of consumer-driven content should be mindful of their ethical responsibility toward both sides of the customer experience.
Unfortunately, in these days where every thought is tweeted and people will post to Facebook things they’d never say face to face the notions of slander and libel have become relics of a pre-140 character era. There is so much noise in the ether that no one feels compelled to think twice about the consequences of their words…because two seconds later something different is trending.
Thank you for the complement!
One more thing to note.
You wrote, “It is a wonder that RipOffReport.com hasn’t been sued for extortion because charging people a fee in exchange for removal is similar to what got Yelp.com in trouble not too long ago.”
In fact, Ripoff Report has been sued in the past for this very thing, and the courts have decided that our CAP (Corporate Advocacy program) is NOT extortion or illegal in any way. It is not simply removal of a report for money, but does all of the following:
– Reviews all reports and contacts the author, verifying for unfair, unjust, unbalanced or phony filings.
– Determines the truthfulness of the complaints as best as we can.
– Exposes phony reports filed by competitors, malicious individuals and/or disgruntled employees.
– Sends an email to each person who posted a report about your company, notifying them that your firm has offered to negotiate in good faith to resolve their complaint.
– Prevents reports from being filed in the first place, if the complaint is handled and remedied immediately.
– Updates all reports stating your commitment to address complaints.
– Provides updates to existing reports, stating your side of the story, as well as your resolution to the -problem. This shows how you made changes to your business to avoid reported problems in the future.
– Prevents the filing of phony reports by competitors or malicious individuals by exposing existing reports as false or malicious.
And please remember, Ripoff Report has always had a uniform policy to NOT remove reports.
Thank you for the incredibly fast response on behalf of RipoffReport.com. Either your SEO is working or ours is. I appreciate the even handed comments you have made.
The challenge and frustration that we face when advising clients on things related to reputation management come into focus with sites like yours and even the BBB. Essentially the sites exist as a venue to lodge complaints with very little to no consideration for complements. And once a complaint is filed the business has VERY limited resources available to address or remove the complaint in the event it is false, libelous or just plain illegitimate.
Unfortunately, the good ole fashion American adage of innocent until proven guilty does not apply in the court of public opinion. I much prefer Google’s review platform where bad reviews can stand side by side with good ones to provide a fair and balanced consensus of public opinion.
Nonetheless, I appreciate the constructive dialog. You represent your company well, Ms. V.
Thank you for covering the topic of Ripoff Reports on your website. Our policy never to remove any report protects consumers. Your advice to Danny about getting State Farm to respond to the report, or craft a strictly fact-based response of his own, was absolutely correct.
Smart consumers will base a buying decision on many pieces of information, and not just one bad report. In fact, a well-crafted, consumer-friendly response to a negative Ripoff Report will often bring a business more customers in the long run. How businesses handle complaints is what separates the good ones from the bad ones, and consumers are able to read that for themselves on our site. Also, it does not cost any money to file a rebuttal to a Ripoff Report.
We can never stop dealing with human beings, but we can all act a little more human in the long run. We wish your friend Danny the best with his State Farm office and look forward to reading his response to the negative report posted on RipoffReport.com.