“Let ‘em hate. Just make sure they spell my name right.” – Author Unknown
Many entrepreneurs wonder how they can keep their reputations intact when dealing with an unhappy customer or the general disgruntled public.
The business reality is that not every person that purchases your product or service is going to like it and as your exposure increases you’re going to get requests for refunds, chargebacks, crappy people talking trash about your product and those that will simply blame you for every bad thing that’s happening in their lives.
Think of widely-known entertainers like Beyoncé, who have created celebrity personal brands, or brands like Apple. The bigger they get the more they touch people and affect their lives while encountering people that can’t stand them. You can’t please everyone. However, there are effective ways to minimize the noise and put a muzzle on those who would do your business harm.
Here are three specific ways you can legally put the smack down on critics, naysayers and haters:
Be generous and address concerns publicly.
If someone is squawking publicly, instead of hiding and shrinking away in shame, address their concerns in a caring and professional manner publicly, in the same platform. The Internet often feels anonymous and allows people to say things about businesses while thinking they are too big to pay attention.
However, if you develop a process to address negative reviews while taking action to address it, not only do you satisfy that customer and perhaps put a muzzle other potential complainers, you will be perceived as the hero and solidify a reputation that shows genuine care and concern about customers. You will win the trust of the public. It’s a win-win. This also builds tangible evidence that you tried to address concerns in the event further legal action is taken.
Add non-disparagement clauses to service contracts.
A non-disparagement clause basically says that if the relationship goes sour, neither party will say anything disparaging about the other, their products or services. Now, this doesn’t always work (nothing is finite in law) and it can’t stop people from breaching it, but it’s better to have it in your agreement from the start. It can prevent people from saying bad things about your services and goods. My philosophy is that it’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. Get my drift?
Always include a termination clause in agreements.
Reserve the right to remove people. If you have a group program, a product or a Facebook group and there is someone that’s behavior is toxic, having a negative impact on others and shifting the dynamic of the group, reserve the right to terminate them.
Add a clause to business contracts that indicates you have the right to remove a person and terminate their participation. This is a great way to monitor the culture you’re creating around a product or program. Just make sure you have an attorney review your correspondence and termination before sending it and always have an attorney draft the contract.
There are so many different ways to continue to protect your brand and business and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Let your haters be your legal motivators.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and no attorney or client relationship is formed by or through this article. It is not legal advice.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Jo-Ná Williams is the Founder of J.A. Williams Law, P.C. – The Artist Empowerment Firm – a NYC-based transactional law firm for this generation’s thought-leaders, artists and entrepreneurs. Connect with @JWilliamsEsq on Twitter.
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