Helping Win Hearts & Minds on
the Battlefields of Online Media
Three Stooges Contractor
(on major review site)

Wife Daisy Duck's Review

BAD EXPERIENCE - ONE BIG HEADACHE...Great sales staff and meeting to get the paperwork signed to get us to make the first payment. After that, we saw a series of different groups of people working on our house...some workers told us they were subcontractors ...They were in and out of our house. On some days no workers showed, or they didn't show for 2 to 5 days until we called and then they'd finally come back. The customer service and communication was terrible. I had to hound them for answers. There was no continuity and they made a lot of mistakes.

The man who was responsible for supervising our project was rarely here on the premises. I had to call the owners constantly to get the work done. It finally got done, but it had taken forever and the attention to detail simply was not there. I felt like if I didn't complain, work would not get done. If you want hassles and headaches, then use this company. I had to do a big clean-up after everything they did...The worker's trash and cigarette butts were strewn everywhere...This was a nightmare. This wasn't the usual home construction stress...I know what that's like...this was just awful, a terrible experience. An epic failure.

Husband Donald Duck's Review

A terrible contracting experience! They were hired to manage several projects: a bathroom remodel, a new front porch, siding and new windows. We had to threaten them repeatedly first to show up to do the work and second to finish the work, which it seemed was always plagued with problems.

Predictably, they were quick to come pick up a check and provide the final punch list and then never showed up again. The roof above our new porch has huge drainage problems which they were supposed to have fixed and many important aspects of the remodeled bathroom were never finished. BUYER BEWARE!!

Response Case Study:

Building Contractor Portrayed
as Inept, Unprofessional

    Here we have an attack on a home building contractor by a couple we'll call Daisy and Donald Duck. They weren't satisfied to publish one review on the review site, but each chimed in with their own review, separated by a couple months, so that it looked like our client bungled two separate, similar projects in the same bungling way. Other than the tag-team pile on, these are pretty typical attack reviews. The clear goal is to hurt the business as much as possible. Several points of comment:

  • Court of Public Opinion vs. the Court of Law—Our client's customer contracts contain a non-disparagement clause. Contractor XYZ's attorney, a distinguished defamation attorney, wanted to threaten to sue the Ducks based on violating this clause to intimidate them into removing their reviews. We told our client that the risk was too great. The publicity coming out of such an action could be a business killer. One example is the retailer KlearGear. In addition to the terrible publicity, it was sued successfully for nearly $400,000 for trying to enforce a non-disparagement clause. Another example is a dentist named Dr. Stacy Makhnevich, who also tried to enforce a non-disparagement clause, with disasterous results in the court of public opinion, plus a loss in the court of law. The dentist has apparently disappeared.

  • Need to Overcome Guilt—Like most responsible business owners, our client is dedicated to doing great work and making customers happy. And like many clients, it was difficult getting him focused on what needed to be done, because he feels guilty. His company messed up in the beginning of the project, and as we can see, the customer was most unhappy. However, as described in his response, our client did everything possible to make up for it, including multi-thousand-dollar freebies. And he would have done more. We had to emphasize to Contractor XYZ the reality: the Ducks seek to destroy his business. The contractor's imperative is to not let that happen. And this requires an all-out, scorched-earth effort, as needed.

  • XYZ Contracting's Response to Daisy Duck
    Daisy and Donald Duck got what they contracted for, and more—with one key exception: They didn't get a final inspection and permit for the front porch we built for them, because they didn't allow us to put a handrail on the porch stairs, as required by local building code. A handrail was not included in our initial plans that Daisy and Donald Duck approved, nor was it required by those plans. While we were working on their home, the Ducks hired a different contractor to build a new front walkway (in violation of our contract). The walkway changed the elevation and we had to put in another step, which we did without charge. The extra step meant that a handrail was now required. But the Ducks did not want the handrail. When we told Donald Duck we needed to complete the building permit (that was in our name), he ordered us to stay off their property and never contact them again. I told the county we had an open permit because the customer wouldn't let us add a handrail. Even today there's no handrail on the porch. (A picture is posted in the photo section above; it's a terrific-looking porch, but has no handrail!)

    XYZ Contracting is a successful company, well regarded by homeowners in XYZ Territory. For the past 30 years, we've built more than $60 million worth of home improvements. When we make mistakes, we do everything possible to make up for them, as we attempted to do for the Ducks. We had a bad start with their project because of a health problem with a senior manager that I, as the owner, was unaware of. Nevertheless, the situation was hardly the Three Stooges disaster that Daisy portrays. Once I became aware of the problem, we embraced the project with absolute commitment. I personally emailed, text-messaged or called Donald Duck every day for a month. The project entailed replacing 10 windows, remodeling the basement bathroom, installing new siding, and building a front porch. We delivered all this, and more. For example, the contract was for a framed shower door, but afterwards, Donald said he wanted a frameless door. So we replaced it, without charge, with a new $2,500 fully frameless system.

    We're very sorry about the handrail issue, but we must adhere to county building regulations.

  • Credibility: a Zero-sum Game—Dealing with attack reviews is all about winning the battle for credibiliity, and it's a zero-sum situation: You gain what you take away from your opponent. The handrail issue wasn't something our client recognized as significant, buried at the bottom of his initial draft response. We jumped on it and decided to feature the handrail issue as the framework of the response, to undermine the Ducks' credibility. It provides an explanation as to why they are angry at XYZ Contractor. It shows that the Ducks are willing to violate building code, and if they're willing to deceive their local government, why would they not deceive readers with their reviews?

  • Power of Telling a Story—The handrail issue is told in the form of a story, and story telling is an effective way to communicate. The reader now comes to the conclusion we desire: The Ducks are arrogant people who think they're above the rules. That's why they're angry and vindictive with this contractor.

  • Power of Epiphany—It's usually more effective to not spell out everything in a response, but provide just enough information so readers connect the dots and reach their own conclusion (the one we want, of course), in the form of an aha! moment. We intend for the handrail story to create such an epiphany. In general, we want the entire response to create a kind of epiphany about who is credible (our client) and who is not (the reviewers).

  • XYZ Contracting's Response to Donald Duck
    Donald D. is Daisy Duck's husband--please see my response to Daisy D. The new information here concerns a drainage problem with the porch roof. They never told us about a roof issue, until they told us that they'd already gotten it fixed. If there was a problem with the roof and they hired somebody to fix it (we don't know, as we weren't allowed to see it), it's yet another instance where the Ducks violated our agreement by hiring another contractor before the project was complete. Even so, we told Donald we'd pay for the repair if he gave us the receipt. He never gave us a receipt.

    The other instance of hiring another contractor outside our agreement was detailed in our response to Donald's wife Daisy. They hired someone to put in a new walkway leading up to the porch we built that was not in the original plan. The new walkway changed the elevation, requiring an additional step up to the porch, and triggering the need, by county code, to install a handrail. The Ducks did not want the handrail. After we told Donald we needed to close out the building permit, he ordered us to stay off their property. Again, We're very sorry about the handrail situation, but we must follow county building regulations.

  • Marketing Message Points—The Daisy Duck response uses the opportunity to deliver positive marketing messages: 30 years in business, more than $60 million in home improvements, serving XYZ territory. These facts reinforce the company's credibility. An established business with a successful track record enjoys an inherent credibility advantage against a single anonymous reviewer, and it's important to exploit this in an attack review situation.

  • Response Reflects Company Brand Personality—Responses should reflect the tone, feel, and everything that makes up the company's brand identity (with small businesses this reflects the owner's personality and proclivities). In this case the owner wanted to be fair and acknowledge the problems with the start of the project. This response could easily, and perhaps more effectively, have omitted any mention of mistakes or wrong doing by Contractor XYZ. It could have simply portrayed the Ducks as vindictive cheaters and liars—of course, doing so with the proper tone of above-the-fray objectivity (i.e., as an inference).

  • Response to Donald Duck Review—We use this to further diminish the Duck's credibility. We point out that Donald is Daisy Duck's husband, and if people compare the reviews that will be obvious. This shows they have an agenda and underscores their dishonesty. We reiterate the porch rail story. And we use Donald's complaint about the leaky roof to point out a SECOND instance where the Duck's violated the agreement and hired another outside contractor.

    In short, this response magnifies all the points made in the Daisy Duck response.