A Guide to Turning Your Seasonal Shoppers into Loyal Customers

For many small business owners, the end of the year comes with a serious upswing in sales. With so many people out and about shopping for their various holidays, you are probably going to see a surge of new faces turning to you for goods and services. While retail seems to get all the spotlight during the holiday shopping season, there are many businesses that will benefit from the winter festivities. Company parties will be looking for caterers; homeowners hosting their families will be turning to house cleaning companies; people will be headed off to nail salons, barbershops and beauty salons to get ready to look their best in photos, and weary travelers who were trapped on a plane next to a sneezy toddler may end up making a trip to urgent care. At the end of the day, no matter what kind of business you are in, we encourage you to take the time during this busy season to turn these seasonal shoppers into repeat, and even loyal, customers.

Expand upon the basics

Now more than ever, you need to showcase your very best customer service skills. With traffic, travel, looming deadlines and busier-than-ever stores, many holiday shoppers are feeling a bit more stressed out than usual. That means that they will be that much more grateful when you or your employees are able to listen to them, help them and show them that you genuinely care about their experience.

It is easier than ever to take care of all of your shopping needs online, so it is special and important when people choose to shop local and support a small business rather than go the easy route of online shopping or the cheap route of big-box retail. For many shoppers, choosing a small business is a personal choice, made either out of a desire to fuel the local economy or to experience the level of customer service you can only find in these kinds of stores. That is why it is so important to make sure you don’t neglect customer service during this busy shopping season. To read more about the importance of customer service, check out our previous blog, Why Nothing Beats Great Customer Service.

If you feel like you can definitely handle an increase in customers while maintaining your standards of customer service, then we’re going to recommend taking it up a notch and thinking about some of the ways you can expand on and exceed your customers’ expectations. If you can find a few easy ways to stand out to people now, you will have a much better chance of sticking in their minds, impressing them and, ultimately, bringing them back in to do business in the future.

You can start by making sure your store is in tip-top shape, possibly even investing in a good deep-cleaning. It might be fun to decorate the space, turning it into a winter wonderland, creating a whimsical window display, putting up a hashtag wall or going all-out with any seasonal decor of your choice.

Maybe you could offer free shipping on any in-store purchases over a certain price, giving your customers a chance to continue their shopping unencumbered by bulky bags. One surefire way to stand out is to offer the option of gift-wrapping! For many, the idea of wrapping a gift comes with an overwhelming feeling of dread, and even for those who don’t mind wrestling with yards of paper and tape, the option to save time or have a beautifully wrapped gift is a hard one to pass up.

Any way that you can enhance the experience of shopping in your store, whether by making it more beautiful or whimsical, having attentive and knowledgeable staff or by making your customers’ lives easier, the more likely you will be to stand the test of time and come to the customers’ minds the next time they are in need of whatever you provide.

Expanding on your customer service basics can also extend beyond the time your shoppers are physically in your store. At the time of checkout, if you ask for an address, you could send a hand-written thank you note to them, reminding them of your business and the excellent service they received there. This small gesture is one way you can show your customers how grateful you are that they chose your business, and reminds them of the kind of personalized attention and care they can receive when shopping with a small business. These are the kinds of things that give small businesses an advantage over the big chain stores.

Give shoppers an incentive to come back

You can expect that seasonal shoppers aren’t only shopping at your business, and with the whirlwind of shopping, cooking, travel, and family that many people experience during this season, it can all pass by in a blur to them. If you want to stand out in the memories of these shoppers, you might want to consider giving them some kind of incentive to revisit your business.

One way to incentivize shoppers to revisit your store is to offer some kind of coupon or discount on a future purchase. Remember, this does not just apply to retail stores; a home cleaning company can offer a coupon for a spring cleaning discount, like, “Redeem this coupon in April for 10% off any one cleaning service.” Someone coming in to get their hair cut and colored before visiting family for the holidays could be surprised when you offer them a free conditioning treatment with the next service. Someone who signs up for a gym membership in the month of December could be wowed when they are offered a punch card to bring along a set number of guests for free. Since they are already committed to returning, maybe you can incentivize them to bring along a friend!

Many holiday shoppers are likely to be out purchasing gift cards for family and friends, meaning they may not spend much time in your store looking around or getting an idea of the out-of-this-world customer service you provide. You can persuade them to come back and spend some more time in your business by offering coupons or discounts with the purchase of a gift card. By giving them a coupon that is good through the end of January, or by providing an offer like, “If you buy a gift card worth $25 or more, you get 15% off your next purchase,” you are inviting this shopper to come back and check out your store for themselves. There are many bigger retail locations that successfully use a similar model: “For every $50 you spend now, get $10 off between January 1st and February 12th.” Giving your shoppers a discount in order to get them back in your store could end up paying off for you in the long run when they become familiar with you and your service, and become loyal future customers.

Stay in their minds after they’ve left

In addition to staying fresh on the minds of your customers through coupons and future shopping incentives, one simple way to stand out in the minds of your customers is by offering the option to email their receipt to them.

I know full well that, when a cashier hands me a receipt, I am shoving that thing into my purse, never to be seen again. With e-receipts, you cut down on unnecessary paper waste, your customer will have a hard-to-lose digital copy of their transaction, you can craft a sweet and personalized message to accompany the receipt and you can send a follow-up thank you message to their email a few days or weeks after the transaction, reminding customers of your service and your business.

While you never want to spam your customers into a state of resentment, a well-crafted, post-holiday thank you message could be really appreciated and could make you stand out in their minds. You could even send out a discount code as a message of appreciation, reminding people of your store and giving them a tangible reason to revisit.

Be ready for returns

While we may all be out there trying our best, sometimes, we don’t quite hit the mark with the gifts we give. After the holiday rush is up, you can probably expect to see a few people coming in to make returns or exchanges. Make sure your employees are well-trained and ready to handle these requests. When a customer is making a return, it might be worth it to see if they would rather exchange their item for something else. By giving them the chance to at least take a look around your business, you give yourself the opportunity to get to know this customer and wow them with your service. Even if they don’t want anything for themselves, they may be inspired to come back and get something for someone else. Make sure that you have a process in place to handle returns and exchanges, and make sure it is a simple process for your customers.

From all of us here at Top Rated Local, have a safe and happy holiday season!

Originally published on 12/23/19

5 Easy Ways to Make Your Small Business Stand Out on Black Friday

Black Friday, the unofficial kickoff to shopping season, is finally upon us. Traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year, for many, the upcoming season can make up the majority of a business’s yearly revenue. So, you’ve got your inventory stocked, your shop cleaned up and your staff caffeinated. The competition is fierce, especially with retail giants and online shopping, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make an impact on your shoppers. We’re going to outline a few simple ways you can stand out to all the busy, likely stressed, shoppers that visit your store. It can be easy to let a day this bustling with energy rush by in a blur of customers and transactions, but remember that you have a chance to show off what makes your store so wonderful and worth facing the crowds for.

5 ways to make your small business stand out on Black Friday

Know your product

You have a significant advantage over online retailers here. If people have a question about a product, if a customer wants to see an example of what they are purchasing or if they want to know what a product looks like in another color, you have the opportunity to talk with them, show them and interact with them. You and your staff get to be the experts here, and it is important that you establish trust with your clients by showing them that you are knowledgeable and prepared.

Practice the basics

Today, more than ever, you will need to showcase your finest customer service skills. You’re busy and people are stressed, so taking the time to show them that you are willing to give them individualized care and attention will stand out that much more. These might sound like the basics, but it is more important than ever to maintain and practice them. To start, smile, or at the very least, be friendly and genuine. Make eye contact when you talk to people to show them that you are engaged and listening to them. It is important that your customers feel seen and heard, as that can make a world of difference in their overall experience. Introduce yourself and try to use people’s names when you speak with them. This added level of personalized attention will put you leagues ahead of any online retailer.

Share on social media

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to share content and show off the excitement of the day on your social media feed! Now is a great time to show your followers that people are turning up and getting what they want from your store. This might just be the motivation someone needs to get up and out of the house and into your store. This can also help you set the tone for the kind of reputation you want your business to have. Are you guys fun and silly? Genuine? You can use this day to show your audience that that is who you really are, even on what might just be the most stressful day of the year.

Say thank you

Remember to thank your customers for their support. In today’s world, it would be very easy for them to do business at a chain retailer or online, so it means something that they chose to support you. The least you could do is tell them as much. Offering some gratitude is simple, meaningful and, most likely, genuine. This one-on-one attention and care might be the reason they chose to shop at a business like yours instead of at one of the chains.

Ask for feedback

Black Friday and the approaching shopping season means an influx in traffic, and each of those customers should be reminded that you would love to get their feedback online. Ideally, you will get a huge boost in your online reviews, ultimately helping out your search engine optimization, your online presence, and your overall reputation. By remembering to provide the kind of service and attention that nobody is expecting on a day as busy as Black Friday, you’re sure to stand out in people’s minds as being a five-star establishment worthy of a five-star rating.

We here at Top Rated Local wish the best to you, your business and your customers during this busy season!

Originally published on 11/29/19

How To Use Negative Reviews To Your Advantage

Turning A Negative Into A Positive

When you come across a negative review for your business, it can be really jarring. So much so that it may even appear to be an emergency situation. But, you can turn off the alarms, because a negative review can be turned around to actually help your business. In this blog, we’ll explore negative reviews, why they happen and how you can make them a good thing.

Why do people leave negative reviews?

In order to understand the benefit of negative reviews, we first need to understand why people leave them in the first place. Of course, there are tons of reasons a person would feel the need to do so, but you can almost always bet it’s for the sake of others to receive financial reimbursement or to get some sort of response from the business owners.

To protect others

Often, people believe that the entire purpose of leaving reviews is to help others decide whether or not they want to give a business their money. This drives people to leave negative reviews, sometimes even for minor issues, if they feel they didn’t get their money’s worth from whatever service you provided. 

For financial reimbursement

Speaking of getting your money’s worth, lots of people will leave reviews because they feel that it will get your attention and result in financial reimbursement. Whether or not that’s something they should actually get should obviously be taken on a case-by-case basis.

To get a response

Whether it be the aforementioned financial reimbursement or simply an apology, many people won’t be satisfied until they get a response to their negative reviews. We have talked about it before, and we’ll touch on it later, but responding properly to a review can make all the difference when it comes to customer retention and reviews.

What makes negative reviews a good thing?

Criticism can always be constructive, whether it starts out that way or you have to twist it into positive change. A negative review doesn’t have to be a death sentence, and it can absolutely be turned into a positive thing for your business. From showing potential customers that the worst that could happen isn’t all that bad to giving you an opportunity to improve your business, they can be a tremendous force for good regarding your business’s reputation.

They represent the worst-case scenario

One thing that is often taken for granted about bad reviews is that they give your customers a glimpse into what it means for the worst to happen with your business. Knowing those possibilities can put your customers at ease and also demonstrates how easily fixable they are. If your worst is better than that of your competitors, you come out on top.

They lead to informed purchasing choices

If your customers get to see both the good and bad of your business, they become empowered to make the best purchasing decisions. If they’re making the best purchasing decision by choosing your business the first time, they are more likely to come back to you time and time again.

They legitimize you

Too many positive reviews can seem suspicious and come across as fake. Because we know that buying fake reviews is a bad idea, it’s simple logic and safe to assume that when legitimate reviews come across as fake, it’s bad news. By letting your customers see that everything isn’t perfect all the time, you build trust with your customers.

They provide opportunity

“Facing it, always facing it, that’s the way to get through. Face it.”

That’s a quote from novelist, Joseph Conrad. This is great advice when it comes to responding to reviews. It is vital to always respond to negative reviews not only so that people can see how dedicated your team is to doing right by your customers, but so that you can hopefully retain the customer who left the negative review. Beyond that, any criticism your business receives can help your business to improve.

How to approach negative reviews

So, what’s next after receiving a bad review? Well, you aren’t going to be surprised by what we have to say — it’s all about reputation management. By carving out a good reputation management plan for your business, you can overcome any bad review.

Come up with a gameplan

The best thing you can do when receiving a negative review is to analyze the situation, figure out a course of action and decide how to approach the same situation going forward. If there is a way to respond to your poor review with a solution, focus on that. If there isn’t, make sure that being apologetic and genuine is at the forefront of your mind. In times like these, think “the customer is always right, but maybe we can reach a middle ground.” It is okay to defend your business, as long as you approach it with customer service in mind and the focus falls on correcting information and not fighting, you are completely within your right to challenge any negative reviews that come your way. 

Focus on reputation management

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again… over and over again. Offense is the best defense. By creating an impenetrable reputation, you can effectively shield your business from the negative effects of bad reviews while still enjoying the positive. Give your happy customers just as much attention as you would give the unhappy ones. Focus on your business’s social media presence, and make sure to encourage your customers to leave reviews. If you need more advice on reputation management, browse through our blog. We’ve got lots of information for you.

Try Top Rated Local®

With our proprietary Rating Score™ system, you can get an accurate look into where your business stands online… negative reviews and all. This allows you to truly take charge of your business’ reputation management and create a reputation that can weather any bad review. Sign up today and see what Top Rated Local can do to elevate your business.

Originally published on 10/15/19

The Advantages of Using Top Rated Local® for Consumers

Find a better way to look for local businesses near you with Top Rated Local®.

Top Rated Local® is not your typical review site

These days, when most consumers need a plumber or are looking for a great place to eat, they typically look online rather than asking for recommendations from friends or family. The last thing you want to do is to put your trust in the wrong business, and the only way to gain any kind of understanding of what working with a business is like is to read their online reviews. It’s for that reason that reviews can make or break a business’s success.

No one wants to hire a roofer, only to find out they like to scam their customers, or a home contractor that always shows up late or blows up the budget. You want to know that you’re hiring or frequenting a business that provides great service and ensures that you’ll get what you pay for, and reading reviews is one of the best ways to do that. However, not all review sites are created equal.

Here at Top Rated Local®, we’re proud to say that we’re not your typical review site. Built on five pillars of the customer experience — quality, value, timeliness, experience and satisfaction — Top Rated Local was built to provide a better, more effective solution to both consumers and businesses alike. It’s a place where consumers have access to a straightforward feedback system that gets to the bottom of their experience and helps them gain a better understanding of the overall customer experience.

5 advantages of using Top Rated Local — for consumers

#1. Gain an understanding of a business’s overall reputation

It’s not always easy to tell what kind of business you’re considering working with if you look at the reviews from just one website. There are a variety of different review sites, and a single business could have a wildly different reputation on each one. For example, the same business that has an “A” on Angie’s List might also have a one- or two-star review average on Yelp, so if you rely solely on either one, you won’t get a full picture of what working with the business is really like.

Top Rated Local provides consumers with an easier way to tell what kind of business they are potentially working with by aggregating its ratings across a variety of trusted review sites to calculate the overall Rating Score™ for the business. The number of reviews, the average star rating, how recent the reviews are and the number of review sources are all taken into consideration when calculating a business’s Rating Score.

With Top Rated Local Rating Scores, you no longer have to scour the internet in search of reviews from multiple platforms. Plus, Top Rated Local lists other review platforms, so if you’d prefer to read reviews instead of relying on a business’s Rating Score, every platform a business is listed on will be at your fingertips and easy to access.

#2. Top Rated Local isn’t pay-to-play

Did you know that a lot of the most popular review sites out there rank businesses higher based on the plan they purchase rather than their actual reviews? That’s right, if a company has money, they have to rely less on providing great service and a quality product, because a lot of review sites will rank businesses higher in their search results merely for spending money with them. These “pay-to-play” types of review sites aren’t helpful to either consumers or businesses.

Luckily, as we’ve mentioned, Top Rated Local isn’t your average review site, and it isn’t pay-to-play.

Not only does this ensure that the businesses that offer the best service get the biggest benefit — rather than the businesses with the largest bank accounts — but it also ensures that consumers have better, more accurate information to work with when they’re doing research on which company to choose.

#3. Get to the bottom of the issue with more valuable reviews

Reviews are wonderful, and oftentimes, reading reviews is the only way to get to know a business and what kind of service they provide before taking the leap and signing a contract. However, not every review is made equal, and a lot of times, reading reviews can actually confuse the issues rather than making it clearer.

The reason why reading reviews can muddy the waters is that they are often subjective and overly personal. Here are a couple of examples:

  • You went out to eat after your new fiance proposed to you, and you’re on top of the moon. Even though the food was late and a little cold, you’re so ecstatic about your future nuptials that you can’t see a single problem through your rose-colored glasses, and so you write a glowing five-star review.
  • You went out to eat on a crowded Saturday night, and you’re already feeling annoyed because there was an accident on your way there and you sat in traffic for 45 minutes. By the time you sit down, you’re more than a little hangry and nothing seems to be going your way. And even though the restaurant did everything in their power to meet your needs and make you happy, you’re not having it, and so you write a one-star review.

As you can see, our personal lives can easily bleed into the reviews we write, which is why Top Rated Local developed the five pillars of the customer experience — quality, value, timeliness, experience and satisfaction, giving consumers a better idea of what it’s really like to work with the business in question.

#4. Gain more confidence when making decisions online

Whether you’re purchasing the perfect ring for your special someone or scheduling an appointment for carpet cleaning, doing so online always comes with some level of risk. When you can’t be there in person to determine what kind of business you’re considering working with, you rely on people online to write reviews to guide you.

As we mentioned in our last point, reviews are incredibly subjective, and while they can certainly make you feel more confident when making purchasing decisions or decisions to hire a company, they can often end up leaving you more confused.

With Top Rated Local’s one-of-a-kind Rating Score and the five pillars of the customer experience, you’ll have the information you need to make decisions that are much more informed. When you use Top Rated Local to find the right local businesses for your needs, you can be more confident that you’re making the right decisions for your needs and your bank account.

#5. Write better, more effective reviews for the businesses you work with

Writing reviews is one of the best ways to support the local businesses you frequent — apart from financially supporting them by giving them your business of course. When you write reviews, you can also help other consumers make wise decisions about which companies to work with and which products to purchase. However, as we talked about in our previous point, there are some reviews that are more helpful than others.

If you want to write reviews that can help other consumers like you make the right decisions for their needs, let Top Rated Local guide you. Using the five pillars of the customer experience, you’ll rate the business based on specific criteria rather than just writing a few sentences in a comment. Of course, you’ll also be able to comment, but those pillars will help to guide you toward writing more effective, better reviews.

Would you like to learn more about how to write more effective reviews? You’re in luck because In a previous blog — How to Write Helpful Customer Reviews — we touched on a few tips to help you write reviews other consumers can really use and learn from.

Start experiencing the benefits of Top Rated Local for yourself!

When you haven’t had a chance to work with a business yet, and you don’t know anyone else who has, either, reading their reviews and learning about their online reputation are often your only course of action in determining what kind of business it is. There are a lot of variables that can make even reading online reviews murkier than you might think, and if you’re looking for a better option for making decisions online, look no further than Top Rated Local!

Whether you’re looking for an interior designer to help you bring life to your home or office, or you’re in need of restoration services to help you recover after a flood, turn to Top Rated Local to help you find the right company to work with for your needs. Start searching for local businesses near you with Top Rated Local today!

Originally published on 10/14/19

The Advantages of Using Top Rated Local® for Businesses

Find a better way to manage your business’s online reputation with Top Rated Local®.

Top Rated Local® is not your average review site

A business’s online reputation is everything these days. That’s because consumers regularly do research online when they’re looking for a specific product or service, and as Millennials and Generation Z start becoming a bigger and bigger slice of the consumer population, more and more people will rely on reviews when making purchasing decisions.

Reviews are a huge part of your business’s overall online reputation. Not only do they say a lot about your business, but they affect where your website ranks in search results. Reviews can make your website more visible, and that means that the success of your business relies heavily on your ability to generate reviews and manage them, and that’s where Top Rated Local comes in.

We’re proud to say that Top Rated Local is not your typical review site. Top Rated Local is built on the five pillars of the customer experience, and it was created to empower consumers and businesses alike by capturing a business’s overall experience in a way that’s unlike anything else you’ll find out there. And today, we’re going to go over the advantages of using Top Rated Local for both consumers and businesses.

Five advantages of using Top Rated Local for businesses

#1. Get a good idea of your business’s overall reputation

There are numerous review platforms out there, from Angie’s List and Yelp to Google and even Facebook. Having a profile — and actively monitoring it — on each of these platforms is essential to maintaining a strong overall online reputation, but it can be a lot of work to constantly check up on each one of these platforms to find out if you have a new review to respond to and to figure out where your business stands.

If only there was a way to get a good idea of your business’s overall reputation without having to check a dozen different websites. Luckily, with Top Rated Local, there is!

One of the biggest benefits of using Top Rated Local is that your Rating Score™ captures the overall customer experience — not just your ratings on Top Rated Local.

Your business’ Rating Score is determined by aggregating all of the reviews on verified review sites. From there, a proprietary algorithm analyzes your business’s overall rating based on the number of reviews you have, the number of verified sites your business is listed on, the average rating of your reviews and more.

#2. You don’t have to pay to play

A lot of review sites out there are free to get signed up on but offer paid plans in exchange for higher placement in their search results. So, for example, if a consumer is searching for a plumber on one of these sites, they aren’t necessarily getting results based on a company’s reviews or online reputation. Instead, they’re getting results based on how much a company is willing to pay.

Running a small business these days can be tough, and making a small business successful and profitable can be even more difficult. This can make it difficult for small businesses to compete with bigger, more profitable companies on these pay-to-play review sites.

Top Rated Local does offer a variety of different plans, starting with a free option, but signing up for a paid account does not mean that your business will show up at the top of the search results (though there are a number of incredible benefits).

The order in which businesses are presented in the search results on Top Rated Local is based on their Rating Score — not on how much money a business is spending with Top Rated Local. That gives small businesses an even playing field to compete in, and it ensures that consumers are getting suggestions based on a business’s reputation instead of how much money they are willing to spend.

#3. Get notified when you receive reviews

Responding to your reviews is absolutely essential to the success of your business, and that’s true regardless of whether the review in question is positive or negative. Responding to reviews demonstrates to both your existing customers and potential customers that, if they take the time to write a review for you, you care enough to take the time to respond to it and to address any concerns that they brought up. And when it comes to negative or one-star reviews, responding to your reviews will allow you to share your side of the story.

Even if you get occasional reviews that are fake or written by one of your competitors hoping to undermine your success, crafting a response can help to make things right. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to get a review deleted — even if you can prove that it’s fake — and responding is often your only course of action to let the world know that the review isn’t authentic.

In addition to making sure that you respond to every review, you should make it a point to do so promptly. In fact, most consumers expect you to respond within a reasonable timeframe — 72 to hours or so.

Plus, if you respond to a review fast enough, your chances of a customer changing a one-star review to a three- or four-star review are greatly increased. That’s right, responding quickly enough may even eliminate an unsightly one-star review that could hurt or diminish your business’s online reputation!

#4. Display the Top Rated Local trust badge on your website

These days, trust is everything, and it’s imperative to earn the trust of consumers if you want your business to be a success.

When someone comes across your business online, the only thing they have to help them determine how much to trust you is your word — and your business’s reviews! — and you need to give people a good reason to choose you rather than turning to the next business on the list.

When you sign up to become a Top Rated Local business, you’ll have the ability to display the Top Rated Local trust badge on your website and any other marketing assets you wish. When people see that Top Rated Local badge, it helps to build trust and gives them a reason to choose your business over your competition.

#5. Embed reviews on your website

As mentioned, establishing trust right away is a huge part of any business’s success in this day and age, and customer reviews are a huge part of that. Let’s face it, every window cleaner, plumber, home contractor and electrician out there claims to be the best at what they do. They all claim to have experience, value integrity and put their customers first, but the reality is that not all of these businesses can be the best, and not all of them can be trusted.

What a company says about itself is important, but it doesn’t compare to what a company’s customers say about it. When your customers go on and on about how great it is to work with your company, it says a lot and helps to give potential customers more confidence in working with you.

Displaying reviews on your website is a great way to add trust and give people a reason to work with you, and when you become a Top Rated Local business, displaying those reviews is easier than ever. With Top Rated Local, you can add a widget to your website that will display your reviews directly on your site. That means that consumers don’t have to go look for your Yelp or see what customers are saying on Facebook. All they have to do is go to your website, and they can see your reviews!

Enjoy the benefits of utilizing a different kind of review platform.

Reputation management should be a focus of every business, and that’s true regardless of what size your business is or what industry you work in. Luckily, with the help of Top Rated Local and Marketing 360®’s reputation management software, you’ll have everything you need to maintain your business.

Originally published 10/13/19

When Near-Perfect Beats Perfect

Believe it or not, having a near-perfect average star rating may actually be better for your business than a perfect one.

When a 4.50 average star rating beats a 5.00

At Top Rated Local®, we’re not your typical review site. Rather than just scoring a business based on the reviews on our own website, we aggregate a business’s reviews from a wide range of verified review sites to come up with their overall Rating Score™, giving small businesses a chance to more effectively monitor their online reputation from one place, and giving consumers the chance to truly understand what kind of business they are working with. And because of the nature of the job, we see a wide range of Rating Scores.

Although we can and do recognize those top-tier businesses that have achieved impeccable five-star averages (see our Top Rated Local awards program!), there’s no denying the power of a near-perfect Rating Score when it comes to attracting new customers to your business and establishing trust online.

The benefits of having a near-perfect star rating

#1. Consumers don’t trust perfection

It wasn’t so long ago that it was a common practice for businesses to pay companies to write fake reviews for them, and it’s a large part of why so many people are less trusting of five-star reviews, especially if every review a business has is a five-star.

Luckily, eople are also less trusting of one-star reviews, because many know that competitors and irrationally angry ex-employees or ex-customers will sometimes try to destroy a business’s reputation online in the form of a one-star review.

A study conducted by SmallBusinessPrices.co.uk looked at how trustworthy consumers view businesses based on their average star ratings.

You may or may not be surprised to learn that people are more trusting of a business that has a three- or four-star average rating than a five-star rating. The study found that only about 10% of people trust 5-star ratings; while, 35% trust 4-star ratings and 22% trust 3-star ratings.

Not only might a consumer believe that a perfect five-star rating is inauthentic, but if you don’t have any reviews that are lower than five-stars, they might think that you’ve somehow deleted or hidden negative reviews.

#2. It’s the content that matters

While a business’s average star rating is certainly important, the content of a business’s reviews is what truly matters to consumers who are researching new businesses online.

Five-star reviews will only get you so far if there’s no content to back them up. Reviews appear much more authentic to consumers when there’s an explanation for why the business was ranked a certain way.

And it’s not just the content of the review that matters; it’s also the content of your response. No matter how many stars a review is, you should always make it a point to respond.

Responding to positive reviews is essential because it shows your customers how much you appreciate the fact that they took a few minutes out of their day to give your business a shoutout online. And responding to negative reviews gives you a chance to apologize and fix any mistakes, share your side of the story with the world and show off your customer service skills.

#3. A lot of consumers seek out negative reviews

Surprisingly enough, when a consumer is researching a business online, they will actually specifically seek out negative reviews, which means that, even if you may have a one-star or two-star review, it might not be the worst thing for your online reputation.

Consumers want to see the one- or two-star reviews because they want to know what the worst-case scenario is if they work with you.

There’s a big difference in there being an hour-long wait at a restaurant at 7 pm on a Saturday night and a restaurant giving its patrons food poisoning.

People don’t just look at the star rating; they’ll actually read the review and make their own judgment. And luckily for small businesses, people will, by and large, take one-star reviews with a grain of salt.

#4. Five-star reviews don’t give you any room to grow

Reviews are the modern-day word of mouth, and they’re one of your most powerful tools for building trust with potential customers online.

When there’s a list of 20 plumbers to choose from, consumers utilize reviews to help them choose which one to turn to. And if your average rating is four stars, consumers are even more likely to trust you.

In addition to attracting new customers online, reviews have one other big advantage for your business — they’ll help you grow and learn how to get better and do better for your customers.

That’s why it’s essential to read and internalize reviews, even if they seem overblown or irrational. There’s usually a lesson to learn, and at the end of the day, when you learn that lesson, it will only help your business grow and flourish.

#5. People are more likely to leave four-star reviews themselves

One other big reason why people are more likely to trust a business that has a four-star average rating than a five-star average rating is that people themselves are more likely to leave four-star reviews than five-star reviews, even when they have nothing to complain about.

Part of the reason for this is that people see star ratings differently. For example, some people will only give a business five stars if they went above and beyond to serve them, while others will give any business that they have nothing to complain about five stars.

Furthermore, some people are more subjective in their reviews — writing about their experience with the company as a whole — while others are more personal in their reviews — for example, writing about their experience with a specific staff member.

People don’t often take reviews at face value for this reason, and that’s a good thing for small businesses.

Start managing your business’s online reputation with Top Rated Local

Whether your average rating across review sites is five-stars, four-stars or one-star, managing your business’s online reputation is a non-negotiable part of its success.

With Top Rated Local, you’ll be able to learn about your business’s overall online reputation across a range of different review sites in just one place! And when customers leave reviews on our site, it allows them to rate you based on various parts of the customer experience in addition to simply leaving a comment. But the best part of all is that signing up with Top Rated Local is absolutely free.

Don’t wait. Take control over your business’ online reputation and get listed today!

Originally published on 11/13/19

Ethics and Reputation Management

An ethical approach to reputation management

Word of mouth has always been one of the main ways small businesses have gotten their name out and grown. While the value of word of mouth is undeniable, online reputation is playing a bigger and more prominent role than ever in how a business is seen by its potential customers.

One of the key functions of your online reputation is offering a presentation of your company, and ideally, giving customers a reason to trust you. Trust plays a huge role in whether or not a potential customer will choose you over any other business. In this day and age, trust is one of the most important things your business can have.

In a 2013 study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, customers identified authenticity as one of the top qualities that would attract them to a brand, and according to BrightLocal, 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews from other customers just as much as they would recommendations from peers. In other words, a bad reputation, or no reputation, can kill your business.

It is important to navigate the world of online reputation management in a way that is viewed as ethical. Ethics is defined as the moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity. With that in mind, there are some simple ways to stay on top of your online reputation while acting in a way that is also ethical.

Here are five simple do’s and don’ts when it comes to managing your online reputation ethically.


Assume your reputation will speak for itself

It’s entirely possible that you’re the best at what you do, you have incredible employees and your customers have absolutely loved and benefited from your service.

While all of that can be true, if you are not actively monitoring and promoting your online reputation, you will stay practically invisible to a large potential audience. When a potential client first discovers your business, they will be quick to make judgments and buying decisions based on what they find online.

At the end of the day, your reputation isn’t going to speak for itself. If you don’t showcase a strong online presence, that potential client is just going to turn the other way. One easy and ethical way to start promoting your business is by asking the people that have loved your service to leave you some feedback online.

Create fake reviews

While this one seems like it should be a no-brainer, fake reviews are actually, sadly, pretty common and definitely unethical.

This one goes two ways — don’t create fake negative reviews for a competitor, and don’t create fake positive reviews for yourself. This shady tactic is not only unethical, but it’s also not legal.

According to The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), online endorsements cannot be misleading, cannot publish fake or unfounded claims, and must disclose any relationship or connection between the reviewer and the company. The cost of violating these guidelines could be steep since the FTC has the legal authority to charge significant fines or even shut down a business.

In one case in 2017, the FTC fined a car dealer in California $3.6 million for encouraging its employees to pose as customers and post fake positive reviews about the company.

Create negative content about your competitors

In a continuation of the last point, keep in mind that creating fake reviews is certainly unethical, and sometimes illegal. It is absolutely not worth risking your business to trash talk the competition.

When it comes to defamation and libel, the traditional rules apply to online content, which means that leaving fake negative comments for a competing business is likely going to get you into way more trouble than it’s worth.

If you want to do something that is actually beneficial to your business, take a look through your competitors’ actual negative reviews and see if the ways they are failing are things that your company can excel in. For example, if their customers have commented about their cold and unwelcoming waiting room, you can really stand out by offering a comfortable and fun space for your clients to hang out in!

By monitoring actual feedback instead of inventing fake feedback, you might end up learning something valuable about what your potential customers are looking for.


Spamming, or ‘spamdexing’ the internet, with lackluster or false content can have an effect on search results and your ranking in them, and is definitely an unethical practice.

There are many ways to create content spam or link spam, many of which are deceptive. Algorithms are used by the major search engines in order to figure out where to rank a website by figuring out what keywords and category the website is relevant to.

Some businesses operate under the idea that any content is good content and will create spam content in the form of articles or blogs that, to a reader, will look like garbage, but to an algorithm, might be full of keywords that might boost the website’s standing.

Try to erase the past

There is a false notion out there that managing your online reputation means getting rid of the mistakes or criticisms your business has run into, and instead, showing the public a flawless and perfected version of your business.

While you do want to highlight the good, it’s unethical to simply pretend the bad doesn’t exist, or to try and hide it from the world. Besides, the ‘delete’ button isn’t going to wipe you or your mistakes from people’s memories.


Practice transparency

Trust is everything for small business, and one simple way to build trust is to offer transparency to your audience. By offering transparency in your business, you are showing your clients that your business is open, honest and worth trusting.

One study found that 94 percent of consumers are likely to be loyal to a brand that offers transparency. If you are willing to be upfront about your practices, you are that much more likely to gain bought-in, loyal customers. If you can’t offer it, potential customers can all too easily continue their search until they find a company they are happy to place their trust in.

Establish your business’s core values

This is one simple way to show your audience the kinds of things that are important to you as a company. It can also help to make sure your employees are aware of the kind of business you are, and how to act according to the values you establish.

When your employees and your potential clients understand what you stand for, it helps them to decide if you are worth investing time and money in.

Learn from your mistakes, and from the mistakes of others

Accepting feedback and doing something about it is a responsible and professional way to handle your business. Customers will take notice that you care about their experience and are not too proud to learn and grow.

In some cases, making a change after receiving negative feedback will make you and your business look even better than if nothing had been wrong in the first place!

People respect someone who can learn and change, and customers certainly want to feel heard, appreciated and valued. You can also learn from the mistakes of your competitors by seeing where they are falling behind in reviews and focusing on being great in those areas.

Publish valuable content

Content marketing is one of the best ways to add value to your business. By creating content, you are able to share information with your clients and become known as an expert in your field.

When you share quality content, you make it clear that you are knowledgeable, useful and worth following. The things you share are able to help you connect with your audience, establishing a relationship based on trust and familiarity. If you want to be seen and remain relevant, you need to participate in content marketing.

Stay active

Keep in mind that consistency is key when it comes to marketing your business and keeping up with your reputation. Maintain a schedule when it comes to posting content, checking your reviews and responding to your reviews.

Again, this links to trustworthiness. Show your audience that their time matters by showing them consistency and excellence in all you do.

Start building a strong reputation the ethical way by becoming a Top Rated Local® business today. And, learn how Marketing 360® can help you manage your online reputation like a pro.

Originally published 11/18/19

Tips To Fix A Broken Reputation

Why your online reputation matters

It is the hope of any business owner that the business they have invested so much time, energy and funding into will be beloved by all and will be known for its reliability, excellent service and quality products or services.

While it’s great to wish a naturally stellar reputation, it’s entirely likely that some kind of trouble will end up finding you, and when that happens, you’ll want to be prepared to recover your reputation and maintain your status as a business people trust.

Warren Buffett once said,

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

We can’t stress enough how important your online reputation is. More and more, people are turning to the internet to do their research before deciding to give their business to companies. When it comes time for them to look into your business, you want to show them that you have the kind of reputation they can trust.

In today’s digital world, blunders and mishaps don’t often stay quiet for long, and once negativity starts showing up publicly, it often starts to expand and multiply. Whether your reputation has taken a small jab or has been knocked back by a solid blow, you’re going to need to do some reputation repair. When the time comes to manage and fix your online reputation, will you know where to begin?

Know that you are not alone. No business is immune to negative reviews or an eventual screw-up. What’s important is that you care and want to make things right. When the idea of repairing your reputation feels overwhelming, know that you have already made a big step in the right direction by simply making the decision to start!

Take a deep breath, remind yourself that you are not the first or last business owner this will happen to.

5 things you can do to fix a broken reputation

#1. Own your past 

There are few things as powerful as a business willing to admit to its faults and make a sincere apology to those affected by the blunder. When you come off as defensive, defiant or irritated, people rarely see you as in control and trustworthy. They see a business that is more concerned about its pride than its customers.

If the hit to your reputation came in the form of a scathing online review, take a minute to think about both what the customer said and what they felt. Chances are, this customer left your business feeling unheard or dissatisfied for a legitimate reason.

Other customers and potential future customers will be able to read, not only this review, but also the way you respond to it. This is where a little humility and sincerity will give you the chance to look good to your audience.

By acknowledging that this customer’s concerns are heard and worth responding to, you show your audience that you care and that you are paying attention. You don’t even necessarily need to confess to any specific grievances.

By saying something along the lines of, “I apologize that you did not get to experience the incredible customer service we hope to provide to each and every one of our patrons. I want to hear more about this visit, get the opportunity to make this right, and show you the kind of service we strive to provide. Please contact me at ___,” you can show this customer, and all potential customers, that you care and are dedicated to providing outstanding service.

By apologizing and showcasing that you have a plan of action to make things right, you come off as strong, reliable and in control of this situation. 

If there is a specific incident that has come up that is harming your reputation, you want to stay ahead of the curve by owning up to what has happened. Be honest from the start, apologize and reiterate what is important to you or what you will do to make things right.

One example would be, “I want to apologize for ___. This is not the way we hope to conduct our business, and we are sorry for anyone who was affected by these actions. We want to recommit ourselves to providing trustworthy service to our customers, who we value so much. Thank you for sticking with us through this, and know that going forward, we will always do what we can to earn your support and be the kind of company you are proud to do business with.”

Looking at a statement like this, your customers will see integrity, compassion and a commitment to them, instead of being left in the dark wondering if you’ll ever mention the incident in question. Being willing to address the concern, taking ownership of your part in it and recommitting yourself to the values your business stands for gives customers a reason to trust you, which is more important now than ever.  

#2. Strengthen your reputation by creating and sharing engaging content

Content marketing is one very powerful way to promote your business because it connects you with your clients, builds up your relationship and boosts your reputation by establishing you as an authority in your field.

Content marketing can be done through a blog, through videos on YouTube or Facebook, by posting to Instagram, by creating infographics and a whole host of other ways. That’s one of the beautiful things about content marketing; there are so many ways to do it that it really can be customized to your business and its strengths. 

Take something as simple as a blog. Many small businesses have found some level of success by using a blog to answer common questions their customers have.  

If you own a house cleaning company, for example, you may think that there’s no way people would be interested in reading about your business, or that the internet is already full of information about your industry.

But chances are, your customers do come to you for advice, or would benefit from seeing some engaging content about how to maintain their glass top stove between deep cleans.

At the very least, creating and sharing information related to your field will put you a step ahead of your local competitors, which is exactly where you want to be! Regular blogging can help you to establish and build relationships with your customers as well as provide them with helpful content.

Blogging is an easy way to establish yourself as an expert in your field. If you use your blog to address common questions your customers have, you provide them with a valuable tool that also showcases the fact that you are listening to their questions and concerns, and that you have a vested interest in helping them.

The kind of trust you can build by blogging about real questions and concerns, in and of itself, is incredibly valuable. People want to give their business to someone they trust and like, and a blog can not only help with this, but it can also help with keeping your customers engaged and interested in your business, even in times when a bad review or PR nightmare has you feeling down. Basically, a blog can help you establish enough of a baseline rapport with your audience to make it harder for them to turn on you in times of trouble. 

Whether it’s blog posts, Facebook videos or well-timed memes, the content marketing you do will not only help get your audience familiar with you and your business, but it will also count as fresh content, meaning the search engine bots will be more likely to look on your site favorably when it comes time to rank your business. 

#3. Smother the bad

You can’t just ignore or erase your bad press or negative reviews, and even if you could, that’s not a business tactic we recommend. Now, this does not extend to fake reviews, which you will want to discredit or get deleted.

We’re talking about the everyday hits a business can be expected to take. While you want to address negative incidents and reviews, you also want to show people that you have more going for you in the form of authentic, positive feedback.

Take a look at where your reputation stands at present. What do your reviews look like? Do you even have any reviews? Are the ones you do have pretty good, but a year old? 

Now might be a good time to reach out to your customers to tell them how much you would value their feedback and let them know how much it would help your business out.

There’s a right way and wrong way to go about this, so make sure that when you are making a push for positive reviews, you are doing so in a way that is authentic and is not incentivizing people to say nice things about you.

When people are checking out at your store, you can say something as simple as, “Would you please leave us some feedback on our Facebook profile? It would really mean a lot to us.”

You’re not begging, or asking for five stars, you are simply telling your customers that their experience with your business is important to you. 

Ideally, more and more people will start to share their feedback in the form of online reviews, giving you some much-needed content for people to base their opinions of your business on. You can also use positive feedback right on the front page of your website.

If you have had any press about your business, make sure it is featured somewhere on your website. Here at Top Rated Local, every business ranked as one of the top five in its category is recognized with a Top Rated Local awards.

By accepting opportunities like this, those businesses now have a valuable asset in the form of positive press, which they can display in their shops, post about on their social media and link to on their websites.

If your business has had any positive press, like an article about your grand opening or a spotlight for the work you’ve done giving back to the community, be sure to display it where people can easily find it! 

#4. Claim your listings and set up social media profiles

You may not be aware, but your business is already listed on review sites all across the internet, including Google, Yelp and Top Rated Local. If you are ready to start managing your online reputation but have no idea where to start, we recommend getting the ball rolling by first claiming all of your business listings.

Claiming your business online is free, easy and there’s no better way to keep ahead of what people are saying about you online. Claiming your business can help to build trust in the eyes of your potential consumers by legitimizing your business, showing your customers that your business is real and giving you the power to make sure that basic information. like your phone number, address and business name, is updated and correct.

This can be a crucial first step in forming trust with your potential customers. If they google your business and call the phone number that is listed, but that number is disconnected or incorrect, they are likely going to think that your business is either closed or unreliable. Neither option is good for business.

Taking your business’s listing off of these sites is not an option, but you do have the option to take control of those listings and give your website an additional SEO boost. Stop a reputation crisis before it begins by keeping up to date and aware of your online presence.

#5. Make reputation management a part of your business plan

With your claimed business listings, an outpouring of creative and engaging content and a commitment to respond to your reviews in a timely and professional manner, it will soon become apparent that you must dedicate time to managing your online reputation and making that a vital part of the way your business operates.

For some, this means carving out a set time of the day to dedicate towards reputation management. For others, it means hiring a full-time content creator, social media manager or PR person. For even more companies, the time investment it would cost them, or the financial investment it would cost to hire a new employee, has them turning to reputation management companies.

There are many reputation management companies out there, so be sure to do your research, ask around and find one that fits your business’s needs. In any case, don’t leave managing your reputation off your radar until it’s in crisis mode. Recognize the importance of understanding and managing your reputation, and come up with a well-thought-out plan of action for the best way your company can stay on top.

We hope you have been inspired to take charge of your online reputation today. One of the easiest ways to get involved is to claim your profile on Top Rated Local. Check it out, and let us help take the stress out of managing your business’s online presence!

Originally published 12/20/19

The Importance Of Reputation Management For Plumbers

Online reputation is vital to a plumber’s success

The world of online reputation management may seem a bit too much for your local, family-owned plumbing company, but it definitely should not be overlooked or brushed off as being only helpful for younger generations.

Let us fill you in on why your online reputation matters and what you can accomplish by taking control of it! By understanding and managing your online reputation, you can gain valuable insight into the minds of your customers, see where your reputation is shining or lacking, and communicate with your current and potential future clients!

What your reviews tell people

Whether for last-minute emergency services or a long-awaited planned project, when it comes time for the average consumer to choose a plumber, most people are going to turn to the internet before deciding who to hire.

As a local business, your online reputation can make or break you. Today, your online reviews hold as much weight as word of mouth has in the past.

In fact, 88-percent of consumers trust online reviews just as much as they would trust a personal recommendation. While positive reviews can help get your name out and grow your business, negative reviews can result in a bad reputation, which will undoubtedly harm your business.

Your loyal fans, your current customers and an untold number of future potential customers are using online reviews every day to make their purchasing decisions.

Think about it. From the most mundane household products, like sponges and hand soap, all the way up to important services, like optometrists and family doctors, people almost never choose a product or service without doing some research first.

That means that it is more important than ever to stay on top of and manage your online reputation. Think of your reviews as the new word of mouth or referral.

Imagine a potential customer searches for local plumbers and comes across your page and a competitor’s page. Your page has no reviews and theirs has a few positive reviews scattered across Facebook and Google. That customer is most likely going to go with the business that people have recommended through their reviews!

Many times, people are looking for a plumber with some level of urgency, and the average person doesn’t have much, if any, plumbing knowledge. They really rely on those reviews to help them know which business to trust!

Plumbing is a competitive industry, and you can be the best plumber in the city, but if potential customers aren’t told as much by someone other than yourself, they have no reason to believe you.

Check out your competition

Not only can your online reputation give you a leg-up in the industry, but it can also give you some good insight into what customers care about.

Browse through the reviews of some of your competitors. What are the top compliments and criticisms being made about other businesses in your field?

Maybe you hadn’t thought to really focus on communication, but you’ve noticed that that’s one of the things people complain about the most. You can help your business to stand out even more by going out of your way to be the best when it comes to communication!

You commit to responding to all voicemails by the end of the day, you start to send out follow-up emails, and maybe you even set up your employees with a texting service so they can let the customer know when they are on their way. Soon enough, excellent communication skills become something you are known for!

By seeing where others are struggling, you can get a good idea about what is going on in the minds of the consumers, as well as what they value and what tends to bother them the most.

You can also see where you might be outshining your competitors! By reading through the reviews, you might notice that you’re the only local company that keeps getting compliments about your friendly technicians.

You can lean into that when it comes to your branding. Start by saying that customer service is something you’re known for, because at this point, it is, and you have the reviews to back that up!

Make yourself more visible

It is crucial for you to show up as one of the top results when someone searches for businesses in your industry. In fact, it’s been shown that 75-percent of people never scroll past the first page of search engine results!

If you don’t show up on that first page, it’s almost as bad as not showing up at all. If you’re trying to buy your way to the top with keywords and paid ads, get ready to shell out the big bucks.

An easier, and significantly cheaper, way to boost your visibility is through reviews.

Your SEO (search engine optimization) is boosted when you provide original, fresh content, and new customer reviews are a form of content that not only helps by giving you precious feedback, but also helps to get your brand noticed by those algorithms that can push you to the top!

Communicate with your customers

Online or off, there’s no doubt that communication is valued in the service industry.

Online reviews give you a unique platform where you can communicate with your consumer base quickly and publically.

If a negative review comes in, you can quickly address the issue, showing potential customers that you are not only communicative but that you also value customer feedback. In some cases, you can even turn around a bad review by addressing the customer’s concerns and showing them that you care about their experience.

Make managing your reputation easy with Top Rated Local

Plumbers who have been in business for a while will and have a long list of clients probably also have reviews across many different platforms, like Yelp, Home Advisor, Angie’s List, Facebook, and Google — Top Rated Local can help you keep track of where your reputation is by bringing them all to one place!

It has never been easier to take control of your online reputation, and with some help from Top Rated Local, you can quickly get the shining reputation you’ve dreamed of.

Originally published 10/21/19

Shopping Etiquette in a Pandemic

Coronavirus has officially become a global pandemic, but people still need to shop for the necessities.

In a matter of days, life in the United States has become upended, and many of us are adjusting to the realities of this new way of life. However, regardless of how contagious coronavirus may be, people still need to eat, clean, and take care of themselves, and that requires a number of necessities.

Most of us are now working or attending classes from home, but that doesn’t mean that life stops. Shopping is one of those things that people still need to do, and while you may not be shopping for new shoes or a new wardrobe any time soon, you still need the basics.

No one wants to be the reason someone else gets sick, and the fact of the matter is that this new reality means that there are now new rules that need to be observed when you’re out and about.

The Right Way to Shop in a Pandemic

#1. Don’t go out if you’re sick.

The number one rule of coronavirus club is don’t go out if you’re sick. Keep in mind that the virus can affect people differently, and even if you’ve just been sneezing or coughing, you shouldn’t ignore it or chalk it up to an itch in your throat of allergies. If you’re feeling under the weather, and you need groceries or anything else, utilize no-contact delivery or ask a friend or family member to go shopping for you.

#2. Stock up but don’t hoard things.

If you get sick, you should be ready to quarantine yourself for at least 14 days. And, even if you don’t get sick, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommends staying home as much as possible and only going out when you need to. That means that many Americans will need to stock up on the essentials, but that doesn’t mean that you should hoard things.

There are a lot of Americans out there struggling to get what they need, and it’s not because there are widespread shortages of food or toilet paper. In fact, there aren’t currently shortages at all, but the fact that some people have decided to hoard things has left a lot of others without. So, be thoughtful and kind and only take what you really need.

#3. Keep your distance.

According to CDC guidelines, people should stay at least six feet away from one another as much as possible. This can be a challenge in a crowded grocery store, but for your safety and the safety of those around you, it’s important to try. Six feet is approximately the distance of two shopping carts, so when you’re out and about, try to keep that distance in mind.

Don’t crowd around others in the aisle. If someone is standing in front of something you want or need, let them grab their purchase and move on before you go other there.

#4. Shop with your eyes instead of your hands.

Some people like to physically touch things before they buy them, and some people like to compare labels before deciding on certain items. These are both perfectly acceptable most of the time, but with this new reality, the less we all touch things, the better off we’ll all be.

Whether you’re trying to find the right pasta for dinner or choosing a tomato, refrain from touching things as much as you can. Instead, shop with your eyes and only pick up when you intend to purchase.

#5. Make a list — and a backup list.

This is not the time to wander listlessly down the aisles looking for something to call to you. If you’re following CDC guidelines, you should be staying home as much as possible and limiting your time out in public. That means that, when you go to the grocery store, you need to be prepared, which means having a list.

Going into the grocery store with a list will help you get in and out as quickly as possible. However, it’s also good to be prepared just in case certain things on your list aren’t in stock. Having a backup list will help you avoid having to make up alternative meal options on the spot.

#6. Bring bags with you.

People have been flooding grocery stores and pharmacies for days, and while there may be plenty of toilet paper and canned goods to go around if people weren’t hoarding them, the one thing that is in short supply are plastic and paper grocery bags. Do yourself a favor and make it a point to bring your own reusable bags with you when you shop.

#7. Be kind!

Social distancing is important for staying healthy and safe, but that doesn’t mean that we have to sacrifice basic human decency. A little kindness always goes a long way, and that’s especially true during these times of uncertainty, so in everything you do, try to be kind to those around you.

Some people who could really use a little extra kindness of the men and women who work in grocery stores and pharmacies throughout the country. The risks that you take by shopping is nothing compared to the risks they take by serving you, so recognize that and show them a little extra kindness and patience, even if lines are long and shelves aren’t as stocked as you’d like them to be.

It’s also important to remember that while you may be healthy enough to get out and go to the grocery store, others may not be so lucky. If you’re heading to the store, ask friends or neighbors who may not be able to go on their own if they need anything, and while you’re out, grab a few extra canned goods to take to your local food bank.

When you’re out and about, keep everyone in mind who’s working hard and putting their health and safety on the line for you. Leave them kind words and encouragement in the form of a review on Top Rated Local®, your go-to local business directory!