Starting Your Year Off On The Right Foot

Claim your business listings

Claiming your business listings online is going to be step one of your New Year’s Resolution to have a stronger online reputation. Many people overlook this vital task because they don’t realize how important having a claimed business really is.

When you claim your business, you are showing your customers, current and future, that yours is a reliable and authentic business. The fact of the matter is, more and more customers are searching for local businesses online, and ranking ahead of your competition is very likely going to be what makes or breaks their decision to choose your business over any other.

Think about it, when a customer is going online to search for a business, but ends up finding an unclaimed business profile with inaccurate information, like their phone number, address, or business hours, they’re not likely going to trust that business with their time or money. Claiming your business and making sure your information is accurate and up to date is really simple considering how important an outcome doing so has. In fact, according to research done by Google, three out of four shoppers who find local information in search results to be helpful are more likely to visit stores in person. Thankfully, claiming your business listing is also usually free.

Claiming your business listings doesn’t only show your potential customers that you are a reliable business, it also gives search engines a reason to trust you and give you a better ranking. Search engines look for and promote legitimacy. By claiming your business, you not only show search engines that you are legitimate, but you also help boost your SEO (search engine optimization) and the likelihood of your business being seen more frequently. By claiming your business on verified sites, you improve your chances of increasing traffic to your website by making it more accessible and easy to find.

Claiming your business profiles should be one of the small business basics, and since claiming your businesses is such a simple way to get the attention of customers and search engines, it’s surprising that more small businesses don’t prioritize the practice, but that just means that a business that does claim its listings is going to stand out among the crowd.

Build Your Online Presence

When you search for your business on Google, take notice of what comes up. How does your website look? Are there reviews for your business? What kinds of photos are there? Is your website mobile-friendly? What about social media? Which social media profiles are your target audience likely active on? Are you easy to find there? Making it simple for your target audience to connect with you makes your business appear accessible and personal, which is important when it comes to building trust and showing your customers that you are reliable.

Your potential customers need to be able to find you, and when they do, you want them to be impressed by what they see. Start by investing in an awesome website. Your website will be many customers’ first impression of you, and no matter what business you are in, you will find that an eye-catching and professional website will be beneficial to your business.

Even a company that has traditionally operated by word of mouth, like tree removal or lawn care, can benefit from having a nice, up-to-date website. Your website can tell your customers your story, humanizing your business; it can showcase some of your favorite reviews, giving customers a reason to trust you, and it can give your customers the basic information they need, like your address, hours, phone number, and pricing options.

Too often, businesses that have gotten by thanks to word of mouth have lost out on potential new customers because so many people are turning to the internet to find new local services. In fact, the number of local searches is on the rise, with 46 percent of all Google searches being people who are looking for local information and 82 percent of smartphone shoppers using the phrase ‘near me’ in their searches, a number that has increased 900 percent in the last two years.

You need more than to simply be present; you need also be active in order to have a strong online presence. That means updating your website and social media pages with new photos, current reviews, blog posts, and updates. Always respond to your reviews, both positive and negative, in order to show your customers that you care about their experience with your business.

Ask for reviews

Just like having a great website, having a handful of reviews on verified websites is crucial to the overall success of your business. Reviews are a vital tool when it comes to generating trust and increasing your overall sales.

Nowadays, almost everyone is turning to the internet to do their research before making their purchasing decisions. Customers can turn to websites, like Google, Bing, Facebook, and Top Rated Local, to read about the experiences of past customers. While each of these sites has its own way of collecting and prioritizing reviews, reviews left on any of them will count as fresh content in SEO algorithms. Reviews will end up helping your business ranking by improving your overall SEO since fresh reviews count as fresh content, which search engines tend to like.

In addition to helping out with your SEO, reviews can also help you to connect with your customers. Your customers will naturally have some feedback for you, and their feedback is undoubtedly going to be incredibly valuable to you and your business, whether it is positive or negative. Positive reviews offer a great incentive for others to trust you with their business, and negative reviews offer you some insight into where your business might be slacking. Negative reviews also give you a chance to show others how you would like your business to be seen. For example, if you receive a negative review, you can respond to it, showcasing your responsiveness as well as your willingness to receive feedback. In your response, you can highlight some of the things you hope your business will be known for, like:

“We’re very sorry you did not get a chance to experience the outstanding customer service we hope to provide to every person who visits us…”

Customers like to see that someone will be attentive to their needs if anything goes wrong, and the fact of the matter is, they are more likley to trust a business that has had a few things go wrong. When they see only five-star ratings, they start to become suspicious that the feedback may not be authentic. A sprinkling of less-than-perfect reviews with well-worded and thoughtful responses is more likely to inspire trust in potential customers than a hundred bland five-star reviews.

Knowing how important it is to have online reviews, you should also know that there is absolutely no shame in asking for them! Chances are, you really do value and appreciate honest feedback, and there is no reason not to say so to your customers. As long as you are not paying for or somehow incentivizing people to leave you feedback, you can be confident that you are acting ethically in your request for reviews.

Revamp your customer service policies

Now is a better time than ever to make sure your employees are all on the same page when it comes to the kind of customer service your business offers. Establishing some customer service basics, a set of values, and even an overall business mission can unite your staff and help to set the baseline for how to behave with the customers.

Having a solid foundation in excellent customer service is a surefire way to gain the kinds of reviews that will instill some trust in your business.

Your customer service skills need to extend into your online presence as well. If you have multiple employees responding to reviews, posting to your social media pages, and interacting with your customers online, you need to have a unified voice that you feel best represents your company. It might be beneficial to start out by having a few templates for responding to customer concerns or negative reviews.

Consider Getting Outside Help for Online Reputation Management

Taking on the responsibility of managing your online reputation may seem daunting and could take more time than you have to invest into it. For many companies, the role of online reputation management is a full-time job. While most small businesses don’t necessarily have the budget to hire a full-time staff member to perform these duties, many are turning to reputation management companies.

If outsourcing your reputation management is something that appeals to you, make sure you do your research and find a company that feels like a good fit and can perform the job you want done. If you are interested in learning more about reputation management and its benefits, check out Top Rated Local, today!

Basic Reputation Management for Limousine Companies

Figure out who you are and what you want to be known for

For many people, the choice to hire a limousine service means that they are looking for a service to help them add to or complete a specific kind of experience. It’s important for you to figure out what kind of

customer you are hoping to attract because these customers likely have the bar set pretty high in their minds. Are you the endlessly fun party bus company? Are you the luxury line, ready to whisk people away to their formal events? Or are you an airport staple, offering safety and ease with a touch of class and sophistication?

Whether your company offers one or all of these services, it is important for you to know which you are, which customer you want to attract, and how to show the world exactly what kind of experience it is you have to offer them. Before you even start to navigate the world that is your online reputation, you first need to figure out these basics about your company.

Once you have established who you are and what you offer, think about what your service basics include. It could help to establish a mission statement for your business. This gives you and your employees a guideline for the kind of service your customers should be expecting from you. It also gives you and your employees a common goal and a baseline understanding of what is required from you.

When you have this foundation firmly planted under you and your business, you can start to look at your online reputation with a bit more confidence about what it is you are working towards.

You need to have a great website

Your website is almost always going to be your customer’s first impression of you. More than ever, people are turning to Google to search for local products and services. When they click on your page, you want to not only impress them, but also give them all the information they need to feel confident in choosing you over any other business. Having a professional and informative website is a must.

One way to stand out to potential clients would be to make sure your website’s homepage includes a widget that showcases stellar reviews previous customers have left for you. Customers trust other customers, and nowadays, reviews are worth their weight in gold since the majority of people trust online reviews as much as they do a word-of-mouth referral from a friend or family member.

Another website must-have is a gallery of high-quality photos of your fleet of vehicles. People want to know what they are getting when they are dishing out money for a service, and having excellent photos, a 3-D tour of your cars, or a few action shots of your cars will act as a valuable form of marketing for your business, even if they are only posted on your own website. At the end of the day, your website is there to reassure people that you are the best choice, and they won’t feel certain about that until you give them a reason to trust you. Having high-quality photos of the car they would be paying for is one crucial way to build that necessary trust.

Having profiles of your drivers, complete with headshots and a few quotes from positive reviews, would be one simple way to make your website, and business, stand head and shoulders above the competition. Including a page like this builds familiarity and trust with your brand. People are essentially trusting your employees and your company with their lives and are often hiring a limousine service for an event that is really important to them. You need to do everything you can to show them that you are worth putting that must trust in.

Don’t skip out on social media

No matter what your personal feelings are about social media, it could be a crucial asset to the growth of your business. Social media can give you a valuable tool for connecting with your customers, past, present, and future, and apart from the time investment it takes to manage your profiles, it’s generally a free service.

Think of social media as a collaborative extension of your website. With it, you can establish an easily accessible representation of your company and the kind of service it has to offer. Connecting with your customers on social media is simple, and many may already be looking for the opportunity to follow you! Social media makes it easy to post photos, establish your voice, spread the word about promotions, and interact with your audience. With a well-managed social media profile, you can even turn your customers into your own best spokespeople by having them tag you in their photos and share your profile with friends!

Reviews are vital to your success

The cornerstone of your online reputation depends on the reviews your customers leave for you. More and more people are sharing their opinions and experiences online, whether they are prompted to or not. The fact of the matter is, you have an online reputation, whether you know about it or not, so, we suggest taking charge of it and using it to help promote your business. Good reviews are no longer simply a nicety; they are a necessity.

When you are ready to explore and manage your online reputation, we suggest getting started by claiming your business profiles. Claiming your business can help to build trust in the eyes of your potential customers by legitimizing your business, showing your customers that your business is real, and by 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, and both of those options are no good for business, especially for a limousine service, where reliability is a vital trait your customers are looking for.

When your business has online reviews, good and bad, it appears to be more authentic and trustworthy than a business that has no reviews at all. When a business has no reviews at all, people will question whether or not the business is even operational! It is more important than ever to ask every one of your customers to provide their feedback. Good reviews are as good as a referral, and bad reviews give you the opportunity to make things right and show your audience that you genuinely care about the customer experience. We highly recommend responding to all reviews, positive and negative, because doing so shows your audience that you are present and that you care about what they have to say.

Reviews do even more than provide you feedback and provide potential customers with a snapshot of your business; they also help your search rankings! Reviews act as new content, which search engines love. Websites with consistently fresh content are favored by search engine algorithms, meaning that the more fresh and relevant content that is connected to your business, the better for your rankings.


We hope that these tips have been helpful to you and your business. If you are feeling ready to tackle your online reputation, we recommend getting started by claiming your business on Top Rated Local today!

An Online Reputation Carol

Don’t be haunted by the ghosts of your business’ online reputation past, present or future.

An Online Reputation Carol: A Tale of the Ghosts of Online Reputation Past, Present and Future

This Christmas Eve, we’re embracing the iconic holiday classic, A Christmas Carol, and its connection to the plight of the modern-day business and its online reputation. Just as Ebenezer Scrooge was haunted and transformed by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, so too can the ghosts of online reputation haunt businesses today.

These days, a business’ online reputation is everything, and while you may not be able to change what happened in the past, it’s important that you know how to learn from it and grow from it, just as Ebenezer did in Charles Dickens’ cherished Christmas tale.

To celebrate the holidays, we’ve set out to help you use the ghosts of online reputation past, present and future to build and maintain the kind of online reputation you want.

Ghost of Online Reputation Past

The decisions you’ve made in the past that have affected your business’ online reputation cannot be undone — nor can they ever be — but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth looking at. In life, we rarely learn and grow without making mistakes or going through challenges, so if you have a few, let’s call them dark spots, in your online reputation’s past, there may be more to learn from than you think, and it might not be too late to turn a negative situation into a growth opportunity. You don’t necessarily have to be haunted by the past, so to speak.

Here are a few things that might be spooking you in the past:

  • Negative reviews – We all make mistakes, and we all drop the ball from time to time. One of those very human times might lead to a negative review, which can hurt, especially when they’re true. Negative reviews can sometimes feel like a blight on an otherwise pristine online reputation, but the truth is that they don’t have to hurt so much. For one, they can surprisingly have a positive impact on your online reputation, because a lot of people simply don’t trust a perfect online reputation (people are always looking for the catch these days) and also because you can turn lemons into lemonade by how you respond.
  • Unclaimed listings – Whether you’ve signed up for profiles or not, your business is listed on review sites and directories, which prospective clients are using to learn about your business and to try to get ahold of you. Unclaimed listings with inaccurate information may have left clients with wrong phone numbers or outdated addresses, which does nothing to build trust in your business.
  • Burying your head in the sand – Your online reputation is there — shaping the way people look at your business and having a profound effect on your future success — and that’s true whether you actively manage it or not. If you sit on your hands and never claim your listings or respond to reviews, you’re leaving your fate up to chance. Trust us, your online reputation isn’t something you want to say, “Bah humbug!” about.
  • Sending the wrong message – What may have seemed like an innocent joke or a cutesy story can easily be taken the wrong way in this day and age. Think about the infamous Peleton commercial that has been ridiculed across social media for days. While the message of this video was that the wife who received the exercise bike was nervous about embarking on her fitness journey but eventually got stronger for it and was appreciative of it, but it came across, to many at least, as a caveman-type husband demanding that his already-slender wife lose a few more pounds. Suffice it to say, sending the wrong message can and does have unintended consequences.
  • Attacks from competitors – Not every negative review a business gets is legitimate. Unfortunately, some businesses decide to attack their competitors’ online reputations by leaving fake reviews, leaving ethical businesses feeling hopeless and unable to defend themselves in many cases.

Ghost of Online Reputation Present

A lot of us are so wrapped up in our own worlds that we forget that everyone out there has their own experiences. Scrooge had the unique gift of being able to observe the experiences of those around him, as a phantom or a fly on the wall, but businesses don’t get that luxury. Businesses rely on reviews, as well as other forms of feedback, to help them get an understanding of what it’s like to be in their customers’ shoes. And just as Scrooge learned about the importance of love, family and togetherness from his journey with the Ghost of Christmas Past, so can businesses learn from the feedback they get from their customers.

How to make the most of your brush with the Ghost of Online Reputation Present (Online Feedback)

  • Respond to it – Responding to reviews is a very important aspect of online reputation management. We’re all busy, and it can sometimes feel like pulling teeth to get people to take a few minutes out of their day to leave you a review, so when they do so, you should make sure to thank them for it! You should especially make it a point to respond to any negative feedback that you get. Responding allows you to tell your side of the story and demonstrate your customer service skills.
  • Own it – You should never brush aside or make excuses for feedback that you get from your clients. Even if you think the feedback might be unfair or unwarranted, it’s important that you own up to your part in it. People want to work with honest, transparent businesses that will treat them with respect. They also know that businesses are made up of people who make mistakes, and all they often want is for you to own up and apologize for it. Owning up to feedback will also help you gain more from it. You can learn a lot about how your business can get better by really analyzing the feedback you get from your clients.
  • Showcase it – If all of your reviews are negative, then the problem is much worse than just a mistake or two. Most businesses have as many, if not more, positive reviews than negative ones, but they can only do you so much good when they’re stuck on review sites. One of the best ways to make the most of your positive feedback is to showcase it. After all, it doesn’t always look great for a business to say that they’re the best, but when one of their clients say it, it means a whole lot more.

Ghost of Online Reputation Future

In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge’s final encounter is with the Ghost of Christmas future, a dark, hooded figure that shows him his near future if he stays on the path of cruelty and destruction that he’s on, which, of course, is death. Luckily, for most businesses, even common online reputation management mistakes don’t lead them down a road this dire, but bad reputations have tanked businesses before. And while we can’t scare you with the shocking reality of your future, we can help you safeguard against what may threaten it by teaching you a little bit about how to properly manage it.

How to escape death (the metaphorical death of your business due to an irreparable online reputation) and save Tiny Tim (your business’ sickly online reputation) from his fate.

  • Claim your listings – Establishing trust online is one of the most important things a business can do, and one of the easiest ways to do that is by simply claiming your listings. As we mentioned, it’s not uncommon for unclaimed listings to have incorrect information, and at the very least, claiming your listing ensures that, when people want to call you, they at least get the right phone number. But claiming your listings also gives you more control by allowing you to respond to reviews and even flag reviews that you believe are fake or from jealous competitors.
  • Keep your content fresh – A big part of maintaining your business’ online reputation has to do with SEO (search engine optimization), which affects what position your business is ranked in on Google, and a big part of SEO is fresh, original content being added on a regular basis. In addition to helping you rank higher, producing useful content for your clients helps to educate and empower them, help to build trust in your brand and help you to make connections with them.
  • Be proactive when it comes to reviews – A one-star review does affect a business with two or three five-star reviews as it does a business that has 40 or 50 five-star reviews. It’s all about your average, but the problem is that not a lot of people will write a review unprompted after a good experience. People have high expectations when it comes to service, and when you’re constantly used to good service, it’s hard to be overly impressed with great service. However, the same is not true for people who have had bad experiences; they are typically ready to vent about their experience online and get their frustration out. But there’s hope; the vast majority of people will write a review when asked, and as long as you’re providing great customer service, you can rest assured that those reviews will be positive.
  • Use your past mistakes to change your future – If you’ve had more than a few negative reviews in the past, don’t miss the opportunity to learn from them and use them to do better in the future. Getting bitter never helps anyone to get better, and while your first knee-jerk reaction may be to get defensive or frustrated, a string of negative feedback should be a wakeup call. It helps to remember that clients aren’t out to get you; they want to help you take better care of them and of your other clients.
  • Stay in the know – Reputation management is an ongoing thing, and when someone says something negative about your business in a review, responding quickly and professionally can help to diffuse the situation and prevent the fire from spreading. The best way to stay in the know is by claiming your listing on Top Rated Local®. Top Rated Local businesses get monthly email notifications with updates on their overall online reputation, real-time notifications when they get new reviews, a snapshot of their online reputation as a whole and so much more. Another great way to stay alert is by signing up for Google Alerts.

Become a Top Rated Local business today!

Stay in the know about your business’ online reputation and gain all of the benefits of becoming a Top Rated Local business. Best of all, like any good holiday gift, it’s free! Get started today.

A Guide to Turning Your Seasonal Shoppers into Loyal Customers

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 duri

ng 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 percent 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 percent 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 this date and this date.” 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!

Tips To Fix A Broken Reputation

Five Things You Can Do 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 and work for an easy time and 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 five 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 that means they will feel comfortable investing in you.

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? To give you some peace of mind, first, know that you are not alone. No business is immune to negative reviews or the 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, and read on for a list of five things you can do to help fix a broken reputation!

Own Your Past. 

There are few things as powerful as a person or business that is 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 someone who is more concerned about their pride than their customers’ experiences. 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 are going to take this negative and give you the chance to look good to your audience. By acknowledging that this customer’s concerns are noticed and worth responding to, you show your audience that you care and that you are paying attention. You don’t need to confess to any specific grievances, but think of it this way, this customer is sad, you are probably sorry that this customer is sad, so, say so! 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 that it is a goal for you to be known for 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, or could be harmful to, 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 give customers a reason to trust you, which is more important now than ever.  

 

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 trust with them, and boosts your business’ 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 pool service company or a house 

cleaning company, 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 this year’s coolest pool floaties or how to handle 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 with their issues. The kind of trust you can build by blogging about real questions and concerns you’ve noticed your customers coming to you with is, in and of itself, 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. 

 

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 like we outlined earlier, 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 given the opportunity to receive a featured article about them. 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! 

 

Claim your listings and get your name out with 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 by 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, and both of those options are no good for business. Taking your business’ 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. 

 

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’ 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’ online presence!

The Twelve Days of Reputation-mas

Twas the night before Reputaion-mas, and while on the internet
I learned of ways to manage my reputation
That I didn’t want to forget

So from us to you, we have set them to song
If you know the tune, feel free to sing along

On the twelfth day of Reputation-mas
my true love sent to me:

12 Bloggers Blogging

Generating content is going to naturally bring more traffic to your site. How’s this for power numbers? You have a 434-percent higher chance of being ranked higher on search engines if your website features a blog, and small businesses with blogs generate 126-percent more leads than those without. Regular blogging can also help you to establish and build relationships with your customers and provide them with helpful content. Blogging is an easy way to establish yourself as an expert in your field. By providing your audience with well-written blog posts about your industry, your business, and your target audience, you show your customers that you are an expert in your field. You can even use your blog to address common questions your customers have, providing 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 with their issues. The kind of trust you can build by blogging about real questions and concerns you’ve noticed your customers coming to you with is, in and of itself, 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.

11 People Sharing

When you have fun, meaningful, or engaging content, your audience can become your best marketers. Social media makes it easy for people to share the content you’re putting out there, whether that be photos of your product, blog posts about your industry, or information about an upcoming event. When your customers share your content, they are not only sharing your information with a wider audience, they are also giving you a kind of a recommendation, and all at no additional cost or time to you. People generally miss a whole lot of content on their social media feeds, so the more chances someone has of seeing what you’ve put out there, the better it is for you and your business.

10 Social Profiles

If you have any hesitations about your business having a presence on social media, we are here to offer you some insight into why and how social media can actually be beneficial to your business. I promise, it’s not all selfies and hashtags. Social media actually has a really important place in building your online reputation, as well as the connections you have with your current and potential future customers. The number of social media users has been on a steady incline for years and has absolutely no indication of slowing down anytime soon. In fact, over the last five years, the number of people using social media increased by close to a billion! That means that worldwide, there are around 3.2 billion social media users, or, 42 percent of the world’s population. Social media offers you a way to connect and interact with your customers, and even to share user-generated content, which offers a whole host of value for your business. Interacting with your customers on social media is one way to showcase your excellent customer service practices by showing that you care about your audience and are willing to take the time to engage with them. There’s no doubt, customers are using social media to search for products, recommendations, and services. Make it easy for them to find and interact with you! Of course, each social media platform offers its own appeal to different target audiences, and you’ll have to find the most effective one for your business. Here is a list of 11 of the most popular social media sites out there today:

YouTube – YouTube gives you the power to have your own channel where you can upload videos that your subscribers can watch, like, comment on, and ideally share with others. YouTube’s audience is huge, which means that no matter what kind of industry you are in, you likely have an audience that is active on YouTube. With over 2 billion active users, YouTube has been named the second most popular search engine, after Google. Ninety percent of viewers have shared that they’ve discovered new brands or products thanks to YouTube, so, why not yours?

Instagram – Instagram stories are having a big moment right now. Their usage has increased from 150 million to 500 million in the last three years, and it’s no wonder, since they offer fun and exciting ways to engage with your audience without having to make a more permanent post on your profile. Instagram stories can give your audience a feeling of being ‘on the inside’ or ‘behind the scenes’ since they are temporary and offer interactive features, like polls and Q&A’s.

Twitter – Twitter is known for being the social media hub for news, politics, and what’s happening now. For a small business, Twitter can be used to make announcements, promote special offers, reach new audiences, increase brand awareness, and handle customer service requests.

Facebook – Facebook’s audience is huge. With 2.41 billion monthly active users, there’s no doubt Facebook remains a powerhouse in the world of social media. Facebook offers a host of options for your business, including Facebook marketing, shopping options, insights on your business page, and messaging.

Snapchat – One study found that Snapchat has the ability to reach forty-one percent of all 18- to 34-year-olds every single day. Snapchat may have gained popularity for rainbow-barf and puppy-face filters, but it offers much more than that for small businesses trying to connect with a younger audience. Snapchat offers the option for businesses to post ads between stories, create interactive business content, and create and customize their very own Geofilter!

Pinterest – Pinterest is great at driving traffic to your website, and it easily integrates with not only your own website, but also with Facebook and Twitter. Pinterest is also the leader of the pack when it comes to product discovery and purchasing power. Staying active on Pinterest can also help you to stay on top of emerging trends.

LinkedIn – LinkedIn is made to create professional and business connections, making it an important social media platform for your small business to be a part of. It’s a great place to share your high-quality content, your company’s story, or your featured products. LinkedIn also gives your business some additional legitimacy and helps you to establish yourself as an authority in your industry. Even if you don’t end up posting much of your own content, you can stay up-to-date on the news and trends within your industry by following leaders and organizations within your field.

Meetup – Meetup offers plenty of business networking opportunities that any small business owner can attend or host. Meetup offers the valuable opportunity to connect with people in your own community. Meetup’s overall goal is to “revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize,” and according to their website, more than 9,000 groups get together in local communities every single day.

Waze – Though not a traditional social media site, Waze local allows small businesses to advertise to smartphone users who are using the navigation services of the app. That means that ads for your business can pop up like tiny digital billboards

9 Smiling Workers

No matter what efforts you’re putting into your online reputation, you’re not going to get very far if you forget the basics of offering good customer service to each of your customers. During this busy holiday season, your customers may be experiencing more stress than usual, and will greatly appreciate some quality customer service and care, while also being far more likely to notice when it is not present. In case you or your staff need a reminder, you can start by remembering to smile, or at the very least, make sure you are 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. 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.

If you want to do a further dive into some of the incredible benefits of offering great customer service, check out our article: Why Nothing Beats Great Customer Service.

8 TRL Facts

Here are 8 fun facts about Top Rated Local:

  • You can add the trusted Top Rated Local badge to your website to let your customers know that yours is a top-rated business.
  • With Top Rated Local, you can challenge reviews to ensure they are from actual customers, request re-ratings after you resolve an issue, and send private notes to your reviewers.
  • With the Top Rated Local stats dashboard you have access to a powerful tool for tracking the progress of your online reputation overall, or by an individual review site. With it, you can track your number of reviews, star ratings, listing clicks, your Rating Score™ compared to your competitors, and more.
  • By joining Top Rated Local, you will receive monthly email updates on your overall online reputation.
  • Top Rated Local gives you access to an embeddable review widget. That means you can embed the widget on your website’s review or testimonial page to automatically showcase your recent ratings and reviews!
  • Every year, Top Rated Local awards businesses in every state! Each business’s rank is based on its Rating Score™, which is calculated by aggregating customer ratings and reviews from verified review sites online, and the score is calculated using a proprietary algorithm that analyzes the business’s overall rating, number of reviews, and number of verified review sources.
  • Top Rated Local is built on five pillars of the customer experience; quality, value, timeliness, experience, and satisfaction. These pillars allow consumers to highlight what was important about their experience. It is a true, simplistic feedback system that has more value than reviews alone. It creates a place where the customer experience is amplified, and it creates a more meaningful environment for customers and businesses alike.
  • Once you claim your business, you will receive real-time notifications when you receive new reviews.

7 Online Shoppers

E-commerce is growing fast, and is showing no signs of slowing down. Online shopping is easy, convenient, and is the preferred method of shopping for many people. With so many people turning to online reviews before making any buying decisions, doesn’t it make sense that they can also get the product online where they can compare pricing options, see available options with the swipe of a finger, read dozens of customer reviews, and not have to deal with parking or putting on pants? Small businesses can take advantage of this booming industry by easily setting up their own e-commerce shops. In addition to showing your audience that you are able to stay current and up to date on the latest trends, e-commerce comes with a host of other benefits, like visitor tracking, easy customer feedback, and low cost of operation.

6 RM Statistics

  • Ninety-seven percent of people learn about local companies online. Your website isn’t the only way you can reach a broader audience. By using social media sites, like Facebook and Instagram, more people will be able to interact with you, share your business page, and see your content. Having a strong presence online is necessary in order to stand out and be seen.
  • Ninety-one percent of customers ages 18 to 34 trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations. Your reviews matter! Start taking control of your online reputation first by finding out where you currently stand. Claim your listings today to get started. Your positive reviews will give your business credibility and will act as referrals for potential customers. Even your negative reviews can be positive for you if you respond to them and show your customers that you care about their experience and are willing to reach out and make things right.
  • 82 percent of smartphone shoppers are doing searches, including the phrase ‘near me’, a number that has increased by 900 percent over the last two years. That means it’s more important ever to make sure that, when people are looking for a product or service you provide, you show up in their search! People WANT to support local businesses, but if they can’t find you, you might as well not exist.
  • Forty-three percent of consumers do online research even as they are shopping inside a store. You’ll want them to be able to find your business and the reviews people have left you. You will also want to be in the know about what they might find there. Are your prices competitive? Does another store offer an updated version of the product, or offer it in different colors? You might not know, but your customers certainly will!
  • Ninety-two percent of people conducting searches end up choosing a business that is listed on the first page of local search results. Working on your SEO (search engine optimization) and getting listed on the first page of Google is going to be vital when it comes to getting your business noticed.
  • Fifty percent of consumers who did a search on their phones ended up visiting a store within one day. Make sure your information is up to date and that your website is mobile friendly!

5 Good Reviews

Oh the power of online reviews, what more can we say about you? The fact of the matter is, reviews are a vital piece of your overall reputation and the way people see you and your business. Reviews act as the word of mouth of the modern world, and most people trust online reviews as much as they would a referral from a friend or family member. With most consumers turning to the internet to check reviews before making a decision about a product or service, it’s important that, when they turn to your business, there’s something there! Reviews help establish loyalty with your current customers and trust with potential future customers. Not only that, they also help your company’s SEO , which means they can help you show up in search results. One other crucial role reviews play is to provide you with valuable feedback about your business.

4 SEO Tips

  • Work on your meta descriptions – Meta descriptions are the snippet of text underneath the link in a search engine’s results page. This brief description often
  • helps make a person’s decision about whether or not to click on the link that will take them to your site.
  • Be consistent with creating and publishing content – If your site is constantly being updated with new content, it has better chances of having a higher ranking. Updating your site with new and engaging content offers your customers value and incentive for loyalty. Search engines also know that people are searching for relevant and up-to-date information, so when you provide that, they are likely to place you higher in the results.
  • Do your keyword research – Keywords help search engines understand what makes up your website and know where to rank it. Search patterns, SEO, and relevant keywords are constantly changing, so it’s important to do your research and stay updated on the latest trends.
  • Claim your business profiles – The more trusted websites your business is listed on, the more exposure your business website will get, the better your SEO will be. By claiming your businesses, you can also make sure that the information available about your business is consistent and correct across the board.

3 ORM Myths

  • No reputation is better than a bad reputation – When a potential customer is conducting a search and stumble upon a business with no reviews, they are probably going to think that business is new, has tried to get rid of negative reviews, or worse, is a total scam. Negative reviews are by no means the end of the world, in fact, a few negative reviews, and more importantly, how you respond to them, can actually give you a little more credibility than having only five-star feedback.
  • It’s rude to ask my customers for reviews – Many people have this very outdated notion that they can’t ask anything of their customers, or that it is somehow rude to ask them to leave you a review. When you are asking your customers for a review, you’re not asking them to go out of their way, lie, or to only rate you as the best of the best; on the contrary, asking your customers for their feedback shows them that you value their experience and opinions.
  • I should get rid of my negative reviews – Negative reviews don’t have to be a nail in your business’ coffin. While getting one may feel shocking or like a personal attack, it is important to stay calm and think about how you can use this kind of a review to show your audience the kind of business you want to be. Your response speaks volumes to the kind of business you are and your willingness to fix mistakes. Negative reviews can also give some credibility to your online presence. We can’t all be everyone’s cup of tea, and some variety in your reviews shows that enough people are actually customers of yours to give a varied opinion of you and your service.

2nd page on Google

The importance of a first-page ranking for your business is undeniable. The fact is, businesses with first page rankings end up getting over 90 percent of the traffic. Think about your most recent Google searches; when was the last time you continued your search past the first page? Once your business hits page three, the traffic going to your website will be under five percent. If you’re stuck on page two, get started on increasing your ranking by working on your keywords, claiming your business profiles, and generating more unique content.

…and a Reputation that is Pristine

I know it’s a catchy tune, but hopefully you don’t get this one stuck in your head all day. We hope you enjoyed this festive collection of reputation management tips. If you’re ready to begin on your own online reputation journey, we recommend getting started by checking out Top Rated Local today! Have a safe and wonderful holiday season from all of us here at Top Rated Local!

Who Manages Your Online Reputation?

Who Manages Your Online Reputation?

It should come as no surprise to any entrepreneur that online reviews and your online reputation are important for the success of your business. More and more, we are seeing trends that show the importance of being on top of your reputation and actively managing your online presence. The way people shop today means that a majority of people will do an online search in order to find a business or service in their area. After a cursory search, they will then go and read the reviews for the companies or products that interest them. What they find there will make or break their decision to do business with one company over another. When your online reputation means the difference between getting more customers or losing them to a competitor, you want to do whatever you can to make sure that your reputation offers the best possible representation of you and your business.

Not convinced? Here are some statistics for you to consider:

  • Seven out of 10 customers will visit a business based on the information they find online.
  • Ninety-seven percent of people learn about local companies online.
  • Ninety-one percent of customers ages 18 to 34 trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations.
  • Eight out of 10 internet users in the United States have said that negative information they read online made them change their minds about purchasing decisions.
  • A single negative review can cost a business about 30 customers.

Claiming Your Business

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 your business listings. Claiming your business online is free, easy, and there’s no better way to get your finger on the pulse of what people are saying about you. 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 by 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, and both of those options are no good for business. Imagine you are doing a search for a local plumber. One company has a claimed business, a complete and updated profile, and a handful of reviews for you to see what kind of experience other customers have had with this business, and the other is…just there, unclaimed. More than likely, you are going to instantly be more trusting of, and likely to give business to, the claimed business. By simply claiming their business, they have established themselves as reputable. There are plenty of benefits that come along with claiming your business. If you’re ready to claim yours, check out Top Rated Local; it’s both simple, and free!

Responding to Reviews

We highly recommend responding to all reviews, positive and negative, because doing so shows your audience that you are present and that care about what they have to say. It is definitely a best practice to give the same care and attention in your responses to every kind of review you receive. Even a wordless four or five-star review should warrant a heartfelt ‘thank you’. Even a wordless three-star review should be responded to! You could write something along the lines of:

“Thank you for your business and for this feedback. We would love to know more about your experience and what we can do in the future to show you the kind of excellent service we strive to give here. Give us a call anytime at xxx-xxx-xxxx.”

Remember those potential customers who are searching for businesses online and reading through the reviews before making their decision about which product or service to go with? When they see you respond to a review like that, they will see that you are alert, conscientious, and tuned-in to your customers. You have demonstrated that you care about feedback and are willing to listen and make improvements. That means a lot to people, and it shows them that they can trust you to make things right, even if they don’t go exactly the way they expect them to.

It is important to be prompt and consistent when responding to your reviews. Imagine the case of a truly scathing review. For example:

“I called for a quote and didn’t hear back for a few days. When the employee came out, they were distracted and were on their phone half the time. The price was OK so I went with them. Boy was that a mistake! They were hours late for their appointment, didn’t clean up after themselves, and didn’t even totally fix the issue. I will never use their services again. I wish I had spent a little more and gone with a company that would actually take care of me. One-star only because I can’t give zero.”

Yikes. Do you have a system in place to take care of this kind of situation? If you are not regularly checking on your review sites, it may even take you days, weeks, or months to even realize a review like this has been left for you, and zero response to a review like this for any length of time kind of makes this irate reviewer’s story seem a bit more credible. No matter how or when you respond, people are going to read that review and make decisions based off of it. Wouldn’t you rather boost your chances of saving your reputation by being able to defend your business in the eyes of your potential future customers?

When it comes to responding to negative reviews, here’s a quick run-down on how to respond:

Breathe. This might feel like a personal attack, but know that this customer either did not feel heard, or valued, or satisfied. Take a step back and stop yourself from lashing out in defense. One of the worst things you could do right now is to call them out for being wrong, rude, or misinterpreting the experience. Let them be sad or angry, and take the time to respond in a way that highlights you as rational and compassionate.
Apologize without accepting or placing blame. Responding to a negative review is a great opportunity to show yourself the way you want to be seen. In this moment, it is crucial to empathize with your customer and apologize without placing or accepting blame. Even if you feel there has been a misunderstanding, it’s likely that you really are sorry that the customer did not leave your business on a happy note, and that’s a great way to start your apology! You don’t need to assume blame; you just need to showcase understanding and care.
Take the conversation offline. It is important to show your audience that you are timely and responsive, and that you care enough to reach out and right this situation, but the details of that conversation can happen in a private setting rather than on display in a public forum. You definitely want to avoid a public internet showdown. Give them an office phone number or email and ask them to get ahold of you to find out how you can offer them a better experience.
Learn, adapt, and change when necessary. If the negative feedback you receive actually does have a point, nothing will look better than you having the humility and wherewithal to listen to the needs of your customers and take their advice into account.

So, whose job is it to manage your reputation?

Your reputation isn’t just for your customers. Having a strong reputation also helps your employees to solidify their commitment to your business and gives them confidence in who you are and what you do. In fact, your online reputation doesn’t just affect potential sales and customer opinions, but it can also determine the quality of candidates you have to hire from. Nobody wants to associate themselves with a company that has a bad reputation, and if they do, are they really the kind of qualified employee you are hoping for? One recent survey showed that 69 percent of job seekers are likely to reject a job offer from a company with a bad reputation.

With all of this in mind, do you know who is managing your online reputation and how? Do you have a plan in place when it comes to responding to reviews? Do you have a schedule or alerts set up to help you see the reviews when they come in? When it comes to effectively managing and improving your online reputation, these things are kind of the bare minimum. You should also be alert to and share the good things happening with your business. Do you have a space on your website that features your best five-star reviews? Do you create and share social media posts about awards you’ve received? If any of this is starting to sound overwhelming for you to take on by yourself and a little bit too important for you to delegate to one of your employees, there are a few options for you. You could hire a full-time employee whose job it is to monitor your online presence and overall reputation. This person could manage your social media profiles, send out emails asking customers for reviews, and respond to all reviews in a decided on tone.

Another option is to hire a company that specializes in reputation management. With social media and online reviews as important as they are to the success of your business, it could be the most beneficial to bring in an expert to manage, maintain, and improve your business’ online reputation. Your business may best benefit from having an outside vendor or consultant rather than a full-time in-house employee. When you hire a professional reputation manager, you are getting someone who will be adept at reputation management services far beyond crisis control and responding to negative reviews. Their whole job is to establish and promote your business’ reputation through a variety of strategies.

You might be fully capable of handling some reputation management strategies without any assistance, but how much time and energy are you willing to devote to the endeavor? Depending on your response, it could be worth looking into the services of a reputation management company. If you are interested in learning more about hiring a professional reputation manager to work with your business, reach out today!

When you consider the lasting and significant damage a negative reputation can have on your business, it is more important than ever to develop a strategy when it comes to protecting and promoting your business’ online reputation. Whether it’s to promote your business, build trust in your brand, or increase employee buy-in and loyalty, get started on your reputation management journey today.


If you’re ready to take your reputation into your own hands, you can claim your business listing for free today on Top Rated Local®. Top Rated Local is an invaluable tool that any business looking to strengthen their online reputation can use! Top Rated Local offers a powerful platform that makes it easy for you to capture and monitor reviews across multiple trusted review sites relevant to your business. The Top Rated Local stats dashboard is a powerful tool for tracking the progress of your online reputation overall, or by an individual review site. Now, you can track the number of reviews your business gets, your overall star ratings, your listing clicks, and even your Rating Score™ compared to your competitors. Not only that, but your clients or customers can leave your business reviews directly on the Top Rated Local site. Think of Top Rated Local as a one-stop-shop for all of your reputation management needs.

Protecting Your Online Reputation Like a Pro

From negative reviews to data breaches, there are a lot of things that can damage your business’ online reputation.

Every business needs to know how to protect their online reputation.

Reputation management isn’t something that you do once and forget about. It’s something that you have to focus on every day. Staying vigilant is of the utmost importance when it comes to reputation management because there are many things that can endanger your online reputation and undo all of the hard work you’ve done over the years. Here are the biggest threats to your business’ online reputation:

  • Negative reviews – While you can control what kind of service you provide and how you take care of your customers or clients, you can’t control what they say about your business online. Negative reviews can be helpful to both businesses and consumers alike when they’re honest, but they can also do a lot of damage to a business’ online reputation.
  • Brand ambiguity – The last thing that a business wants is for a consumer not to be able to understand exactly what they do or what they have to offer. Brands with ambiguous names (think Apple) have the additional challenge of ensuring that their branding makes what they do clear.
  • Data breaches – According to Statista, in 2018, there were 1,244 data breaches and 446.5 million records were exposed. When a customer entrusts a business with their personal and financial information, they expect that information to be protected, which is why a data breach can greatly damage a brand’s trustworthiness in the eyes of consumers.
  • Unprofessional employee or CEO comments – Nothing can affect a business’ online reputation quite as much as the public comments of the employees or even the CEO. With Twitter, Facebook and the many other social media platforms out there, it’s easier than ever to air grievances and give opinions in a public way, but when you represent a business, that can lead to trouble.

These are just a few examples of the kind of things that can have a negative impact on your business’ online reputation, but you’ll be glad to know that there are also a lot of things you can do to help you protect your brand and keep it strong.

How to Protect Your Business’ Online Reputation

#1. Make customer service your top priority.

Good service is worth its weight in gold, and most people are even willing to pay more for it. When you make it your mission to provide next-level customer service, you don’t have to worry so much about negative reviews, because you’ll be a lot less likely to get them. And when a customer does have a complaint or negative feedback for your business, having finely tuned customer service skills will help you resolve the issue in the most effective possible way.

Ideally, you’ll help to provide your customers with solutions, answers and satisfaction during every part of the process. A great way to avoid negative reviews online is to make it a point to ask frequently about the customer’s experience during the process, as well as after the process is complete. You can’t read your customers’ minds, but you can ask how they feel about their experience with you and make it clear to them that you really do care.

#2. Get more reviews.

For the most part, businesses that are genuinely interested in doing a good job for their customers instead of just making a buck will mostly have positive reviews. However, mistakes happen, as does miscommunication and misunderstanding, which can all lead to a negative customer experience and a negative review. Luckily, those will likely be few and far between, and if you can generate more reviews from your happy customers, they’ll help to drown out any negative reviews you might receive. Here are a few ideas to help you generate more reviews for your business:

  • Ask! – The easiest way to get reviews for your business is also the simplest way — all you have to do is ask! Unfortunately, most people won’t write reviews on their own, but the vast majority of them will write one when asked.
  • Explain why it’s important – People often don’t write reviews because they don’t understand how valuable they can be for the business in question as well as for consumers doing research about which business to work with. It never hurts to educate your clients on how big of a difference writing reviews can make.
  • Send out automatic review requests – Getting in the habit of asking every client to leave a review every time can be daunting, but the good news is that there are plenty of ways to automate review requests, including follow-up emails and working with a review generating company.
  • Incentive reviews – This can be tricky, as incentivizing reviews can easily look like buying them, which is definitely unethical and against the rules of many review platforms. That’s why it’s important to incentivize every client to write a review, not just the happy ones, and you should never try to push for a specific star rating or for a certain kind of content.

#3. Respond to reviews promptly.

You can’t write your customers’ reviews for them, and it’s unethical and against the rules to try to persuade them to give you a certain kind of review. However, that doesn’t mean that you’re powerless. In fact, one of the most powerful ways to deal with a one-star review is not to try to get it removed or hidden, but to embrace it, learn from it and respond to it.

Although it’s important to respond to every review you get (after all, the client did take the time to write it for you and at least deserve to be thanked), there’s almost nothing more important to your online reputation than responding to negative reviews. When you respond, you’re able to share your side of the story and to demonstrate to the client (as well as any potential clients that see your response) that you are listening, that you truly care about meeting their needs and providing the very best customer experience, and that you’re willing to own up to your mistakes.

Whatever you do, don’t try to fight a negative review in your response, even if you feel that the review was fake, dishonest or unfair. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) take responsibility for a negative experience that wasn’t your fault, but your response is not the place to fight back. If you do, you’ll come across as petty and immature. The correct way to deal with situations like these is to apologize that they had a poor experience and offer to discuss the matter further personally. You should, of course, also let them know how they can get ahold of you to talk more.

The other part of responding to reviews is doing so promptly. The longer you leave a negative review just sitting there, the more credence it has and the more damage it can do to your online reputation. This doesn’t mean that you should respond to the review right away if you’re feeling defensive or upset about it; it’s always a good thing to cool off and not let your emotions take the wheel. Give yourself a minute or two to gather your thoughts and simmer your emotions, but don’t take too long to respond, or people will think that you don’t care about or aren’t paying attention to reviews.

#4. Be on alert.

When something negative is said about your business online, it won’t help matters if you don’t address it promptly. However, you can’t possibly respond or work to fix the problem if you don’t know that it exists. This is why it’s essential that businesses are on alert when it comes to online reputation. But how? It’s not as if your business is on one review site or one directory. The fact is that there are lots of places negative content about your business could be published, and the task of staying on top of all of it can seem daunting to say the least. Luckily, Top Rated Local® can help.

Top Rated Local is not a typical review platform; it’s more of an all-encompassing reputation platform. Yes, verified customers can and do write reviews on Top Rated Local itself, but it also pulls reviews in from any verified rating source a business is listed on, which could include Google, Facebook, Yelp, The Knot, etc. Additionally, Top Rated Local makes it easy to get a clear idea of a business’ overall online reputation with the Rating Score™ system.

A business’ Rating Score is calculated based on a wide range of variables, including the number of review sites the business is listed on, the number of reviews a business has, a business’ average star rating across review sites and more. The Rating Score is an excellent tool that businesses can use to gain a higher level understanding of where their reputation is at online, and it’s a great tool for consumers, too, because it helps them to choose the right business overall, not just the highest-rated business on Yelp.

Becoming a Top Rated Local business (and claiming your listing on Top Rated Local) also gives business owners several tools to help them keep track of their online reputation. These include real-time notifications when a business receives new reviews and monthly updates with information about a business’ overall online reputation.

In addition to becoming a Top Rated Local business, you can also stay on top of your online reputation by signing up for Google Alerts. With Google Alerts, you’ll be notified when your brand gets mentioned, but you can also set up notifications to help you learn what people are saying about your competitors. Furthermore, Google Alerts are free and can be sent at whatever frequency you desire, from daily to monthly.

#4. Secure your brand name.

Your brand name is arguably the most important part of your brand, but if you don’t take the proper steps, someone may end up using it against you.

If you haven’t already, it’s important that you register a website with your business name as the domain — for example, BeautifulSmilesDentistry.com. This is one of the most powerful ways that you can protect your reputation online, because it helps to prevent other people (as well as your competitors) from stealing this essential piece of real estate from you and potentially even using it against you.

Registering your business name as a domain is critical, but you shouldn’t stop there. It’s also important to secure your brand name across all of your social media platforms. The last thing that you want is for someone with malicious intent to be able to pose as your business on Twitter or Instagram, and the best way to prevent that from happening is by securing your business name on social media.

If you want to truly control the conversation surrounding your brand, you’re going to need to be able to fill up all 10 spots on page one of the SERP (search engine results pages) when your business name is googled. Your website can only take up one of those spaces, and securing your brand name across several social media sites can go a long way toward filling up the other nine spots on page one.

#5. Prioritize publishing content.

Reputation management is about controlling the conversation that’s centered around your brand, and a big part of that is determined by what ranks when your brand name or another targeted keyword is searched online. In an ideal world, securing your brand name across your website and social media profiles would be enough to ensure that you rank well for what you want to, but there’s a little more to the story than that.

The truth is that securing your brand name is just the first step to achieving SERP domination; you also have to be willing to publish content regularly on your website and social media platforms. This may look like publishing articles or blogs on your website, posting tutorials and other videos on YouTube, or even sharing behind-the-scenes images from your business on Instagram.

Another great way to control the conversation about your brand is to publish press releases regularly. Press releases are the perfect way to announce upcoming sales, events and other goings-on at your business. Plus, the more content out there that you control, the farther down in the SERP negative content about your business will rank.

The benefits of posting content regularly are many. Not only does publishing content more often help to ensure that your website and social media pages rank in the SERP, but it also helps to establish your business as an authority in your industry. As an industry expert, you have a lot of knowledge to share, and when you publish content regularly that’s informative, in-depth and helps answer questions your clients have, it helps to build trust in your brand.

Don’t wait until a crisis occurs to start managing your online reputation.

Taking a proactive approach to reputation management with the above steps is far preferable than waiting for disaster to strike. An effective crisis management strategy starts long before a crisis occurs. Waiting for a crisis to act or being reactive with your reputation management strategy is a surefire way to endanger your business’ online reputation.

If you’re ready to start taking a proactive approach to reputation management, the best way to get started is to sign up for Top Rated Local and/or claim your listing. It’s free to sign up, and you’ll enjoy a long list of benefits, including the ability to reply to reviews, a prioritized profile ranking on Google, a Top Rated Local badge that you can display on your website and more frequent updates to your Rating Score. Become a Top Rated Local business today!

An Ode to Small Businesses

In honor of last week’s Small Business Saturday, we’re celebrating the many ways that small, local businesses make a difference in their communities and in the world.

Small businesses are absolutely essential.

Small, local businesses are often underestimated by their communities as well as by the people who own and run them, but the impact they have is anything but small. Last week, Saturday, November 30th, was Small Business Saturday, a holiday that celebrates small businesses and encourages communities to give back by shopping local, and in order to celebrate Small Business Saturday and the many small businesses that serve their communities, we’ll be discussing a few of the ways that small businesses make an impact.

7 Reasons Small Business Matters

#1. Small businesses create jobs.

There are a few big companies that employ a large percentage of Americans, but when it comes to employment, the big corporations just can’t compete with the power of small business. Did you know that 99.7 percent of all employer firms are represented by small businesses? Additionally, small businesses are responsible for paying out 45 percent of the private payroll in the United States, and they have generated up to 80 percent of the net new jobs every year for the past decade.

The United States’ 2018 Small Business Profile found that the 30.2 million small businesses in the U.S. employ 47.5 percent of the private sector and added 1.9 million net new jobs for the last year that was studied. Here’s what Acting Chief Counsel Major L. Clark, III had to say about the importance of small business:

“Small businesses are the United States’s economic engine. They are the key to the state’s ability to grow economic output, entrepreneurship, and private sector employment.”

#2. Small businesses help local economies thrive.

Unlike when you shop with giant online retailers and other large corporations, when you spend your money with local businesses, that money largely goes back into the local economy. Local businesses often have local suppliers, are more likely to offer local goods and hire locals to help them serve their customers. When those businesses need signage, they turn to local sign companies, and when those businesses need an architect and an interior designer to design their new location, they also turn to local professionals.

Each and every one of these factors leads to a multiplying effect for your money when you shop locally. In fact, every dollar you spend at a local business can bring as much as $3.50 into your local economy.

In addition to aiding local economies, small businesses also give back to their local communities through charitable donations and volunteering. According to the NFIB National Small Business Poll, 91 percent of small businesses gave back to their communities through direct-cash contributions, in-kind contributions or volunteering, and 41 percent of them contribute by doing all three.

#3. Small businesses offer one-of-a-kind products and services.

Small businesses are as varied as they are numerous. Every week here at Top Rated Local, we announce the award winners in a new state across 62 different categories, as well as the top 100 businesses in the state. Our categories consist of everything from accounting firms and barber shops to window cleaners and veterinarians, but in our top 100, there are always a few totally unique businesses.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the standard businesses, like jewelry stores, family doctors offices and restoration companies, but the most unique businesses are the ones that bring the most character to their communities. From lawn care companies that utilize goats instead of lawnmowers to escape rooms and board game cafes, each business is unique and special in its own way.

#4. Small businesses give access to expertise.

Small businesses give back to their communities in so many different ways, all of which are incredibly valuable, but there’s one way that’s all too often overlooked — through education! Small businesses are owned by experts in a variety of fields. Not every person who goes to beauty school has what it takes to own a beauty salon, and not every person who passes their CPA exam will go on to open an accounting firm. Furthermore, starting a business takes a whole lot of time and education, and it’s not something that just anyone can do or wants to do.

In addition to contributing to the local economy, the community’s well-being and creating jobs, when consumers choose to shop locally, they also give their clients access to their expertise. Whether they’re hosting a lunch and learn about how to save for your first home or giving free massages and teaching runners about proper form at a 5k, small businesses of all types are bettering their communities by giving them access to their knowledge and experience.

#5. Small businesses keep the world green.

As we previously mentioned, small businesses are more likely to utilize local resources, which means that fewer cross-country deliveries are required, helping to reduce the number of travel miles required each and every day. And when people make the commitment to shop locally, it also reduces the number of miles they travel to shop.

Another big environmental benefit of shopping at small, local businesses is land savings. Big box stores tend to be — well — big. These stores tend to require a whole lot of retail space, and that’s not even including the space needed for parking. Cities across America have seen green, open spaces get eliminated by the spread of big business, but by supporting local businesses, you can keep your open spaces open, protecting habitats of a wide range of species! On the other hand, when small businesses decide to expand, they often utilize existing spaces.

#6. Small businesses provide better service.

Let’s face it, for large corporations with all of the financial resources in the world, the stakes are about as low as they can get where customer service is concerned. If the service they provide is subpar and they end up losing a customer because of it, they’ll simply move onto the next customer. Corporations also have the resources to hire professionals to help them clean up the consequences of poor customer service.

Small businesses have a lot more at stake than large corporations, which gives them an incentive to invest in providing next-level customer service to each and every customer. Small business owners often work and live alongside the people they serve as well, giving them even more motivation to get it right when it comes to service. Last but not least, if a large corporation makes a mistake and gets sued, they’ll simply pay what they owe and move on with their lives. But for a small business, legal trouble can lead to disaster, and it gives them yet another reason to ensure that they get the job done right the first time.

#7. Small businesses keep the competition alive.

In this day and age, it’s easy to forget that there’s more than just a few different businesses out there, because it seems like there’s a monopoly in almost every industry. But still, for every big box store, there are thousands of local businesses that offer the same goods and products, as well as more educated staff and better customer service. And believe it or not, these businesses are the ones that are keeping the competition alive, which helps to set a higher standard of service and helps to keep prices low.

In addition to lower prices and better service, the competition that small businesses help to create also leads to increased innovation and choice for consumers. Think about it, with just a handful of big box stores, there’s only one sales plan, but with a multitude of small businesses, there could be thousands of sales plans all based on the individual needs of the business owners in the community, leading to a more diverse range of goods and services.

Make your small business stand out with Top Rated Local.

If you’re the owner of a small business, we salute you and commend you for everything you do for your community and the world. And we’d love to give back to you by helping you maintain the kind of reputation that helps you stand out online and get noticed.

With Top Rated Local, small, local businesses have the ability to keep a pulse on their online reputation as a whole — across multiple verified review sites — in one place. Our Rating Score™ is calculated by several variables, including how many review sites a business is a listed on, how many reviews a business has on those review sites and how many stars those reviews are, how recent the reviews are, and while it can’t give you a detailed look into your overall online reputation, your Rating Score is the perfect way to get a general overview of what’s going on.

These days, a business’ online reputation is everything, and with Top Rated Local on your side, it’s never been easier to build and maintain a solid online reputation. Get started today!

Why Nothing Beats Great Customer Service

There’s simply nothing more important than customer service.

Both your business’ online reputation and its success are dependent on the kind of customer service you offer.

Let’s face it, customer service is a key part of your success, both online and offline. No matter how much money you spend on advertising, or how many man-hours you spend handing out flyers or hosting community events, none of that matters without great customer service. At the end of the day, your daily interactions with your customers are truly what determines what people say about your online and in-person to their friends and family.

When you provide great customer service for the people you serve, it makes asking for reviews — or simply reminding your customers that leaving feedback for you online is an option — all the easier. It will also help you rest easy in knowing that, regardless of which customer decides to give you a review, you’ve given it your all and are more likely to end up with a positive, five-star review than the kind of review that makes you cringe and want to hide it. And the more reviews your business gets, the more visible it will be because reviews play a role in SEO (search engine optimization).

8 Reasons Why Customer Service is Essential to Your Business’ Success

#1. Satisfy your customers.

While, ultimately, no one is in business out of the goodness of their heart — we all need to make money to eat and live comfortably after all — but any business that’s worth its salt aims to meet their clients’ needs first and foremost. And the very best way to do so — and to stand out while you’re doing it — is to make customer service your number one priority.

When you open the door to building relationships and communication with your customers by providing great customer service, you’ll also be opening the door to more honest feedback, which will only help to further the cause to satisfy your customers’ needs. Customers who feel more comfortable with you will be more comfortable sharing their thoughts with you as well, and you can use that feedback to ensure long-term relationships with existing customers, as well to attract new customers.

#2. Reap the benefits of repeat business.

Acquiring new customers is important for every business. Your business needs to stay relevant, and you want your brand to spring to mind when consumers in your community have a need you can meet. But here’s the thing about acquiring new customers — it’s not cheap, or quick for that matter. Whether you’re spreading the word about your business through a giant billboard on the side of the interstate, Google ads or television commercials, that sort of advertising may be well worth the money but it doesn’t come cheap. In fact, it costs approximately an average of five times more to attract a new customer to your business than it is to keep an existing one.

Not only does it cost a lot more to acquire new customers, but new customers — on average — won’t spend nearly as much money as your lifelong customers will. One study found that a repeat apparel customer will spend an average of 67 percent more in months 31 to 36 of shopping with a business than in the first six months combined. As a result, another study found that if a business can increase its customer retention rate by just 5 percent, it can yield a 25 percent increase in profit.

#3. Build an online reputation that speaks for itself.

The sheer number of businesses that come up when someone googles “restaurant near me” or “electrician near me” is overwhelming, and when there are pages and pages of plumbers to choose from, how could anyone possibly determine which one is which and which one is right for their needs? The one and only way for someone to differentiate between the many businesses online is through their online reputation.

Building and maintaining your business’ online reputation is not something that happens overnight and not something you can just set and forget. It’s something that you build and maintain over time through lots of consistent hard work. Much of this work happens online, but what it largely boils down to is the kind of service you provide for your customers face to face.

Providing above-and-beyond customer service is a great way to encourage your customers to write reviews for your business online (it doesn’t hurt to give them a little reminder as well), but it’s also a great way to protect your business’ online reputation. That’s because people who have a negative experience with your business are a whole lot more likely to write a review than people who have had a positive experience. In other words, you only have to mess up a little to get a one-star review, but you have to really go out of your way to compel a customer to leave a five-star review without any prompting. This means that, by making outstanding customer service a priority in your business, you’ll not only prevent negative reviews from tarnishing your reputation but when one does come up, all of your many positive reviews will drown it out.

#4. It reduces employee turnover.

Just as a commitment to providing fantastic customer service leads to happier, more satisfied customers, it also leads to happier, more satisfied employees. The fact of the matter is that most employees want to be seen as professional and capable and to satisfy the customers they serve on a personal basis. When a company treats its customers like pure gold, it creates a sense of empowerment in their employees and makes them proud. Additionally, no one likes to be the focus of a customer’s dissatisfaction or to be unfairly mistreated because of a company’s reputation for bad customer service. All of this leads to increased employee satisfaction, which leads to employees working harder and helps to reduce employee turnover.

Retaining more employees means that you’ll have to spend less money on attracting new employees, going through the hiring process — including paying for background checks — and training employees. It also means that your customers will consistently be served by people who have more experience and are better equipped to handle their needs, which will, in turn, lead to even better customer service in the future.

#5. Customers are willing to pay more for extraordinary service.

Your competitors probably offer a lot of the same things you do in terms of the services or goods that you provide, and for most businesses, the only real way to stand out is in the kind of customer service they offer. A lot of businesses may not think that that means much to their customers, but the reality is that consumers value customer service quite a bit — so much so that they are often willing to pay more for it.

A survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that 86 percent of consumers are willing to pay as much as 25 percent more for the same product or service if they also get better service. Not only that, but half of all consumers also feel compelled to spend more with a business after they’ve had a positive customer service experience. The best part is that all it takes is one out-of-the-ordinary experience to make a lasting impact on a customer.

#6. You can’t buy word of mouth.

When someone needs a roofer or a financial advisor, the first place they’ll look is likely online, but this doesn’t mean that word of mouth is dead — far from it in fact. When someone gets good service from a business, they tell their friends and family about it. Ninety-seven percent of customers will tell others, and that’s not a number you can easily ignore.

Although most people trust online reviews as much as they trust a referral from a friend, even online reviews aren’t quite as effective as word of mouth. Even if consumers’ needs are already being met by a business, 50 percent of them will be willing to make the switch for better customer service.

Not only is word of mouth the most effective form of advertising a business can have, it’s also one of the only free forms of advertisement out there. And the best, and possibly the worst, part of all is that word of mouth isn’t something you can buy no matter how much you may want to. The only way to generate word of mouth for your business is by earning it through exemplary customer service.

#7. Increase customer loyalty.

When you provide incredible customer service, it leads to customers who are more satisfied and more willing to remain loyal to your business. That means that whenever your customer needs a product or service you provide, they won’t waste their time by relying on your competitors or looking for other businesses; they’ll just turn to you.

As we’ve already mentioned in this article, customer loyalty leads to an increase in profits because long-term customers are more likely to spend more with a business they trust than new customers are with a business they’re in the process of getting to know. Customer loyalty also leads to referrals and reviews, which heavily impact your business’ on- and off-line reputation. The bottom line is that customer loyalty is worth its weight in gold, and the only way to get it is by providing the kind of service that your customers will remember.

#8. Reduce the chance of business failure.

The sad fact is that the vast majority of businesses will fail within 10 years of opening their doors — 96 percent of businesses in fact. And although there is a wide range of reasons why businesses don’t make it to their 11th year, the problems that can arise from providing poor customer service can’t be overlooked.

By simply focusing on customer service day in and day out, you can avoid (or at least reduce the chance of having to deal with) many different issues that can lead to business failure, including a bad reputation, a high employee turnover rate, profitability issues and even lawsuits.

Become a Top Rated Local® business today!

As we mentioned, focusing on customer service is a must for the success of your business, which includes its online reputation. And when you take the lead and become a Top Rated Local business, you can better show off your customer service skills online (in how you respond to your online reviews) and attract even more new customers to your brand. The fact is that, when it comes to your business’ online reputation, there’s no better first step to take than becoming a Top Rated Local business, and the absolute best part is that signing up is free! Get started today.