Reputation Management No-Nos That Will Put You on the Naughty List

Want to stay on the nice list (at least as far as your business’s online reputation is concerned)?

Even small reputation management mistakes can be difficult to bounce back from

Your business’s online reputation is one of the most important things in for your current and future success, but unfortunately, it can be an incredibly fragile thing that can easily get damaged by even the smallest mishap.

Without knowing it, you could undo months or even years of hard work, and it may take just as long to build it back up to where it was.

Staying on the “nice list,” as far as your business’s online reputation is concerned, is something that every business owner should strive for, but it can be easier said than done, especially if you’re not in the know about how damaging even small mistakes can be to your online reputation, or  even what those mistakes are in the first place.

That’s why we’ve come up with this quick guide to common reputation management no-nos that can land you on the naughty list this holiday season.

5 common online reputation management mistakes that will land your business on the naughty list

Mistake #1. Failing to claim your business listings

Failing to claim your business listings is a rookie mistake that can leave people frustrated and leave negative comments about your business unchecked.

Whether you’re signed up for local directories and review sites or not, chances are high that your business has a listing on them. These listings are often automatically pulled in by algorithms, but the catch is that the information pulled about a business may not be the right information.

Businesses may move to a new location, switch their phone number or even go through a name change — all of which can get lost in translation on listing sites. Claiming your listing on these sites will give you the ability to update the information that already exists about your business.

This helps to create more cohesion for your brand across the web, and it also helps to ensure that, no matter where a prospective customer finds you — on your website, on Google, on Yelp, etc. — they won’t have to deal with inaccurate contact information, which means that they’ll actually be able to get ahold of you.

Another great reason to claim your business listings is that it gives you a greater ability to manage and respond to online reviews. Some of these sites allow you to flag or get fake or inauthentic reviews taken down, but at the very least, they all give you the ability to respond to negative reviews, which can often be a much more effective alternative to getting them taken down.

Mistake #2. Buying reviews and/or creating fake reviews

Most business owners understand how important it is to generate reviews on a regular basis, but getting their clients to actually write reviews can be awkward and challenging.

For one, every review site has its own views on asking for reviews. Some sites, like Yelp, consider asking for reviews a definite black-hat tactic, and if you’re caught incentivizing reviews, it can lead to consequences.

Other sites consider asking for reviews to be just fine, as long as you’re not bribing clients in exchange for review or dictating what the review should say or how many stars you should be given.

All of this murkiness can leave some businesses desperate for reviews but unsure of how to get them, and it can make buying reviews a very tempting prospect.

Buying reviews may seem like a quick, easy way to get ahead of the competition, but if you’re caught — and you likely will be — the consequences are probably more than you bargained for.

Purchasing fake reviews is absolutely against Google’s guidelines, and if they catch you breaking the rules, they don’t mess around. In fact, Google can take down your business listing completely, and if your business isn’t listed on Google, it may as well not exist at all.

Furthermore, buying fake reviews is illegal, and it can result in fines.

Want to learn more about the consequences of buying fake reviews? Check out our previous blog.

Mistake #3. Failing to respond to reviews

Responding to reviews is something that every business should make a point to do.

Think about how difficult it can be to get a customer to leave a review in the first place. You know how busy their schedule is — which is why you were so nervous about asking for a review in the first place — and it’s important to recognize the fact that they took a few minutes out of their busy day to write a review for you. This is especially a sacrifice during the holidays when we are all running around like a bunch of beheaded chickens.

The reviewer has a lot going on, but they still took a few minutes to give your business feedback online, and whether that feedback is negative or positive, when you take the time to respond back to them, you’re honoring that time sacrifice they’ve made for you.

You don’t necessarily have to include a whole lot in your response, and you’d be surprised at how far a simple, “Thank you for taking the time to write a review about the business!” will get you.

Another reason why responding to reviews is essential is that it can help to set the record straight about anything inaccurate or misleading in reviews, and it also helps to protect against the damage that fake reviews can cause.

It can be very difficult to get reviews taken down — even if you can prove that they’re fake — and often, a business owner’s best and only course of recourse is to set the record straight in their response.

There is one stipulation when it comes to responding to reviews — you need to do it right, especially if it’s a negative review. Calling out a review as fake or getting defensive in your response will only accomplish making you look petty and unprofessional.

The best response to a negative review will include an apology (but not necessarily an acceptance for wrongdoing in the event of a fake review), an explanation of how you’ll make it right and an invitation for the reviewer to discuss the matter further via phone or email.

If you need to, give yourself a day or two to cool off before responding to an unfair review.

Mistake #4. Attacking a competitor’s reputation online

Just as buying fake reviews to post about your business is wrong and can be extremely consequential, so is attacking a competitor’s online reputation by leaving fake reviews.

However, this is something that a lot of small businesses are tempted by. After all, they don’t have the same resources as their larger or more established rivals may have; how else are you supposed to even the playing field?

At the end of the day, attacking your competitor’s online reputation through fake reviews will only come back to bite you.

For one, fake reviews left by competitors can be easier to spot than you might think. Even if you think that you’re being sneaky and are one step ahead of everyone, chances are high that you’ll be found out.

At the very least, most businesses keep records of the clients they’ve helped, and if there is no record that they ever helped you, it could easily lead to being called out, which will, again, leave you looking petty and mean.

At the extreme end, if you’re caught leaving a fake review for a competitor, your business could end up being sued. Lawsuits are extremely expensive, not to mention an emotional nightmare. Plus, not a lot of businesses have thousands of dollars lying around to cover legal costs, and a lawsuit could easily be a small business’s undoing.

It’s important to fully understand the consequences before you make the mistake of dissing an online competitor. Instead of trying to knock the competition down a notch by attacking them online, a much better alternative is to think about things you can do to make your own online reputation stand out.

The road is longer, but ultimately, it’ll be a much more effective strategy long-term. After all, even if you were able to destroy one competitor, there will always be more, and, chances are, you don’t have the time or resources to take them all down with fake reviews.

Want to learn more about why you should refrain from attacking your competition online? Check out our previous blog.

Mistake #5. Overlooking the importance of face-to-face interactions

A lot of business owners get caught up in the “online” aspect of online reputation management and forget that a business’s online reputation is largely about the kind of face-to-face service they offer each and every day.

While it’s true that a lot of the aspects of maintaining a strong online reputation happens online — i.e. writing blogs, responding to reviews, claiming business listings, SEO (search engine optimization) — the kind of service you provide for your customers in-person is equally as important (if not more so) than your efforts online.

This is why, the first and most important part of building and maintaining a solid online reputation, is what happens day to day in your interactions with clients or customers.

Let’s face it, it really doesn’t matter how good you are at posting on social media, writing blogs or responding to reviews if you don’t have great face-to-face service to back it up. Businesses with the most impressive online reputations understand that it all starts with great customer service in-house.

Refocusing on customer service is a smart move for your business’s reputation, online and offline. Here are a few things you can do to make customer service your business’s top priority once again:

  • Make sure that your employees are all properly trained, and set the right expectations as far as how you would like interactions with customers to look and you want them to behave.
  • Keep your finger on the pulse when it comes to customer interactions. In other words, check-in regularly to ensure that the customer is satisfied every step of the way.
    Follow up after everything is said and done. Sometimes, dissatisfied customers aren’t comfortable telling you that they’re not happy, and you won’t find out until they’ve vented their frustration online in the form of a negative review. By following up, you can help to correct issues before they become one-star reviews.
  • Operate with honesty and transparency. Customers complain about all kinds of things, but no one likes to be surprised by hidden fees and other information. No one wants to feel like the wool is being pulled over their eyes, and you can help to counteract that feeling by making honesty and transparency paramount in your business. It’s better to inform customers of their options than it is to choose one for them, and that’s true even if you firmly believe that you’re choosing the option that’s in their best interest.
  • Follow the Golden Rule. In other words, treat your customers like you would want to be treated yourself — with respect, dignity, honesty and straightforwardness. This is especially important if you work in an industry that regularly deals with people’s most stressful situations, like restoration, moving and funeral services. Put yourself in their shoes, and operate with empathy and compassion.

Want to learn more about the importance of great customer service for your business’s online reputation? If so, check out our previous blog!

Get on the online reputation “nice list” with Top Rated Local®!

These days, it’s essential for a business’s success to have the right kind of online reputation, and we hope that this article will help you know about some of the common online reputation management mistakes businesses commonly make, as well as the potential consequences of making those mistakes.

If you’re looking to take your business off of the naughty list this holiday season, then one of the best things you can do to get started is to get your business listed/claim your business listing on Top Rated Local. It’s easy, free and will help you better manage your online reputation from one convenient place.

Sign up today!

Originally published 12/18/19

The Basics of Online Reputation Management for Architecture Firms

Having a solid online reputation could be the difference between success and failure for any architecture firm these days.

Gone are the days when people asked friends or neighbors for recommendations for an architect, or when people would look for an architect in a phonebook.

When someone wants to hire an architect nowadays, the search usually starts online. And, when people find your architecture firm online, it’s critical that you’re able to make the right kind of first impression. Otherwise, they’ll move on to the next architect in the search results.

Online reputation management is all about managing what people see when they find your architecture firm online, and it’s an absolutely critical piece of marketing your business online.

Think about how many architects come up on Google when someone searches in your area. Chances are, you’ve got a lot of competition out there, and your ability to make the right kind of impression makes or breaks your ability to convince clients to choose you over your competition.

Understanding the importance of online reputation management is one thing, but actually knowing how to properly manage your online reputation is another. Today, I’ll be going over a few of the basics.

Basic Online Reputation Management Tips for Architecture Firms

#1. Get your business listed on the right sites.

Typically, the search for an architecture firm starts with a Google search, usually for something like “architect near me.” However, that’s just one of the many ways people could find your business online. There are also countless review sites and directories that they could find you on, but in order for that to happen, your business has to be listed on them.

Of course, you want to make sure that your business is listed on Google My Business, Facebook, and other popular sites, but there are several industry-specific sites that you’ll also want to be listed on. Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, and Houzz come to mind as a few sites any architecture firm should be listed on.

Once your site is listed on appropriate review sites and directories, you’ll also want to ensure that you claim your listings. This will allow you to update information about your business on those listings.

#2. Ensure that your contact information is the same across listings.

You’ll want to claim and manage your listings on your most valued sites and directories, but there’s a strong possibility that your business is actually listed on many more. And, because you never know how someone might find your business, it’s important to make sure that your contact information is accurate on all of them.

Another reason why this is important is that, any discrepancies in your contact information, like your address, phone number, etc., can negatively impact how your website ranks in the SERP (search engine results pages). It also creates a poor experience for users when they can’t get ahold of you because an outdated phone number or address is listed, which can create distrust in your brand.

You could go to each website and directory your business is listed on one at a time to update your contact information, but who has the time for that? A much easier way to go about this is by utilizing Local Listing Ads® from Marketing 360®, which makes it easy to update more than 50 of the most popular listings across the web in just a few minutes.

#3. Earn more reviews for your business.

Regardless of whether someone finds your business on Google, Yelp, or Houzz, when they do, they’ll read your reviews in order to determine whether or not they want to work with you. People place so much stock in reviews that most trust them just as much as they trust a recommendation from a friend or family member.

However, in order for people to read reviews to learn more about your business, you need to have them in the first place! If you don’t have very many reviews currently, or if your reviews aren’t current, it’s absolutely affecting how people view your business and could be hurting your ability to gain new clients.

The importance of having reviews — current reviews that is — can’t be overstated. Almost nothing is more important to your business’ online reputation than having reviews, and every architecture firm could benefit from making it a point to earn more of them. How do you earn more reviews? The simplest way is just to ask!

#4. Respond to your reviews.

If you’re like most architects, you’ll probably find that most of your clients won’t leave reviews on their own but are more than happy to when you ask. And, if you ask your clients for a review, and they take the time to write one, it’s in your best interest to respond. That’s true whether the review is five stars or one star.

When you respond to your positive, five-star reviews (which will hopefully be most of them), it demonstrates to your clients how thankful you are that they took time out of their day to write the review. It also shows that you listen to their feedback and take it seriously.

But, where you can make the most impact by responding is with your negative reviews. A response to a negative review can be an incredibly powerful thing — so powerful, in fact, that it could turn an unhappy client into a client for life. However, you have to get it right, which means apologizing, owning up to your mistakes, showing the reviewer that you’re listening to their feedback, and showing the reviewer how you’re using their feedback to get better.

These days, having a solid online reputation is not optional for most architecture firms. And, if you want to make the right first impression online, a great place to start is by claiming your Top Rated Local listing! Get started today!

Reputation Management Tips for Veterinary Clinics

Effective online reputation management is something every veterinary clinic needs to master.

Veterinary clinics, like every other business, can’t rely on word of mouth like they used to. That’s because, these days, people are less likely to ask a friend, co-worker, or family member for a recommendation than they are to simply google, “veterinary clinic near me.”

With the right online reputation management strategy, not only will you have the best chance of showing up for those “near me” searches in your area, but you’ll also have a lot more control over what people find when they look for your business online.

Knowing how to implement an effective online reputation management strategy is a skill that every local business needs these days, and veterinary clinics are no exception.

4 Key Reputation Management Tips for Veterinary Clinics

#1. Claim your listings on review sites and directories.

Whether or not you’ve taken the time to sign your business up to be on a review site or an online directory is irrelevant – chances are, your veterinary clinic is already listed. These kinds of sites pull their listings in with algorithms, which means that, whatever information was available at the time the algorithm pulled the listing, is the only information that the website in question will have.

What does this mean for you? It means that if you’ve ever moved to a new facility, changed your phone number, or updated your email address, the people who find you on that listing probably won’t be able to get ahold of you. This may leave them with the impression that your business is no longer operational for some reason or, possibly, that you’re just too lazy to keep your contact information updated — either way, it’s a lost patient for your veterinary clinic.

That’s why it’s important to claim your listings and keep them current. Not only will this ensure that people will be able to connect with your business regardless of how they find you online, but when your contact information is consistent across the web, it can help to improve your website’s ranking in the SERP (search engine results pages).

#2. Ask for reviews.

Most veterinary clinics claim to be committed to patient care and treating pets like family, so what sets a veterinary clinic apart from the many others that show up in the SERP when someone googles “veterinary clinic near me?” There are many possible answers to this question, but most people will choose a local veterinary clinic over the others because of its reviews.

Reviews play a vital role in the decision-making process when people are searching online for any local business. As informative as a veterinary clinic’s website can be, it can feel like a gamble to entrust your pet to a clinic you don’t have personal knowledge of. Reading a clinic’s reviews helps to ease some of that doubt.

This, of course, means that you have to have reviews to read in the first place. If you don’t, it can give the impression of inexperience. At the very least, it doesn’t give the consumer any peace of mind about working with you, because they don’t have any real idea of what their experience will be like. Luckily, it’s easy to generate reviews. In fact, the best way to get them is to simply ask.

#3. Respond to reviews — and do so promptly.

While it’s true that most people will write a review for you when asked, it’s also true that most people won’t write one on their own — even if you provide a next-level experience for them. Let’s face it, most of us lead stressful, busy lives, and we just don’t think about it. So, when someone does take the time out of their schedule to write a review for your business, it’s important to show them that you’re listening to their feedback by responding to it (and make sure you do so promptly!).

Respond to every review but, in particular, respond to the negative ones. Negative reviews can hurt a veterinary clinic’s online reputation, but you can mitigate the damage in the kind of response you leave.

When responding to a negative review, always apologize for their negative experience with your clinic, even if you think the review is unfair or inaccurate. If their feedback is valuable and you can use it to make a change within your clinic, let them know! Always give them a chance to talk with you directly about the situation, by inviting them to call or email you. This will prevent a public argument that will only make you look petty, and it will tell the reviewer, and anyone reading the exchange, that you value any feedback.

#4. Monitor your online reputation.

People not only expect a response to their reviews; they expect a prompt response, which means that you need to know when someone leaves you a review. That’s partially why it’s so important to closely monitor your online reputation on a consistent basis. It’s also just as important to know what people are saying about your business online and what people find when they look for you online.

You could monitor your online reputation by logging into each individual review site one at a time, or you could simply sign up/claim your Top Rated Local® listing! Top Rated local offers numerous ways to stay on top of your online reputation.

Top Rated Local businesses enjoy a plethora of monitoring benefits, including real-time notifications when they get reviews, monthly reports on their overall online reputation, and a Rating Score™, which gives them a score out of 100 based on their reputation across every verified review site they’re rated on.

Start monitoring your veterinary clinic’s online reputation by signing up/claiming your listing online today!

The Basics of Online Reputation Management for HVAC Companies

HVAC companies depend on having a solid online reputation.

In this day and age, HVAC companies can’t depend on word of mouth as much as they used to. While word of mouth is still the most powerful form of advertising today, it’s also not something people seek out like they did back in the day.

It used to be that, when someone needed air conditioning repair or furnace replacement, they’d ask for referrals from their friends and family. Now, most of those people will simply turn to Google or the search engine of their choice to find the right HVAC company to work with.

Chances are, you’re already well aware of how much competition your business has online. There’s no shortage of companies people could turn to for their heating and cooling needs, and the only thing that separates your business from the pack among all of those listings is your online reputation.

While it’s true that aspects of your online reputation are out of your hands, you’ll be glad to know that there are a lot of things you can do to influence and build on that reputation.

Online Reputation Basics for HVAC Companies

Claim your listings.

The first step you should take when building your online reputation is to claim your many business listings across review sites and directories. There’s a strong possibility that, whether you know it or not, your business is already listed on many of these sites, and if you don’t take the time to claim those listings, there may be inaccurate or outdated information about your business out there.

When you take the time to claim your listings and update your business’ information, you can create a more cohesive brand across the web. You can also ensure that, whether someone finds your business on Facebook, Google, or Yelp, they’ll always be calling an active number or visiting your current address. This helps to establish trust, which could easily be undermined if someone ends up calling a number that’s no longer active or travels all the way out to your old, now-abandoned location.

Provide great service.

Not every aspect of online reputation management happens online. In fact, a strong online reputation starts with providing great service to the people you serve each and every day. After all, your online reputation is just a reflection of your service, and If you don’t provide great service in-person, how can you expect to have a good online reputation?

People expect at least decent customer service, and while they may not always jump at the chance to write a review for your business based on good customer service alone, you can bet that, if they’re upset, they’ll tell the world about it. People can be reluctant to share a positive experience, but that reluctance evaporates in a negative experience. When people feel they have been wronged, they typically want to shout it from the rooftops.

Focusing on providing great service is something you should be doing anyway, but it’s also a key part of online reputation management. And while it may not generate a whole lot of five-star reviews, it can go a long way toward helping you avoid one-star reviews.

Start asking for reviews.

Reviews are the bread and butter of your business’ online reputation, and there’s never such a thing as too many of them. People like to read about other people’s experiences, and many of them use reviews when determining which local companies to work with. So if the decision comes down between an HVAC company with a handful of reviews and an HVAC company with thousands of reviews, it’s easy to tell which option people are likely to choose.

There are a lot of dos and don’ts when it comes to generating reviews for your business online, and the first place you’ll want to start is by looking at the rules of various review platforms. But in general, you’ll want to avoid bribing people to write reviews, trying to influence how many stars people give you or what they say about you in reviews, or only asking specific clients for reviews. As long as you’re following these rules, most review sites are perfectly fine with you asking clients for reviews, which is a good thing since it’s also the most straightforward way to actually get them.

Respond to your reviews, negative and positive.

While it’s true that most people will write reviews if you ask them, in time, you’ll come to really appreciate the people who take the time to write reviews for you. Although you may not see the problem in taking five minutes to write a few sentences about your business online, you have no idea how busy a client’s schedule is or what’s going on in their life. The fact that they took the time to give you feedback online means something, and whether that feedback is positive or negative, it’s important that you respond to it.

Not only does responding to your reviews demonstrate how thankful you are that your client took the time to write them for you in the first place, but it gives you a chance to show the world how dedicated you are to great service.

It’s not always easy to get negative feedback, especially in such a public way, like with a negative review, but if you really listen and learn from that feedback, you can use it to make your business better and make your clients happier. The right response to a negative review should always include thanks for the feedback, an apology for the bad experience (even if it wasn’t your fault), a commitment to making the situation right, and a gameplan for how you’ll use that feedback to get better. This kind of response could not only win back the dissatisfied customer but could convince anyone else reading it to choose your business over the competition.

These are all great first steps toward building and maintaining a solid online reputation for any HVAC company, but truly effective online reputation management is an ongoing thing, and one of the best weapons you have in your arsenal is Top Rated Local®. Claim your Top Rated Local listing today!

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!

Five Important Online Reputation Management Lessons From 2019

Although 2019 has come and gone, it has taught us a lot that we can take into the new year.

Whether you loved every moment of 2019 or you’re ready to see the back of it, there’s no denying that a lot has happened over the last year that can help us learn and grow. Not only has the past year held personal lessons for all of us, but it has given us many unique insights into the world of online reputation management.

A big part of successfully managing a strong online reputation for your business has to do with keeping up with the times. The algorithm Google uses to rank businesses in the SERP (search engine results pages) is changing all the time, and so is the way that people search online. Staying ahead of the times is one of the best things you can do for your online reputation, and there are a lot of lessons that you can take with you from 2019 to help you perfect and maintain your business’ online reputation going into 2020.

The Top Five Online Reputation Management Lessons of 2019

#1. Mobile site optimization is no longer optional.

These days, most people aren’t searching for a nearby restaurant or nail salon on their computer at home; instead, they’re using the smartphone that’s in their pocket. This is nothing new, mobile searches started eclipsing desktop searches all the way back in 2015, but the trend hasn’t slowed down, nor is it expected to, and the number of mobile searches continues to rise. And while mobile-friendliness is something that every business owner should have on their mind, if your business is customer-facing, like restaurants, coffee shops, jewelry stores and the like, it’s a trend that you don’t want to ignore.

Starting in July, Google rolled out a major change to its search index algorithm by launching mobile-first indexing. Historically, Google’s algorithm ranked a site’s relevance based on its desktop version, but because of the large increase in mobile searches, Googlebot now uses the smartphone agent to crawl and index webpages. Optimizing your site for mobile search is one of the smartest moves you can make in preparing for 2020, and thanks to Google’s algorithm change, it’s no longer an option for businesses that want to stay visible online.

Here are a few things you can do to optimize your site for mobile search:

  • For everything from your website to the email templates, always make it a point to use a responsive design.
  • Optimize any videos on your website so that they are compatible with mobile phones.
  • Make sure that your images — even those that are downsized to fit on a smaller screen — are high quality and cropped closely so that the details you want are maximized.
  • Break up long paragraphs. A paragraph that looks digestible on a desktop can be overly long and wordy when viewed on a mobile device.
  • Make sure that any buttons that are on your website are also easy to use on the mobile version of your site.
  • Your site should be easy to scroll. Users can quickly get irritated when they’re forced to pinch and zoom to see your content or navigate your site.
  • Use a font that’s big enough and easiest enough to read for most users, which means that you’ll want to use at least a 14-point size.
  • Prioritize content mobile users are most likely to want. For example, if you have a restaurant, you’ll want to make sure that your address, menu and phone number are all easy to access.

#2. Social media is a must.

While most people think of a business’ online reputation as their reviews and average rating, the truth is that it has many moving parts. And while reviews may arguably be the most important part of the reputation management puzzle, reviews aren’t the only place that your brand will be mentioned or talked about online. These days, more people are talking about the experience — and their complaints — on social media. Wherever your brand is mentioned, it behooves you to be there, which is why having a presence on social media is no longer optional.

One of the reasons why it’s so important to establish a presence on social media is that it works in the opposite way as reviews do for your business. Think about the people who are reading your reviews. They’ve sought out your business for one reason or another, and they’re checking out your reviews so that they can get to know your business a little better and so that they can decide whether to trust you with their business or not. Social media, on the other hand, helps your brand get introduced to a whole new audience of people who may never have even heard of your business before.

When managed correctly, social media has the power to help you connect with your clients or customers on a more personal level, but it can also help you to make new connections and build trust with a whole new set of people.

#3. You may need to utilize tools to tackle reputation management in 2020.

Reputation management used to be fairly simple. Back in the day, all you really had to do to stay on top of your business’ online reputation was to do a quick Google search of your business name or check your social media pages for mentions or reviews. But these days, reputation management can be a lot more complicated. With so many different moving parts, present-day reputation management is a whole other beast to tackle, and a lot of businesses could use a little help doing so.

There are a lot of tools that you can use to more effectively monitor your business’ online reputation, but one of the best free tools available is Google Alerts. Google Alerts will help you monitor any mentions of your brand, business name or applicable keywords across the web. You don’t have to limit alerts to just your own business, either. With Google Alerts, you can also monitor your competition’s online reputation, which will help you stay ahead of the curb.

Another can’t-miss reputation management tool that you’ll want to take advantage of is Top Rated Local®. Top Rated Local isn’t a typical review site; it’s more of a review aggregator that can give a business an overall snapshot of their online reputation. Each Top Rated Local business has its own Rating Score™, which is determined by the number of review sites a business is listed on, how many reviews they have and the average rating of those reviews. With the Rating Score, you don’t have to go to 10 different websites to figure out where your business stands online; you’ll have the information you need in one place.

The benefits of becoming a Top Rated Local business go beyond the Rating Score. When you claim your listing with Top Rated Local, you’ll have a lot of tools at your disposal to help you more effectively monitor your online reputation, including real-time notifications when you get new reviews, a monthly overview of your online reputation as a whole, the ability to respond to your reviews, the ability to request a rating change from a reviewer, a Top Rated Local badge that you can use to display your reviews on your website and so much more.

Become a Top Rated Local business today!

#4. Video is more important than ever before.

Video has been a powerful marketing tool for years, but if 2019 has shown us anything, it’s that video is the kind of online marketing. Here are a few interesting stats to demonstrate the importance of video in your marketing campaign:

  • Every day, more than 100 million hours of video are watched on Facebook alone, and more than 500 million hours are watched on YouTube.
  • Some estimates find that you can increase conversions by up to 80 percent with video.
  • By merely mentioning the word “video” in the subject line of emails, you could see an increase in the click-through rate of as much as 13 percent.
  • YouTube is actually the second most popular search engine, behind Google.

There’s no doubt about the power of video, but it can also be intimidating for local businesses that may not have the resources of a professional video team behind them. Luckily, there are a lot of great ways you can use video without the need to hire an expert:

  • Share your story – Every business has a story, and video is a great place to share yours. When you share your origin story with people online, they’ll gain a more personal look into your business and will give you a chance to connect with them on a whole other level.
  • Educate your clients – Chances are, you’ve got a lot of expertise to share, and whether you create a tutorial on how to keep your home’s exterior paint job looking great for years to come or how to protect your computer from viruses, video is the perfect medium for tutorials.
  • Give thanks to your customers – Your business wouldn’t be around without your customers, and video is the perfect way to say thanks.
  • Show the world your culture – Let the world in on the behind-the-scenes action in your business. Videos of team-building events, volunteer opportunities and holiday parties help to show the human side of your business.

#5. You can’t just wait for the reviews to come to you.

It used to be enough to simply monitor your online reputation and deal with reviews as they come, but reviews have become such an essential part of a business’ online reputation that many businesses simply can’t afford to let acquiring reviews be a passive thing for them. These days, the most successful online businesses know that they need to take a more active approach to getting reviews.

The unfortunate fact is that the vast majority of people don’t even think about writing a review — that is, unless they’ve had a bad experience. For all of the whining and complaining about how customer service is dead, most people have a baseline expectation of customer service that’s fairly high. When you’re used to a certain level of service, you come to expect it, but you also come to take it for granted. But when you’re used to and expect a certain level of service, and you the service falls short of your expectations, it’s easy to see why it can be upsetting and prompt someone to write a negative review.

Focusing on providing good service to your clients is certainly a step in the right direction as far as generating reviews is concerned, but it’s, by no means, the only thing you should do to get reviews. Here are a few ideas to help you start generating more reviews for your business:

  • Ask! While most people won’t write reviews unprompted, the vast majority of people will write a review for you if you only ask. When people realize how important reviews are for businesses like yours, they’re often more than happy to write them.
  • Send email follow-ups with review requests. The best part of requesting reviews this way is that you can automate this process so that you don’t even have to think about it. It also allows you to send people specifically to your review sites that need the most love.
  • Offer discounts or other incentives to clients who write reviews for you. Be careful, though, that you don’t only incentivize five-star reviews or that you don’t try to steer your clients to say certain things.
  • Enter clients who write reviews into a giveaway or raffle. Again, you’ll want to ensure that you give the same incentives for every review, not just for positive ones. Many review sites see bribing customers in exchange for five-star reviews as unethical, and if you’re caught, there could be consequences.

Make 2020 your year with Top Rated Local!

If your business’ online reputation wasn’t what you wanted it to be in 2019, you’ll be glad to know that 2020 is a whole new year with all new possibilities. And while 2019 may or may not have been a stand-out year for your business, it has taught us a lot about reputation management and how to do it more effectively in 2020. Don’t repeat the same mistakes; learn from them, and use those lessons to help you grow and build the kind of online reputation you’ve always wanted. Don’t leave your business’ online reputation up to chance in 2020. Take control over your online reputation by becoming a Top Rated Local business 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 House Cleaning Company’s Guide to Reputation Management

When people find your business online, it’s incredibly important that it makes a great first impression.

Your house cleaning company relies on a solid online reputation.

No matter what city or town your house cleaning company operates out of, chances are, you have a little competition. It’s estimated that, in 2015, there were about 875,000 businesses in the cleaning industry, and that number has certainly grown since then. And because the barrier to entry in the industry is so low due to the fact that very little equipment is required to get started, more and more small businesses are being started in the cleaning industry every day.

While word of mouth is still essential in the cleaning industry, nowadays, most people do a Google search when they’re looking for a house cleaning business to work with rather than asking their friends or family for a referral. With a good online reputation, not only is your business a lot more likely to actually be found online when people in your area search for relevant keywords, but you’ll have a higher chance of turning prospects into customers when your online reputation is bright.

With so much on the line, your business’ online reputation is something that you shouldn’t leave up to chance, and that’s why your friends at Top Rated Local® have set out to help you get it right.

Five Key Online Reputation Management Tips for House Cleaning Companies

#1. Focus on providing great service.

The first — and arguably the most important — aspect of building and maintaining a strong online reputation in the house cleaning industry is providing great service. On average, it’s estimated that a typical house cleaning company will lose up to 55 percent of its customers every year because of poor service.

The kind of service you provide directly translates into the kind of reviews you’d get. When you make providing next-level service one of your top priorities, you’ll save yourself the headache of dealing with negative reviews, which can be tricky to handle and easy to get wrong.

Asking for reviews — or at least letting your clients know that your business is listed on review sites — is one of the most effective ways to actually generate reviews. Many people won’t write reviews on their own; most don’t even think about it. But if you let them know that a review can help your business, most people are happy to write one. If you can truly wow your customers with the kind of service you provide, you can be confident that you’ll get positive reviews when you ask.

#2. Claim your listings.

The more websites your business is listed on, the easier it will be for people to find you when they’re in need of cleaning services in your area. Whether people are looking for house cleaning services on Yelp, Google, Facebook or Top Rated Local, you want your business to be found, and for the information about your business to be accurate and up to date. That’s why getting your business listed or your business listing claimed on review sites is such a critical step.

A lot of times, review sites aggregate listings from other places on the internet, so there’s a good chance that, even if you’ve never signed your business up for a review site, you may already have a listing. However, algorithms only work so well, and if they pulled your business’ information from an outdated source, it may not be up to date or accurate. Imagine how frustrating it would be for a customer to try to call you, only to get an old number! When you take the time to claim your business, you’ll be able to update and correct all of the information about your business.

Another huge benefit of claiming your business listings is that it gives you more control over managing them. On most review sites, when you claim your listing, you’ll be able to respond to your reviews, which will help you better manage them.

#3. Respond to your reviews!

It may not seem like it’s a big deal, but a lot of people lead incredibly busy lives and don’t have many spare moments in the day, and that they took a few minutes out of their life to sit down and write a review for your business, the least you can do is respond to it. Responding to reviews demonstrates to your clients how thankful you are that they took the time to write a review for you.

If you get any negative reviews, responding can help to turn a bad situation around, and it may even help you earn more clients and win over the reviewer who had the negative experience with your business. It also gives you a chance to explain your side of the story a little. We’re not saying that you should make excuses, but if there’s a reason that the experience was so negative, it’s OK to let the client know. But even if that’s the case, your number one goal in responding to negative reviews is to own up, apologize and make it right.

Responding to positive reviews is also a good idea. Like we said, people are busy and don’t have a lot of free time in their lives. If they could spare a few minutes to write a review for your business, show them how thankful you are by making it a point to respond.

It’s super important to respond to reviews, but it’s equally important to ensure that you do it promptly. After all, it’s what your clients expect. In the “gimme” age, we accept nothing less than instant gratification. Besides, the longer you leave a one-star review unchecked, the more weight it has. But how can you respond in a timely manner when you have no way of knowing when you get new reviews?

#4. Set up alerts.

Managing your business’ online reputation isn’t something that you can do every once in a while and forget about the rest of the time. It’s an ever-evolving monster that will only grow more vicious the longer you let it go unattended. But who has the time to check every review site their business is listed on every day to check for new reviews? It can be an arduous task, but luckily, there are several tools out there that can help.

Google alerts are one such tool, and it’s a great idea for any business that cares about its online reputation to set them up. With Google alerts, you can track any mentions of your business online, but it also gives you the ability to track what people are saying about your competitors, which will help you to gain a competitive edge. Google alerts are also a great tool that is free to sign up for.

Top Rated Local is another reputation management tool that every business owner needs to have handy. Top Rated Local is unique in that it aggregates reviews from across the web, not just on Top Rated Local, and uses the data to provide each business with a Rating Score™. The Rating Score is determined by a number of factors, including the number of review sites a business is listed on, the number of reviews and the average star rating of those reviews. With the Rating Score, businesses can get a good idea of what their online reputation looks like all around.

Claiming your Top Rated Local listing is free, and it comes with a host of benefits, including real-time notifications when you get reviews, monthly updates on your business’ overall online reputation, a Top Rated Local badge that you can use to display reviews on your website and so much more.

#5. Publish content regularly.

A large aspect of maintaining a strong online reputation has to do with what ranks in the SERP (search engine results pages) for your business name and relevant keywords. The last thing any business wants is for the first thing that prospective customers see online is a little bit of bad press about the business, or a negative review. That’s why it’s a good idea to publish fresh content regularly. This will help to ensure that the sites you want to rank — like your website, Facebook page, etc., will be the first thing people see about your business.

One of the best ways to ensure that your website stays relevant is to publish new content on a regular basis via blogs and web pages. Web pages are great places to put information about your business and your services; whereas, the blog is a great place to lend your clients a little industry know-how and insight.

You should also make it a point to post regularly on your social media sites. These sites are a great place to share what’s going on behind the scenes of your business, like any community outreach events you’ve participated in, photos of your team, exciting news, etc. Social media gives you the opportunity to connect with your clients on a new level, but like everything else having to do with your online reputation, managing social media is an ongoing thing that takes time and patience to cultivate.

Become a Top Rated Local house cleaning company today!

House cleaning companies rely on a strong online reputation in order to attract new clients, as well as to keep their existing clients, and one of the best things you can do to start taking control over your business’ online reputation is to get listed/claim your listing with Top Rated Local! Best of all, it’s totally free! Get started today.

Common Customer Complaints & How to Avoid them

Customers complain about a lot of things in reviews, and the best way to deal with those complaints is to learn to avoid them altogether.

Protect your online reputation by learning to avoid common customer complaints.

Business owners these days know that their online reputation is vitally important to their success — online and off – and it’s also why a negative review can seem like the end of the world. In previous blogs, we’ve talked about why a couple of negative reviews can actually be beneficial for your overall online reputation, as well as how you can turn around the situation by knowing how to respond like a pro.

But at the end of the day, no business wants to get a negative online review, and even though they don’t have to be the end of the world, all businesses would do well to avoid as many negative reviews as possible. That’s why we’ve come up with this list of the most common things customers complain about in negative reviews and what you can do to avoid those complaints.

Top Five Customer Complaints and How to Avoid Them

Customer Complaint #1. Failure to keep promises.

Businesses make promises to customers every day, and the ones with the happiest, most satisfied customers are the ones that keep those promises. On the other side of the coin, nothing can ruin a customer’s experience with a company more than the failure to keep a promise. Trust is something that takes a long time to build in any relationship — and that’s true regardless of whether we’re talking about personal relationships or relationships between customers and businesses. Unfortunately, that trust can be shattered after just one bad experience, which is why failure to keep promises is such a difficult complaint to truly resolve. After all, why should the customer trust you to follow through with your promise to fix the issue when you failed to follow through the first time?

What can you do to avoid it?

Don’t make promises you can’t keep – To put it simply, you should never make a promise if you aren’t 100-percent certain that you’ll be able to keep it. Even if you think there’s a strong possibility you can keep it, it’s better to be honest than it is to end up failing to follow through on a promise.
Train your employees – Everyone should always be on the same page within your business; otherwise, one of your employees may end up promising something that can’t be followed through on. Teaching your employees to effectively communicate can also help to ensure that your business is always keeping its promises.
Be honest about roadblocks – Sometimes, you fully intend to follow through on a promise, but circumstances get in the way and prevent you from doing so. And sometimes, those circumstances are completely out of your hands. Your best course of action in these kinds of situations is to simply be honest with the client and let them know how you plan to fix it. Sure, they may be a little upset, but the vast majority of clients will understand and respect you for your honesty.

Customer Complaint #2. Being shuffled between customer service representatives.

Have you ever called a customer service hotline, explained the issue you’re having, only to have to explain it to three or four more people until you’re finally transferred to someone who can help you? From a customer’s perspective, this can be infuriating, and it certainly doesn’t leave the impression that your business is operating with competence. It also has the unfortunate effect of making the client feel undervalued, which can leave them looking to fill their needs elsewhere in the future.

Most businesses are fully aware of how bad it looks when customers are shuffled around from person to person, and just as it can create a negative experience for the customer, it can also be a waste of resources for the business. If a situation can be resolved by the right person the first time, it saves several people from having to give up their time to address the situation, which means that your business can operate more efficiently and functionally.

What can you do to avoid it?

Train your employees – One common reason why customers get shifted from customer service rep to customer service rep is that they don’t all have the same level of knowledge, experience or ability, and additional training can help them all feel more comfortable in helping clients deal with a greater variety of needs. Another area of training could be in who to turn to in specific situations. Sometimes, shuffling clients around is unavoidable, but it’s much better for them to deal with two people than it is for them to deal with three or four.
Invest in a better answering system – If yours is one of the many businesses that has an automated answering service, it might be time to upgrade yours to one that offers a menu of options for clients to choose from. This way, they can find the right person to speak with right away.
Empower more of your employees – Sometimes, customers get tossed back and forth between customer service reps because only one or two people have the power to actually help them. You don’t necessarily have to entrust every employee in your business with the same amount of responsibility, but if there’s a certain issue that is routinely being tossed from person to person, you might consider giving more people the ability to handle it.

Customer Complaint #3. Being surprised by fees or other unpleasant information.

Imagine yourself in this situation: you’re working with a remodeling contractor to remodel your kitchen. You work out an agreement with them on the overall cost of the project, which will be a stretch for your budget but you’re committed to the work. Then, when all is said and done, you’re blindsided with hidden fees. This is not a situation anyone wants to find themselves in, and it can definitely leave a bad taste in your customers’ mouths.

Hidden fees aren’t the only nasty surprises that can derail a customer’s experience with your business. Any hidden information, like how a business uses a customer’s data or personal information, risks or possible downsides of a service or product and additional options the client could have chosen, can hinder a customer’s trust in your business and leave them with less-than-positive feelings about your business.

What can you do to avoid it?

Educate your customers instead of deciding for them – Let’s say you own an HVAC company. Your client would save money over time if they bought a new furnace instead of repairing the old one, and the decision may seem like a no brainer to you, but you still have to let the client decide. You should, of course, ensure that they understand the real pros and cons of each option, but you shouldn’t hold back any options from a client just because you don’t think they are the right ones.
Be as upfront and transparent as possible – Whether we’re talking about how your business handles personal information or fees, it’s essential that you’re always as upfront as possible with your customers. No one likes to be kept in the dark, and it’s important that people understand what they’re getting when they work with your business.
Train your employees – It’s possible that a customer didn’t get the whole message because an employee failed to give it to them. Or maybe it’s because an employee made a mistake that they failed to own up to. Either way, training your employees to communicate more honestly will help to provide your customers with a better overall experience.

Customer Complaint #4. Rude or unfriendly staff.

We’ve all been there: you’ve gotten off of work late, and you’re in the drive-thru or stopping by your go-to takeout place for a quick bite. You’re already a little frustrated because you’ve had a long day, and the restaurant got your order wrong. You explain the situation to the host or clerk as calmly as you can, only to have them roll their eyes at you and ask what you want them to do about it. In these kinds of situations, even the coolest heads have trouble prevailing, and now, not only are you frustrated, but you’re well on your way to angry and probably won’t be frequenting that restaurant ever again.

Not every situation is as overt as this. Sometimes, customers pick up on subtle things, like body language, that makes them feel like a burden. On other occasions, an employee’s disinterest or neglect could do just as much damage. In any form, rude employees are the bane of any business, and they can do serious damage to your online reputation if you’re not careful.

What can you do to avoid it?

Train your employees – Every business should have standards in place for how customers should be treated, and it’s incredibly important that you make those standards common knowledge. You should also work directly with your employees every day to ensure that they know how big of a role customer service plays in customer satisfaction, as well as their role in providing that service.
Trim the fat if necessary – While training is always a great course of action when an employee is ambivalent or rude, in some cases, they just aren’t the right fit for your business and you may have to make the tough choice of letting them go. Chances are, if an employee is acting that way toward customers, they aren’t happy in their position anyway. Do them and yourself a favor by putting someone in that role who actually wants to be there.
Raise your hiring standards – It’s much easier to provide great customer service when you hire people who are committed to it before they even start working with you. A lot of people want to do a good job for their customers and take pride in their work, and those are the type of people you want in a role with direct customer interaction.

Customer Complaint #5. Delays in service.

We all lead busy lives, and some days people have less patience for waiting than other days. Imagine you’re having one of those less-than-patient days, and that, instead of getting your order wrong like in our previous example, the restaurant takes 10 minutes longer than they said they would to get your food out to you, leaving you feeling a little on the hangry and impatient side.

Waiting is an unavoidable part of life, and there are a whole host of reasons a customer may need to wait. One of your employees may have had a personal emergency that prevented them from coming to work, leaving you short-staffed and unable to be as efficient as usual. Your supplier may have had a delay, which has led to delays following through on orders or services. The delay may be caused by something you have absolutely no control over, like the weather.

What can you do to avoid it?

Make honesty your best policy – Many of the examples we covered of why delays happen are out of your control, and when things like that come up, all you can do is be as honest as possible with your customers and offer to make up for any inconvenience at a later date. Most customers will understand and give you a break if you’re honest, but if you try to sweep the problem under the rug and act like everything is fine, the delay will likely leave them upset.
Warn customers of potential delays – If you’re aware that there’s something that may cause a delay, it’s in your best interest to be upfront with your customers about it. Sure, if a customer knows a delay might occur, they might choose to go elsewhere with their business, but if they know about potential delays ahead of time and they still want to work with you, they won’t be blindsided if delays happen and will be much happier for it at the end of the day.
Have a backup plan in place – In some circumstances, if a potential delay can be foreseen, it can also be avoided by having a backup plan in place. For example, if you rely on every member of the team showing up, it might be good to hire some as-needed help during flu season, or even during the holidays when lots of people are out visiting family.

Bad reviews happen. Learn how to manage them with Top Rated Local®.

There are lots of things that you can do to avoid the ire of your customers. But even the best businesses get bad reviews from time to time. It truly is how you handle those reviews that makes the biggest difference in how they affect your business’ online reputation. If you ignore a negative review or leave unattended, it’ll only fester, and that inattention actually gives more weight and truth to the review. But if you make it a point to respond to that review, own up to your mistakes, apologize and make it right, not only might you win over the customer who had a negative experience, but you might also win over potential customers researching your business online.

The best way to deal with negative reviews is promptly, and when you claim your Top Rated Local listing, you’ll get real-time notifications when you receive new reviews, as well as a whole host of other tools that can help you better build and maintain your business’ online reputation, including a Rating Score™ that will give you an idea of your online reputation as a whole and monthly reports on your online reputation. Best of all, you get all of this at no cost to you. Start taking ownership of your business’ online reputation. Become a Top Rated Local business today!