The Small Business Owner's Guide To Building A Great Reputation
The Small-Business Owner’s
Guide to Building a Great
service Rev iew
Fe e d b
R ep ut at io n
f i c u e rs
D i f to m
Table of Contents
page 2. Your customers just reviewed your business online
page 3. Transform critics into champions
page 4. It’s a reputation jungle out there
page 5. How to seek healthy customer feedback
page 6. If your customer can’t talk to you, they’ll go …
page 7. Stopping negativity before it starts
page 8. Who’s managing your reputation?
page 9. How to promote the positive
page 9. Reputation as a sales tool that feeds the bottom line
Copyright 2010 by RatePoint, Inc.
www.ratepoint.com phone: 888-777-1636
The Small-Business Owner’s Guide to Building a Great Reputation
Winning customer trust and growing repeat sales
People are talking about you right now—do you know what they’re saying?
You’re a small business--small enough that no one is talking about you on Twitter or
Facebook - in a blog, right? If that’s what you think, it may be time to change your
The Web is the new beauty salon or barber shop. It’s where discussions happen. Call
them gossip if you’d like, but you can’t ignore that the conversations are occurring.
With the emergence of social media—Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the like—
anyone with a keyboard can be an instant critic or a passionate advocate.
You have a choice, you either participate or you don’t. If you don’t, you’re not only
missing out on resolving problems, you’re missing out on meeting your biggest fans
who become your biggest cheerleaders.
Consider this, a recent survey showed online reviews are six times as likely to impact a
small business positively as negatively. Twenty-four percent of small businesses say an
online review has had a positive impact while only 4 percent of SMBs reported a
negative business impact from an online review.
And those who have a negative experience are waiting for a reason to forgive, forget
and come back. The National Association of Retail Marketing Services found almost
every unhappy customer -- 95 % -- will return if an issue is resolved quickly and
You can (and should) do something about these conversations. Monitoring the
reputation of your business online may sound like something only large corporations
do, but participating doesn’t require a complicated system or a major investment. It
requires the same attention to customer service that makes your business successful
and it requires tools that help with the process.
So put your nightmares about the irate customer who had a shipping problem and is
now bashing your business to bed. With a little effort, you can ﬁx the problem and
make the customer happy again. And while you’re out in the jungle of customer
feedback, you’ll wake sleeping giants -- happy customers who you can turn into vocal
advocates for your business.
www.ratepoint.com phone: 888-777-1636 2
Transform critics into champions
The secret to stopping the spread of negative online comments is to convert them into
healthy, helpful comments by watching for them and taking positive steps to reach out
to the complaining customers. Instead of leaving the window open for customers to
comment about your business somewhere else online, connecting with them
proactively creates an opportunity for a small businesses to mediate and resolve any
potential disputes before consumers take their complaints to the Web.
The secret, then, is to make it easy and inviting for all customers to comment on your
company’s Web site and then immediately contact those who post any negative
remarks there. For example, if your small business offers a ratings and reviews
system, rather than a generic e-mail address in the corner of the Web site for feedback
after a purchase, your customers may be more willing to leave comments about their
Let’s say a customer received the wrong item and tells you so in no uncertain term in a
review on your site. You can monitor those reviews, spot the negative remarks and
take steps to resolve the problem, transforming that individual into a satisﬁed
customer. This method also negates the need to ﬁnd and chase negative customer
feedback on other sites, saving you time and money. Resolving a customer issue
quickly and through your company’s own communications channel also leads to a
stronger online reputation for you and your business.
Posting a statement on your Web site with a direct feedback channel can help you
prevent the spread of “mal-itosis”—bad word of mouth. So can listing your
commitment to resolve any issues directly on sales receipts and other points of
customer contact. This helps provide the customer an accessible way to contact your
business instead of telling friends, online and in person, about a negative experience.
Fixing problems also will help you to retain that customer. In a case where the
customer is unwilling to go through the dispute resolution process, a business can
post a management response, allowing other customers to read how the business tried
to resolve the problem.
COACH’S TIP: Resolving feedback is healthy for your bottom
line. Businesses using RatePoint’s dispute resolution system
resolve 90 percent of customer issues, turning negatives into
positives when the business responds to the customer.
www.ratepoint.com phone: 888-777-1636 3
It’s a jungle out there—are you watching for predators?
Whether you are aware of it or not, customers are talking and providing
feedback to friends and family, in online forums and on sites where
consumers can review and rate businesses. Customers also are providing
feedback that you may not be hearing–because you’re not listening.
Every business has its own method of asking for, dealing with and promoting
customer feedback. Some may ignore feedback completely, while others go straight to
the lawyers and ﬁle suits as soon as a negative comment is found online. Still others
have never entered their business name in a search engine or review site to see if
anyone is talking about them.
Regardless of the method, the online reputation of your business should be a vital
concern to you. An ever-increasing number of consumers research, seek
recommendations from other consumers and experts and plan purchases online, even
if they make their ﬁnal purchase at a physical store location. In 2009, $757.4 billion of
in-store sales—roughly a third of all sales—will have been directly inﬂuenced by the
Web as consumers research products online and purchase them offline, according to
So how do you respond to your customers’ taking control of your reputation like this?
Which creature do you imitate to deal with potentially predatory comments?
Ostrich –Some small-business owners like to think that customer feedback
doesn’t exist. Rather than participate in the discussion, they stick their
heads in the sand like an ostrich and pretend no one is talking about their
business. The ostrich takes the “see no evil, hear no evil” approach. If you
can’t hear it, you don’t have to do anything about it—until it’s too late.
The SMB with an ostrich point of view is missing a chance to create repeat
customers and could be harming the overall business by not listening to or correcting
any negative feedback that might be out there, keeping new customers away and
current customers from returning.
Turtle – Some owners may come across customer reviews or even hear from
customers but take no action when it comes to feedback about the
business. When customer discussions happen, entrepreneurs with a turtle
mentality stick their heads inside their shells and let all the feedback
bounce off, rather than reacting to it and making changes to improve the
Small-business people who embrace a turtle mentality may be hearing feedback but
are missing a critical step by not responding to or improving business processes as a
www.ratepoint.com phone: 888-777-1636 4
Bull – When faced with negative customer feedback, some owners see
red and react immediately if anyone says an unkind word about the
business or its customer service. When they hear feedback, they start
causing havoc, like a bull in a china shop. When it’s all done, there’s quite a
mess to clean up.
When the need arises to handle and curtail negative feedback, many small-business
owners begin by focusing on a single aspect. However, the bull mindset causes them
to react negatively, generating a commotion that the former customer will likely pass
on to friends and family, hurting the business and future sales.
Owl – Savvy business owners see all forms of customer feedback – positive
and negative – and know how to handle each to put the business in the best
possible light. A smart and tactical business owner is like an owl. He or
she gives a hoot--taking the time to speak with customers, becoming wise
and prosperous by proactively asking for feedback and building customers
into the business’s biggest fans.
Asking for customer feedback instead of waiting for it or hoping it won’t happen can
be seen as time-consuming or untamable by some small-business owners. But those
who embrace the owl outlook know that consistent sales and service policies and the
ability to truly listen to customers are the keys to customer loyalty, automating
processes to create a consistent customer experience.
How to nourish a healthy business on customer feedback
Even if you don’t identify with these business types, you still can alter your business
strategies and ultimately work through customer-service issues to create loyal and
How your customers talk about you online and how potential customers perceive your
business are inﬂuenced by your actions as a business owner, even if you ignore or may
not be aware of feedback.
3 steps you can immediately put into place to collect feedback and strengthen
1. Open a direct line of communication, start with a simple e-mail address and
mailing address displayed prominently on your Web site.
2. To take feedback to the next level, make it easy for customers to provide
feedback with reputation-management tools. Add an automated commenting
area to your Web site that can be easily recognized by all visitors as the place
for them to leave feedback.
3. Ask for feedback. Survey your customers to see what’s on their minds or send a
follow-up e-mail asking for feedback instead of waiting for it. They’ll appreciate
your willingness to listen, which is essential when building trust.
www.ratepoint.com phone: 888-777-1636 5
Feedback and reviews are becoming essential components of doing business online
and are increasingly critical for offline businesses, as well. With a few tools in place,
your business can enhance communications to strengthen customer loyalty.
Savvy business owners are embracing customer reviews, gathering customer
testimonials and creating consumer evangelists who praise and promote their
businesses. With a cache of favorable product or service reviews on your Web site,
customer testimonials become a powerful way for you to build customer trust and
In addition, small businesses that communicate regularly with customers via e-mail
campaigns and surveys are strengthening customer connections with reviews and
feedback to boost awareness and drive repeat sales.
COACH’S TIP: Ask for feedback. Businesses asking for
feedback can satisfy customers before the customer complains
to others elsewhere on the Internet.
Don’t be the last person your customer talks to
Even the most customer service-focused business can have customer concerns from
time to time. The key is not to ignore them as an ostrich or a turtle, but to deal with
issues wisely and consistently. With a dispute resolution system in place, you can
strengthen customer support by having the opportunity to engage in a meaningful
dialogue with customers.
Turn customer disputes into opportunities:
1. Be the ﬁrst person your customers talk to about a negative
experience. Communicating with your customers before they communicate with
others about their negative experiences is an enormous advantage in building
and maintaining your reputation.
2. Turning an unhappy customer into a happy customer can create repeat sales.
The problem is not only negative comments that other potential customers will
see; you also may be missing potential future sales from that dissatisﬁed
3. Improve your customer experience. Communicating with your customer helps
you ﬁnd problem areas that can be ﬁxed before they become major issues.
www.ratepoint.com phone: 888-777-1636 6
COACH’S TIP: Don’t take it personally. Before reacting to
negative feedback, count to 10, take a walk or a deep
breath. Respond with a smile.
When responding to a dispute, keep these 5 tips in mind:
1. Don’t fear the negative review and/or get angry because a customer says
something negative about your business. Stay professional at all times.
2. Remember that a customer has gone through the effort to leave a review or
rating, so don’t take negative reviews lightly.
3. Do everything reasonable to resolve the dispute. For example, if a customer
wants to return something after 45 days, but your return policy is only 30 days,
then you may want to think about making an exception.
4. Not all issues can be resolved, but don’t worry; negative reviews happen to even
the best companies. Even good companies should expect 5 percent of reviews
to be negative; however, negative reviews can be resolved 90 percent of the
time, so it is worth the effort to attempt resolution. In fact, negative reviews will
make the rest of your positive reviews look more realistic.
5. If you can resolve the issue, try to see how you can use the knowledge you
gained during the process to keep this issue from ever happening again in your
Stop negative reviews before they are posted
While you will always be looking for negative comments posted by customers on your
site or other locations, what if you could prevent them from being posted in the ﬁrst
place? RatePoint’s system can help you achieve exactly that.
First, customer reviews of your business are posted and stored in your business center
on RatePoint’s Web site. This process allows you to see the reviews before they actually
are posted for the public.
While many Web sites and services allow consumers to critique with no accountability
and many times anonymously, RatePoint holds both parties accountable and gives you
a chance to respond to and resolve negative reviews before they are viewable to
Proactively resolving any potential issues is less costly and more effective than chasing
and reacting to customer complaints. Some customers publicly refute and berate
businesses on third-party review sites in their frustration to try to provoke responses
With RatePoint’s dispute resolution process, you and your customers can work toward
a mutually beneﬁcial outcome while avoiding any damaging commentary.
www.ratepoint.com phone: 888-777-1636 7
Before a customer review is posted, you and your customer both have the opportunity
to interact through a RatePoint-moderated dispute resolution process. This process is
designed to be private to open up a direct communication between your business and
your customer. No communications that are part of the dispute resolution process are
posted to the public.
If the issue is resolved to both the satisfaction of both parties, the negative review is
not posted as a review, nor does it impact your company’s overall rating. If your
business does not respond at any point within the designated time period, however,
the review is posted.
In addition, if a customer attempts to post a negative review on your RatePoint page,
RatePoint authenticates the review before sending it to you to ensure that a complaint
is legitimate, comes from a real customer, and that the customer is open and willing to
having a business respond to the issue.
When visitors to your site click on the respected RatePoint seal, they are taken to your
RatePoint proﬁle, which displays customer reviews by date, providing peace of mind to
potential customers who know they are reading the most up-to-date reviews available.
COACH’S TIP: Customers can be wary of a testimonial page
that doesn’t indicate when it was last updated. Try a third-party
validated review site like RatePoint that provides current
reviews directly to your Web site.
Manage your reputation – or risk it being managed for you
If you expect to succeed in this word-of-mouth economy, be prepared to embrace
online reputation management. If you do not become more adept at knowing what is
being said online and how to respond, you multiply the likelihood of losing sales.
Become proactive with customer feedback like the wise owl and avoid having your
reputation managed for you by the marketplace.
• Ask for reviews. When you ask for reviews, you’re giving your business an
opportunity to reinforce the notion that customer service is a priority. If an issue
emerges, you can respond and resolve it before it becomes worthy of a negative
review elsewhere. A sign or note posted on your site is not enough; you much
reach out in multiple ways, including verbally and through e-mail.
• Have a procedure for dealing with feedback. Remember, not all feedback you
will receive will be positive. The key is to respond to all feedback with an open
mind. Keep the customer experience in mind and respond with the goal of
converting a repeat customer.
www.ratepoint.com phone: 888-777-1636 8
• Develop simple policies. Keep it simple. Complex policies can only lead to
miscommunication, especially regarding shipping and refunds. A good policy is
one that makes things run smoothly for the business and is fair to the
customers. Many business owners ignore the latter, creating policies that make
life harder for the consumer.
• Be consistent with customer service. Paying customers aren’t necessarily
customers for life; in fact, they may be more negative in a review if a business
How to promote the positive
Once you’ve started to ask for and respond to customer feedback, the next evolution is
to promote positive customer experiences for other potential customers to see.
Reading about the experiences of others creates a sense of trust and a willingness to
do business with a business. In fact, according to the April 2009 Nielsen Global Online
Consumer Survey, 70 percent of respondents say they trust consumer opinions posted
Just as customers look for the lock on their browser’s toolbar for a secure Web site or
look for a safety seal before they perform a credit card transaction, RatePoint provides
a seal for its client sites, alerting customers to the availability of testimonials and
acknowledging that the site is trusted by consumers.
Businesses can replace their Web site's static testimonial pages with a dynamically
generated RatePoint testimonial page that actively pulls positive reviews directly from
their RatePoint account. A RatePoint testimonial page not only will boost sales by
showing your customers timely, relevant reviews of your business, but it also will save
you time otherwise spent manually updating testimonials.
In addition, RatePoint's customizable review spotlight widget allows you to rotate
reviews on any page of your Web site, allowing you to market your customer feedback
on any page. This also gives site visitors fresh content and peace of mind throughout
the purchase process.
COACH’S TIP: Ask for reviews at every customer
touchpoint, including feedback buttons on your Web site
and links on your invoices, business cards and letters.
Using reputation as a sales tool - the proof is in the bottom line
Don’t just take our word for it. Traditional brick-and-mortar business, e-commerce
vendors and merchants who operate in multiple channels all know the power of
customer reviews, customer service and their impact on online reputation
www.ratepoint.com phone: 888-777-1636 9
GoGreenSolar.com gets boost from customer engagement
GoGreenSolar.com, a Los Angeles-based one-stop shop for green energy products,
attributes its 20 percent growth in sales every month to
proactive online reputation management.
GoGreenSolar treats every customer contact as an
opportunity. Requesting a review from a repeat customer
allows the company to build a relationship and provides valuable feedback. In the case
of negative feedback, GoGreenSolar resolves the customer’s concerns immediately
through RatePoint’s dispute resolution process, producing satisfaction on behalf of the
customer and GoGreenSolar.
The customer feedback on GoGreenSolar’s site has created business opportunities as
well. Customer reviews from companies that purchase solar panels and grids have
turned into leads from name-brand buyers and suppliers, with no additional marketing
dollars invested by GoGreenSolar.
“GoGreenSolar’s reputation has become a major sales tool for expanding our
business,” says owner Deep Patel. “We proactively manage our reputation through
every customer interaction. RatePoint’s tools allow us to capture feedback and reviews
easily and display them in multiple areas, including our Web site, e-mails and
Aubuchon Hardware melds online, offline operations with improved feedback
Aubuchon Hardware was established in 1908 in Fitchburg, Mass. The company now
operates more than 130 stores throughout New England, as
well as HardwareStore.com.
Aubuchon store locations each have a RatePoint page on the
Web site with store-speciﬁc feedback and reviews, in addition
to a review section for the Web site itself.
Because the company is using search engine optimization to drive traffic and sales,
many visitors to HardwareStore.com are ﬁrst-time visitors, Aubuchon has been
successful in using testimonials to develop new relationships with customers.
Aubuchon also ﬁnds RatePoint’s dispute resolution process to be a critical element in
customer satisfaction. While many customers may not have taken the time to provide
feedback in the store, especially after they’ve left following a sale, Aubuchon ﬁnds that
the mechanisms in place to provide easy feedback on the site have been essential in
resolving customer issues and increasing customer loyalty.
To spread the news and promote adoption of feedback, Aubuchon includes four- and
ﬁve-star testimonials in the company’s weekly internal newsletter, and stores displays
positive reviews in employee work areas to encourage further customer support
www.ratepoint.com phone: 888-777-1636 10