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The Small-­Business Owner’s
Guide to Building a Great

 c onsistent
             with             ...
Table of Contents

page 2. Your customers just reviewed your business online

page 3. Transform critics into champions

The Small-Business Owner’s Guide to Building a Great Reputation
              Winning customer trust and growing repeat sa...
Transform critics into champions

The secret to stopping the spread of negative online comments is to convert them into
It’s a jungle out there—are you watching for predators?

              Whether you are aware of it or not, customers are t...
Bull – When faced with negative customer feedback, some owners see
              red and react immediately if anyone says ...
Feedback and reviews are becoming essential components of doing business online
and are increasingly critical for offline ...
COACH’S TIP: Don’t take it personally. Before reacting to
                 negative feedback, count to 10, take a walk or ...
Before a customer review is posted, you and your customer both have the opportunity
to interact through a RatePoint-modera...
•   Develop simple policies. Keep it simple. Complex policies can only lead to
       miscommunication, especially regardi... gets boost from customer engagement, a Los Angeles-based one-stop shop for green energy...
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The Small Business Owner's Guide To Building A Great Reputation


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In this free eBook, you’ll get valuable insights into proactively managing your online reputation, engaging customers and boosting your bottom line.

Published in: Business, News & Politics
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The Small Business Owner's Guide To Building A Great Reputation

  1. 1. The Small-­Business Owner’s Guide to Building a Great Reputation Be c onsistent with s customer service Rev iew Fe e d b a ck R ep ut at io n l t f i c u e rs D i f to m Cus
  2. 2. 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. phone: 888-777-1636
  3. 3. 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 thinking. 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 efficiently. 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. phone: 888-777-1636 2
  4. 4. 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 experience. 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. phone: 888-777-1636 3
  5. 5. 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 Forrester Research. 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 business. 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 result. phone: 888-777-1636 4
  6. 6. 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 repeat customers. 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 customer loyalty: 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. phone: 888-777-1636 5
  7. 7. 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 increase loyalty. 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 customer. 3. Improve your customer experience. Communicating with your customer helps you find problem areas that can be fixed before they become major issues. phone: 888-777-1636 6
  8. 8. 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 organization. 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 everyone else. 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 and feedback. With RatePoint’s dispute resolution process, you and your customers can work toward a mutually beneficial outcome while avoiding any damaging commentary. phone: 888-777-1636 7
  9. 9. 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. phone: 888-777-1636 8
  10. 10. • 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 policy changes. 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 online. 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 management. phone: 888-777-1636 9
  11. 11. gets boost from customer engagement, 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 marketing materials.” 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 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 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 success. phone: 888-777-1636 10