By Scott Gordon, The Chief Revenue Officer
As I work with my clients, I find that many of them make the same mistakes when it comes to managing their online reputation. While there are many strategies available to take control of your reputation from internet bullies and professional extortionists, the purpose of this blog is to educate you about some of the landmines waiting for you as you attempt to do so. Avoiding these is critical to the success of your online reputation strategy.
Responding to All Yelp Reviews
Your Yelp account manager (you know, that person who keeps calling you to advertise) will try to tell you that the faster you respond to Yelp reviews, the better you look to other Yelpers. However, it’s critical that before you respond to any reviews on Yelp, you first assess the reviewer. How many reviews does he/she have? How many friends? How long have they been Yelping? If the answers are less than three, zero, and less than a month, you are far better off waiting 48 – 72 hours to see if Yelp ‘scrubs’ the review. You see, Yelp’s algorithm generally scrubs out ‘non-Yelpers’ – aka people who don’t use Yelp for more than a scathing review or two. If you respond too soon, it may give the review legitimacy and cause it to stick. Only respond quickly to those users who are obvious Yelpers (those with many reviews, friends, etc) and unlikely to be scrubbed. Let the rest marinate for a couple of days and they’ll generally disappear.
A La Carte Reviews Management
With excellent review management platforms like Podium (full disclosure I license Podium to my clients), it no longer makes sense to try to keep up with the growing universe of reviews sites on the internet one-by-one. Managing these sites from one interface and proactively driving your happy customers there will do wonders for your online reputation strategy. A la carte management is both inefficient and prone to internet trolls. Who has time to check a dozen review sites several times a day?
Thinking 5 Stars is Enough
If you have 5 stars (or better than 4 on average) across the universe of reviews sites, you deserve hearty congratulations! But if you mistakenly believe that simply having a high star rating is enough, you are sadly mistaken. Search algorithms are interested in the number of reviews, how recent they are, how many are coming in each month, etc. You may have five stars on Facebook, but if Yelp is getting more and more frequent reviews, it will rank higher in search. The good news is that if you standardize on a reviews platform, you can drive more happy customers to more reviews sites, and if you’re really good, Yelp will get pushed to the dreaded purgatory of Google page 2. Also, the more reviews you have, the tougher it is for a troll to impact your star rating and the sooner their review is buried.
Paying Customers to Leave Reviews
This is a HUGE NO-NO! Yelp has announced a crackdown on this practice and is prepared to slap a consumer warning on your site (like the one above) if it:
Making a Reviewer ‘Wrong’
When responding to online reviews, be sure to not only respond to the negative reviews, but more importantly, thank those leaving positive reviews. As tempting as it can be sometimes, never make a reviewer ‘wrong’. Your current and future customers will interpret your response to this unhappy client as the way they can expect to be treated if they were to have a similar experience with your company. Always acknowledge their issue, apologize for their experience, and offer a solution to ‘make it right’. The best reviews you can engender online are negative reviews you turned around and made positive. These will result in more business than generic ‘everything’s unicorns, rainbows, and lollipops’ 5 star reviews which can look suspicious when served in abundance. Future customers appreciate seeing current customers get taken care of the right way when there’s a service or delivery hiccup. Doing the opposite will drive them into your competitor’s waiting arms.
Stay tuned for my next blog, 5 Stars & Beyond – Reputation Hacks That Add Up.
By Scott Gordon, The Chief Revenue Officer
I’m surprised how often the following conversation happens when discussing what I do with potential prospects:
Prospect – “What is it you do exactly?”
Me – “I help companies improve their online reputation and operations using cloud based platforms like Podium and Zoho CRM.”
Prospect – “What’s CRM?”
Me – “Customer Relationship Management, it’s software that helps you automate and track interactions with your customers.”
Prospect – “So you do lead management.”
Me – “At a very basic level, yes, but there’s so much more…”
While it’s true that many companies begin by using CRM as a lead management system, an enterprise grade CRM platform provides an order of magnitude more capability – and many companies are barely tapping into its potential.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) describes the entire lifecycle of your relationship with your customers. This lifecycle includes the ever important ‘lead stage’ where your sales team works to qualify, pitch, follow-up, and close prospects, and later extends into the ‘deal stage’ where you’ve sold something to a client and now need to deliver it. Finally, it encompasses all the service calls, tickets, remarketing, etc that live in the post-sale phase of your relationship.
As I’ve written about many times before, process is the crucial delineator between companies that scale and those that don’t. Before we continue, let’s define what I mean by process. In my definition of process, the system is so well defined that anyone in your organization (or a new employee) can jump right into any administrative job and pick up where the last person left off.
Therefore, systems need to be encapsulated and indoctrinated in some way. CRM becomes the framework on which we hang our process and systems and make them instantly understandable to all.
Processes that are the same every time can be captured and automated using workflows. The concept here is that the CRM walks employees step by step through each ‘milestone’ ensuring that it is completed in the same way and with the same quality every single time. It includes alerts to managers when tasks are behind schedule or not being completed along with reminders to the responsible parties that today we need to do x, y, and z, in this order, with these priorities.
Using workflows to capture standard procedures provides a consistent and predictable customer experience that often results in higher online ratings and repeat business, as well as, greater employee engagement, retention, and job satisfaction that feeds higher online ratings and repeat business, etc. When used properly, CRM creates a virtuous cycle.
Once we successfully capture process in CRM, we now have the ability to forecast. While forecasting isn’t necessarily ‘seeing’ the future, it can act as a predictive indicator of it.
Think of how you might capture sales process to ensure your sales team is completing all tasks necessary to achieve quota attainment. To accomplish this, we must know which activities lead to sales results. I call this ‘knowing your numbers’. It’s comprised of how many calls, presentations, follow-ups, etc are needed to close a single deal. We then work backwards to figure the daily activities required by each sales person. The real trick is monitoring and enforcing these activity levels to drive consistency.
For example, you may need ten leads to book four appointments to close one deal. Once we know this, we can capture all sales related activities in CRM and measure how well individuals on the sales team are complying with the numbers.
Here things get interesting. If a sales person is doing everything they are required to do and still not hitting their numbers, we may have a training issue, have made a bad hire, or discover he/she is fishing in the wrong pond. On the other hand, if they aren’t completing the activities, we know they aren’t going to make it long before we have to report quarterly results, and can take appropriate action now.
We’ll also be able to see those who are doing more than required, those who are achieving better than average results, etc. The point is that we now have forward visibility. In other words, we are no longer running our business by looking at it in the rear-view mirror.
Think of how far you would get driving your car if you did so solely by referring to the data presented by your rearview mirror (a lagging indicator). How far do you think you’d get before you hit something? Interestingly, many business owners drive their companies this way. They use lagging indicators to measure their business and wonder why they’re not getting anywhere or in never ending ‘firefighting’ mode.
CRM, used properly, can be transformative. It can assist with marketing campaigns, sales activities, customer service, procurement, delivery, social media interactions, email parsing, calendaring, resource management, and myriad other critical business processes and activities.
If you’re currently running your business off a spreadsheet or using a system that provides only lead management features, chances are you are putting an artificial ceiling on your own growth prospects.
True CRM is more than lead management, it’s customer and employee management. It’s an eye toward what’s coming down that road at us and the staircase that brings our company to ever higher levels of achievement.
By Scott Gordon, The Chief Revenue Officer
It seems that today, unlike at any other point in history, everything thing our company has ever done – good, bad, or indifferent – is alive and well on the internet.
Remember that pain in the neck, no matter how much you bent over backwards, there was no making him happy, customer? Well, even if you don’t, the internet does, and his one-sided story about how you failed to execute on the even simplest tasks is being scrutinized by prospective clients as you read this blog.
How about that ex-employee you terminated for cause three years ago for stealing money out of the register or making inappropriate advances on other employees. Well, he’s still holding a grudge and just left you a fake review on Yelp that is sticking for some reason (probably because you’re not currently paying Yelp) and he followed that gem up with a maniacal diatribe on Glassdoor (don’t know what this is? Time you found out) to scare away potential new hires.
Then there’s your unethical competitor that mistakenly believes that if he slanders your business, the universe will somehow send more of it his way. His strategy? Write a bunch of fake reviews that drive your star rating lower than his so he becomes the default choice of internet searchers.
Lastly, there is the statistic that unhappy customers are 11x more likely to share their negative experience both in person and online than happy ones.
I have a client who recently discovered that an ex-employee, who was fired for cause, not only set up his Google Local page, but left a horrendous 1 star review, and locked him, the business owner, out of the his own Google site! He’s currently fighting with Google to regain control of this critical asset.
The fact is that most businesses do not have a reputation strategy in place to manage and mitigate these and other threats that have a material impact on their companies. Even if they do, it’s usually a hodge podge typically consisting of monetary bribes to customers to leave reviews on specified sites that receives little in the way of tracking or follow-up.
Yet bribing customers to leave reviews is not without its consequences as Yelp recently announced an aggressive crackdown on such practices: http://www.xanjero.com/news/yelp-review-solicitation-crack-down-now-more-intense/
So as a business, what are you supposed to do? Sit around and let the fake and negative reviews stack up as your customers race for the exits?
Not at all.
The first step would be to implement a console where you can collect, monitor, and respond to reviews across the universe of sites where they are accumulating. Consolidating this vast array of internet properties in one easy to use interface is critical if you are to get your hands around the problem. The alternative is to monitor them all separately. This is both inefficient, time consuming, and truthfully, will fall through the cracks in most organizations.
Next, this reviews platform should allow you and your employees to ask satisfied customers for reviews in an intuitive and non-threatening way. The preferred medium is via SMS text messaging which enjoys a 99% open rate, versus email which generally clocks in at under 20%.
The messages you send should:
The review management software must have a piece of code that allows the reviews section of your website (www.yourcompany.com/reviews) to update automatically as you collect new reviews through the system. Setting up this page on your domain allows you to get some serious SEO juice for the search term – your name & reviews.
Finally, when selecting a review management system, employee metrics such as who is soliciting reviews, the quality of the reviews they are collecting, and which sites they are going to allows for enterprise wide adoption to build a deep and wide moat around your online reputation that discourages fake competitive and disgruntled employee reviews.
In closing, remember that 93% of customers will hesitate to do business with your company if you have under 4 stars on any of the major reviews sites. Even if you currently have 5 stars, but only a few overall reviews, it just takes a couple of bad ones to drag your star rating down into the mud.
Your online reputation is an important brand asset. Reputation management is revenue insurance.