reputation

Reputation Check: Negative Reviews Are Costing You Business!

I’m in the process of moving from Washington state to Missouri in the next month. Moving is stressful regardless, but trying to coordinate a move to a city 1,800 miles away has been quite the challenge. Fortunately, I’ve had help knowing which neighborhoods to consider and I already know the area fairly well. What I don’t know is the leasing companies.

Coming from the automotive industry where dealerships are eager to constantly reach out to prospective buyers, the leasing industry is a bit different as I’ve come to learn. I essentially had a week in town to lock down a place to live, so I wanted to make the most of my trip by viewing several potential houses in case my favorite fell through.

In this process, I reached out to several leasing companies to secure appointments. For several, I submitted a web lead a week in advance so they’d have my contact information and followed up with a phone call. As the clock ticked, I switched directly to calling the companies. Many did not contact me back, some opted to text only and some preferred email. One didn’t get back to me for over a week, finally texting me when I had already returned.

As I was scrambling to set appointments, I ended up researching several of these leasing companies. Ironically, the company I had the most trouble with – the one that did not return my calls and emails for over a week had the highest reviews. The company I ended up going with had some of the lowest review scores.

I will admit I hesitated in deciding to move forward with the company I chose due to the review scores. But I’d had the most positive experience from the get-go with this company. I even had been dealing directly with the owner. He was professional, punctual, friendly and helpful. I really couldn’t understand why his company would have gotten such low reviews. So I decided to see what people had to say.

Now working in automotive, I’ve seen my share of negative reviews. I also know that when you’re making a large investment such as a vehicle or a home, there are many factors that can impact your ideal outcome. Maybe you have a low credit score or things in your history that will prevent you from affording what you would prefer. I also know there are always two sides to a story and again, my background at a dealership gave me excellent insight as to what the customer is claiming versus what actually went on. Yes, there are times when a business completely screws up – it happens. But a lot of the time, it has nothing to do with the business and everything with the customer.

In reading the reviews, I confirmed what I suspected – the majority of reviewers were disgruntled over something that didn’t really have anything to do with the company. Several even admitted to not having leased from the company, and while I think it’s important for consumers to provide feedback on why they didn’t choose a particular business, these review sites are weighing their feedback as a non-customer equally to actual customers. Other reviewers were complaining about details that were clearly laid out in the rental application.

After reading several reviews, I began to notice some patterns and realizing perhaps many of these reviewers were being unreasonable. Yes, there were some legitimate complaints, but when I considered my great experience with the company, either the complaints had been attended to, perhaps a change in staff had occurred, or maybe someone was just having a bad day.

In the end, even after seeing a low review score, I decided to go with this company based upon my experience and several interactions with the owner and his staff, because all had been positive and met my expectations. Once I’m settled into my home and have a little more experience with this company, I will leave a review detailing my experience. I’ll also let them know they may want to take a look at their online reputation so they don’t lose potential clients.

On the flip side, what businesses need to consider is how many consumers will see a low review score and not even bother contacting the business in the first place. A restaurant, salon or hotel with low review scores likely won’t even be contacted by consumers. They will move right along to the next business without even thinking about it, because why should they bother?

So what’s a business to do about negative reviews?

Claim and Monitor Your Review Sites
This seems a bit like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many businesses have not claimed their business on review sites. Additionally, it’s easy for listings to be added, so make sure you’re Googling your business monthly to find new listings or use a reputation monitoring service. Setting up Google Alerts for your business is another great way to get immediate notifications of anything being said about your business online.

Read & Respond to Reviews
Not everyone who leaves a review is disgruntled; oftentimes the feedback left can be valuable to improving your customer service and processes. If you see a pattern, perhaps several complaints about a particular employee or wait time, this is definitely something to investigate.

I’m a huge proponent of responding to all reviews as well. Not only is this a way to thank your reviewers for taking the time to provide feedback, it can potentially encourage your reviewers to be more honest. If a business doesn’t monitor their review sites, reviewers feel more comfortable bashing the business because there appear to be no repercussions or accountability. However, when businesses respond to reviews, the reviewer knows their feedback is being read, so they may be a bit more honest, especially if the business is offering to right the situation.

Not sure how to respond to reviews? Check out my article here!

Encourage More Positive Reviews
The best way to counter negative reviews is with more positive, legitimate reviews. Make sure you have a process in place to encourage your customers to leave reviews, whether it’s follow-up emails, calls, signs around your business – whatever works best for your industry. Do not pay for reviews or have your employees post reviews as if they were customers – these are obvious to those reading your reviews and violate most review site policies. But if you’re regularly asking customers for reviews, especially happy customers, you’ll see an improvement of your review site score.

Remove Reviews That Violate Review Site Policies
I am very against the idea of removing legitimate reviews. However, there may be times when a reviewer goes above and beyond to try to destroy your business. Perhaps they are a disgruntled customer, legit or not, or even a competitor. I would recommend first reaching out to them to try to resolve the conflict in a professional manner, however if that does not work and their review violates the review site’s policies, you can get the review removed in most cases. This is typically a rare occurrence, but one to keep in mind.

Additionally, your business may receive reviews that are for a different company. This can happen to businesses with similar names or chains. If that happens, you may also have those reviews removed. Keep in mind, removing reviews is likely rarely to ever happen and should not be considered a solution to negative reviews.

If you are not monitoring your review sites, you are doing your business a huge disservice and potentially losing a lot of business to your competitor. By taking just a few minutes each week to check and respond to your reviews, in addition to encouraging customers to leave reviews, you can see your review scores increase as well as your business.

Is Your Dealership’s Online Reputation Ruining Your Business?

Is Your Dealership's Online Reputation Ruining Your Business

When was the last time you Googled your dealership? Has it been a while? How did your reviews look? Think about the last time a potential customer Googled your dealership. Probably today. And their decision on whether to contact you or not is based on your reviews.

Check out these statistics from a 2014 survey:

  • Nearly 90% of consumers have read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business and 39% do so on a regular basis
  • 85% of consumers will read up to 10 reviews before deciding whether a business is trustworthy
  • 72% of consumers say positive reviews make them trust a business more
  • 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations

The majority of consumers are deciding whether or not they trust you to do business with before they’ve even talked to anyone at your dealership. And if your online reputation is poor, you may never get the chance to do business with them.

Protecting Your Reputation

If your company’s online reputation could use improvement, don’t just sit back and hope it improves. Here are a few steps you can take today to protect your online reputation:

Claim your online listings. If you haven’t done so already, Google your dealership to view and claim online listings for your business. There are also services that will assist you for a fee. Why is this important? So you have control over your online representation. You wouldn’t want a rogue employee or competitor managing your review site. By claiming your online listings, you can ensure each has accurate business information and branding. I recommend adding all of these to a spreadsheet for easy management.

Respond to all reviews. This shows consumers that your business is paying attention to what customers are saying and is taking responsibility for righting any wrongs, when possible. Not sure how to respond? Here’s some ideas. Also, if unhappy customers know that you read and respond to reviews, they may decide to be a bit more honest and open to working with you on a resolution rather than just bashing your business.

Have false/defamatory/wrong reviews removed. Consumers understand that not all customers are going to be happy with a business, so negative reviews serve the purpose of legitimizing your reviews so it’s not just all positive. Experiences aren’t always perfect and consumers can usually pick out when a reviewer is exaggerating or being unreasonable. However, if the review is completely false, violates the review sites policies or is for a completely different business, have that review removed. Each review site is a little different, but should have a help section detailing how to get these types of reviews removed.

Encourage positive reviews. People tend to tell twice the number of people about bad experiences versus good experiences, so if you know a customer had a great experience, ask them to please leave a review. This can also be a good time to promote a referral program. If the customer does leave a positive review, be sure to thank them for it.

Field negative reviews. It’s great to get positive reviews, but negative reviews provide the opportunity for improvement. When a customer shares a negative experience with your business, that allows the company to make changes to improve the experiences of other customers. Have a process in place to handle negative feedback, either by sending a feedback form out after every visit to encourage customers to send that feedback directly to your staff (and not on a review site) and be sure to follow-through with trying to improve the customer’s opinion of your business.

Ask customers to update their review once resolved. If a customer leaves a negative review about your business online and you resolve the situation to their satisfaction, it’s completely acceptable to ask them to update their review with this information. Updating reviews can be more helpful than deleting because it shows that you took the time to ensure this customer was happy.

Set up a Google Alert for your business. A simple way to stay on top of your company’s online reputation is to set up a Google Alert to notify you of online mentions. Be sure to include any variations of your business name and set it up to receive daily or instant notifications.

Track results. Don’t just take my word for it, create a baseline of your review site scores and track your score monthly to see progress. Need to improve a score on a particular site? Send happy customers there to leave reviews!

These steps may seem like a lot, but once you’ve claimed your listings, spending just a few minutes each week to read and respond to reviews is going to pay off in a major way as your online reputation improves and more online shoppers become your customers.

Want some help managing your dealership’s online reputation? Click here to learn more.

Why You Should Pay Attention to Facebook’s “On This Day” Feature

Why You Should Pay Attention to Facebook's -On This Day- Feature

In March of 2015, Facebook launched their “On This Day” feature, enabling users to view content they’ve shared or been tagged in on Facebook on that day in previous years. Some users enjoy reminiscing on memories shared over the years and others don’t understand why anyone would care about that content.

But there’s an important reason why you should take a moment to review these previous posts: your privacy.

For those who signed up for Facebook several years ago or prior to starting in your current profession, this is a daily opportunity to review the content you previous published or were tagged in. You may have found it amusing to post a drunken selfie at a party when you were 22, but now that you’re building a professional reputation, you may no longer want to be associated with that behavior, especially as you’re building a professional network on Facebook.

Keep in mind you should assume anything posted on the internet is there to live forever (don’t believe me? Look up your old LiveJournal or Angelfire website on the Wayback Machine…), but there are steps you can take to limit how much of your past is displayed on your Facebook page.

Access your “On This Day” posts here: facebook.com/onthisday

3 Ways to Control Privacy on Previous Facebook Posts

1. Delete the post. If there’s something you want to completely remove from Facebook, you have the option to delete the post. Click on the arrow on the top right of the post and select delete.

Deleting Facebook Posts

2. Change the post audience. Another option is to change the audience who can view the post. Click on the people icon next to the post date and time to select an audience that will be able to view this post.

Change Audience

3. Limit the audience for old posts on your timeline. Use this option to change any previous posts with audiences set to friends of friends or public to friends only. Click on the padlock Privacy Shortcuts link at the top of Facebook, select See More Settings, then click on Limit Old Posts.

Limit Posts

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How Just 1 Negative First Impression Can Leave a Lasting Impression

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What kind of first impression is your team making?

More than 10 years ago, I worked at the front desk of a storage and distribution warehouse. It was a very small satellite of a Canadian company with about 10 employees. One day, I received a call from a large postage meter company. Since part of my job was to thoroughly filter incoming calls and only put through a very limited number to my manager, I had to prevent him from having to take any unnecessary calls.

I allowed the salesperson to make his initial spiel, but being a small company and mailing very little, we didn’t have a need for such a service and I informed of that. He continued to try to sell me on the idea, and I continued to let him know we only mailed maybe a dozen items a month. I’m not a pushy person and probably much more polite than I should be, especially since that was one of my first desk jobs. The salesperson was not pleased with my answer, so he hung up on me.

Yes, the salesperson hung up on me.

To this day, every time I hear that company name – and it’s a big company – I think of that incident and the horrible first impression I have of that company. And even though he was just one person there (who hopefully didn’t work there much longer after that incident), he was a representative of the company providing a very negative lasting impression. So lasting that I saw a competitor’s product at work yesterday and told that story to my coworker, and this is more than 10 years later!

Maybe some don’t think this is a big deal, but what if down the road, I decided to give them a second chance? And what if I had an issue with my account or their product which is bound to happen? Would they be willing to help me or would they hang up on me?

Conversely, had the salesperson been understanding and helpful, perhaps providing his contact information for me to have on hand if perhaps some day our needs changed, I would have remembered that. And if I had needed their services, I would remember that and probably would be much more forgiving if any account or product issues arose. I would also be much more likely to pass that information on to those I knew as a recommendation.

That wasn’t the only time I have been hung up on, but another experience goes to show how a negative situation can be turned around. I took a sales job at my next company selling uniforms to law enforcement. I received a call one day from a police chief and although I was being as helpful as possible (and polite), he hung up on me. That’s fine, I get people have bad days, especially in the law enforcement field. But what turned the situation around was that he called me back moments later and apologized. Yes, he was having a bad day, and no, I hadn’t done or said anything wrong.

While it’s important to provide everyone with excellent customer service, it is imperative to provide a good first impression because as my example shows, bad first impressions can last for decades. And negative experiences spread like wildfire, especially with social media and review sites. Too many negative reviews about a business can quickly kill future business or even put a company out of business.

So make sure if you talk to customers, you are always as helpful and polite as possible and instill this in your team members who talk to customers, because just one negative impression can leave a lasting impression and lose a potential customer, possibly forever. If a negative situation does arise, be sure to quickly respond to try to mend the situation. People can be very understanding and forgiving if you’re sincere. In fact, reaching out to a customer and repairing a negative situation can change their impression and make them a customer for life.

Building positive relationships in and outside of your company will make it a much more pleasant place,  and will also grow your business.

Tell me about your good, bad or redeeming first impressions of a company in the comments – I’d love to hear your experiences!

How to Develop Positive Working Relationships with Difficult Coworkers

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At some point in your career, chances are that you’ll end up working with at least one person who is a complete nightmare. Below I detail nine steps you can take to evaluate the situation and work to turn it into a positive one. You spend a lot of time with coworkers; you may as well make the best of it!

1. Don’t take it personally. Even if your coworker’s wrath seems to be directed at you, chances are there are others feeling it too. If you haven’t done anything to warrant the treatment you’re receiving, consider that maybe the person treating you badly is dealing with some difficult personal problems and may not be intending to treat you badly.

2. Keep it professional. Your coworkers don’t need to be your friends, so keep any personal talk to a minimum and instead, focus on work and upcoming projects with them. Regardless of what’s going on behind the scenes, you still have customers to take care of and a job to do, and that’s the top priority.

3. Be a rock star. Your company still has things that need to be done and goals to achieve, so don’t drop the ball just because you’re unhappy. Instead, challenge yourself to perform at your highest level. This will benefit you in multiple ways: no one will be able to legitimately complain about your performance and if you do decide to move on to another job, you’ve built a great reputation and track record to show your performance to another company.

4. Learn their expectations and rules. You may not agree with how a coworker or boss does things, but if you can at least understand their expectations and rules, it makes it much easier for you to stay in their good side and have a more positive work environment. For example, your boss might require you to arrive 5 minutes early every day but show up late every day themselves; it may not be fair, but if you know this expectation, you can follow it. Rebelling will be ineffective, but you can have the satisfaction that they’re making themselves look bad and you even better.

5.Talk to them about it. It won’t be a comfortable conversation, to say the least, but sometimes you need to just hash it out with someone to repair a relationship. Even if things have gotten extremely awkward, it’s okay to say “hey, I don’t know how we got here, but I don’t like it and would like to start fresh if that’s okay with you.” Then make every effort to stick to that fresh start and leave the past behind. If they’ve been struggling personally, they may not even have any idea they’re treating you poorly and this makes them aware and gives them the chance to repair relationships with others they may be unintentionally mistreating.

6. Talk to HR. If talking to them personally didn’t work, or if the situation has gotten so bad you can’t comfortably speak to the person about the issue, try discussing it with human resources. While they may not be able to fix the problem alone, they can at least act as a mediator during your conversation and help you resolve your issues. Be prepared with examples of any mistreatment, especially if it could be considered workplace bullying in case HR needs to start an investigation. Also be prepared with a couple solutions in case HR asks how you’d like to resolve it.

7. Talk to others. Are other people having problems with this person? This isn’t a time to team others up against this person, but instead see if anyone else is having difficulties with anyone at the company or if they notice any patterns of how you’re being treated. Having allies can help support you and be there while you work through the problem. If no one else is having problems with the person, take that into consideration as well.

8. Take a look in the mirror. Are you the problem? Try to look at your situation from the outside; does the person you’re having issues with have a legitimate right to be upset with you? Did you do something to them that might make them upset with you, such as get a promotion, take one of their customers or put them out some way? When we’re so involved in something, it’s hard to see it for what it is, but think of logical reasons why this person could be upset with you, beyond that they could just be a mean person. Sometimes we’re the problem, not others.

9. Move on. Sometimes there’s just no resolving the problem. Perhaps your problem is with one of the owners or their family members employed at the company or others aren’t able to see the problems you’re having with the person. Or maybe for whatever reason, someone(s) at your company wants you to leave, whether you’ve done something to deserve it or not. Companies are complex and when different people with different backgrounds are forced to spend most of their waking time together, there’s bound to be some problems from time to time. If you’ve tried everything and are still having issues, sometimes the best bet is to just move on.

You may be spending 40+ hours in close quarters with your coworkers, so it’s important to have positive working relationships with them. When coworkers within a company are struggling, it can be obvious to customers and affect sales, putting further strain on your company. if you’re going to stick around, take steps to make things positive for everyone. If you’re planning on leaving, build yourself up to be successful and positive so there’s nothing but positive things to be said about you once you move on. You never know when you might need to go back across that bridge.

Google Plus: How I Went From Zero to 60 Overnight

Recently, I had the opportunity to try my marketing abilities with Google Plus. As a marketer, I try to have at least somewhat of a presence on the majority of social networks. In fact, whenever I see a chart showing the popularity of social networks, I make sure I’m signed up for most, if not all of them, to ensure I have a foot in the door of the social media world.

Working for a large automotive group, I try to keep my company well-represented online, not only to build relationships, but to take advantage of SEO achieved through posting regularly. This week, I tried my hand at Google Plus.

I’ve been maintaining several social media sites and learning more about them in the process. Facebook and Twitter have become second nature, but what about Google Plus? How can I get people to interact with us there? I was determined to find the answers.

How to prepare:

  • Make sure your page is set up completely and properly. As the representing social media page of your company, you must make sure it is branded consistently with the rest of your sites and has accurate information.  (Here’s a handy guide for Google Plus covers & images, although it’s highly littered with ads)
  • Follow companies, brands and groups relevant to your company.  Because we are an automotive group, I follow our brands as well as automotive review sites, local interests and related groups for fans of our brands. Following these groups will give you content to share and lead to followers and fans.
  • Post regularly. This should be pretty obvious, but if you’re not posting regularly, it becomes obvious that you are not monitoring the page and people won’t want to follow you because the page appears inactive. By posting even just once a week, you are showing your online presence and increasing your chance of gaining more followers.
  • Post photos. Lots of photos. Engaging photos. If you hadn’t noticed, the average consumer attention span is decreasing faster than the speed of light. They are bombarded with so much content on a steady basis that they don’t take time to read much (are you even reading all of this blog post? Probably not.) Share photos, helpful links and anything they can consume in very small bites. Be concise and clever and don’t overload them with too much content or they will simply skim right past it.

Now for the pièce de résistance: the simple things I did to gain 60+ followers overnight:

We received 3 amazing Ford Shelby GT500 Mustangs from a car collector with dash plaques autographed by Carroll Shelby AND each had less than 100 miles, even though they were 3 and 5 years old. These are not something you see very often and to have THREE of them is even rarer.

So I took artsy photos of them and created a photo album on Google Plus. I described the cars in each caption for SEO and included links to our site, since they are all available for purchase. Once the album was complete, I had the option to share it. Since we follow a 3,500+ group of Mustang enthusiasts, I shared it with that group.

Instantly, many of them received an email of the post and within 1 minute of posting, I already had 3 comments. Within an hour, our + count had increased by 30 and I was responding to as many comments as I could to keep the fans engaged. By morning, we had more than 60 +1’s on our profile and even more on our photos. As the day stretched on, our photos were going mildly viral through the Ford and Mustang community and we were steadily gaining popularity.

Next Steps

As much as I don’t want to admit it, that burst of popularity was accidental. I dabble in Google Plus to gain experience using it and to learn more about it, but Facebook and Twitter have been my comfort zones. However, because of the SEO, targeting, and ability to share links with a much larger audience without having to pay for advertising, Google Plus is definitely a platform to pay attention to.

So now, I will be duplicating my “Shelby project” with other photos, increasing our +1’s, sending potential customers to our site, and placing efforts into growing our other brands.

I’m so impressed with how quickly the photos went viral, if even for just a few hours. I felt the energy of increasing our popularity and that is the momentum needed to continue surfing through the waves of Google Plus.

How to be a Better Coworker (And Characteristics of Bad Coworkers)

The joy of working in a company is that you are working with company.  However, when your coworkers are less than ideal, it can negatively impact your day, mood and workload.  Then there are the people who are great to work with and make your job a little more enjoyable.

This week, I studied characteristics of great coworkers (as well as characteristics of bad coworkers).  Below are the top characteristics of great coworker according to answer on my LinkedIn Answers question, as well as those of bad coworkers.  Read on to see what traits were most and least appreciated in coworkers.

Characteristics of Good Coworkers

  • Communicator: shares ideas & knowledge, listens, honest
  • Team Player: works well with the team, complements skill sets, cooperative, positive, responsible, personable, compassionate, humble
  • Challenger: provides constructive criticism, challenges others, raises the bar, quality-focused
  • Innovator: creative, problem solver, efficient, open-minded
  • Hard worker: passionate, dedicated, punctual, takes responsibility for own mistakes, respectful, has integrity, serious

Characteristics of Bad Coworkers

  • Time Waster: unfocused, talks about non-work related topics too much, late, irresponsible, gossipy, dishonest
  • Finger Pointer: blames others for mistakes
  • Egomaniac: egotistical, critical, not a team player, condescending, unsharing
  • “Negative Nancy”: closed-minded, negative, selfish, inconsiderate
  • “Whatever Man”: lazy, indifferent

Words of Wisdom

“I would suggest the best way to be an ideal coworker is to be first and foremost honest and humble,” says Matt Clark on LinkedIn.  “Do not let your ego get in the way of building relationships and solving problems. If we could all just focus on our own areas to improve, we would all be better coworkers.”

“Look for the soft skills, listening, communication, and bit of compassion, otherwise known as emotional intelligence,” says John LaFay on LinkedIn.  “In the long run, these personal traits are a better investment than value matching.”

“If you can have a healthy working relationship with your coworker, he is a good coworker for you,” says Masood Sayed on LinkedIn.  “A good co worker for you can be a bad coworker for someone else.  It depends on how well you understand and communicate with each other.”

How Do You Rate?

While most people think they are a good coworker, it is important to step back and examine your own characteristics in the workplace.  How do you rate on the characteristics of good coworkers?  How would your coworkers rate you?

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