The online landscape for business owners, specifically contractors, has drastically changed since company websites first started appearing. Potential customers are no longer visiting your site for a phone number or to look at a static product brochure. These days, customers want to hear from other customers how well you installed that bathroom or renovated that basement. They can write a review, give you a rating and send you a message. In some cases, this is great for business. But if the reviews are negative, your reputation can quickly spiral downward. If you are a contractor with an online presence, you can be sure people are talking about you.
For small and mid-size contractors, investing in communications and branding can be a challenge, but it’s a critical step in building, and keeping your reputation. Providing open dialogue online means spending the time to respond, promptly, with a consistent message about your products and services. Here are some necessary first steps to improve your reputation management:
Build a Solid Reputation
If you’re new to having an online presence, or your static page now accepts ratings and feedback, it’s imperative that you set the stage with a solid reputation in your field. Include testimonials on your website and encourage satisfied customers to post a positive review. Consider posting an engaging blog or tweet interesting tips about your industry. Creating positive exposure is all part of building your reputation.
We hear a lot about businesses becoming “transparent,” but what does this mean for you? Being transparent means allowing the reviews and ratings to happen, good and bad, and professionally responding to them. Long gone are the days of hiding criticism or ignoring bad reviews. Once you allow clients to comment on your website, write a review, rate your products or services, or ask a question, you must commit to responding to the feedback quickly and professionally.
Invest in Social Media Monitoring
Social media monitoring allows a company to track online feedback (posts, tweets, ratings, online reviews etc.) and process the information to determine what is harmful and could affect the company’s reputation. The monitoring can be done using free tools like Google Alerts or by hiring a professional company to manage this for you.
Don’t Ignore Criticism
Whether you chose to handle your online presence yourself, or hire a professional, it’s critical not to ignore online feedback. While positive feedback doesn’t always require a response, negative feedback does. It should be handled delicately, and offline. Becoming defensive is never a good idea and makes the company look guilty or insensitive. In today’s online climate, ignoring negative feedback leads to more negative feedback, and online banter is even worse. Respond promptly and politely online with something as simple as, “we are looking into it and will get back to you shortly,” and then contact the customer directly.
Pay Attention to Your Google Ratings and SEO
First and foremost, when a potential client performs a google search, you want to ensure you pop up on the first page. The last thing you want is negative words associated with your name so keeping a close eye on ratings is vital. There have been many advances in search engine optimization and having an expert who can keep up with these changes is a critical part of your business.
Reviews Weigh Heavily on Customer Trust
If you’re booking a hotel room or checking out a restaurant, what’s the first thing you look at? In most cases, it’s the rating. A three-star, no thanks. But four- or five-star and you’re going to give it a go. The same applies to your business. If your ratings are consistently high, the odd lower review won’t hurt and is easy to overlook. But if you are receiving too many mid-range or low ratings, there’s a problem, and potential customers won’t want to take the chance. Ensure you are maintaining a good reputation in the industry and consult a professional if you’re struggling to keep four- and five-star ratings.
If you don’t control your online presence with positive content, harmful content could appear instead. A poor review on a site like HomeStars or Google can be damaging, so stay ahead of the game by taking reputation management seriously.