It’s that time of year again: the time when we all start thinking about how we’re going to improve ourselves.
It’s also a great time to start thinking about how you’re going to improve your business. Which in today’s world, also means giving some serious thought to how you’re going to approach your reputation over the coming year.
Here are five things you can do, both in the online world and in the oft-overlooked offline world to turn your business into one of the most trusted places in town this year.
Resolution #1: Fix one major customer service issue
Believe me, you have one, whether you want to admit it or not.
The beginning of the year is a great time to pinpoint what your biggest breakdowns are. Go through your 2019 review profile with a pencil in hand, and take some notes.
Then choose an issue to really solve and attack. Plan to have the problem turned around by February or so. Use your website or email list to communicate the changes to your customers.
You might say something like:
You gave us your feedback, and we listened! This year, we’ve added four new contractors to make sure that work is done on time, every time. If you call us out this year we’d love to hear if you’re feeling the difference.
Then, any time an existing customer does come back to you, send them a follow-up email.
Hey [customer], thanks so much for making us your go-to for [business type].
You’ve been with us a few years so we wanted to ask: did you notice faster service this time?
If so, would you please leave us your feedback on our improvements here?
The benefits here are two-fold.
1. You make your business run better, which of course will help you build and grow your customer base whether it helps you get reviews or not, if only because improving your customer service will help you keep your old ones.
2. It will get you more reviews, because more people will be inspired to leave more positive reviews.
At that point, you’ve gifted yourself with some positive feedback loops. More reviews means more business means more reviews. More long-term customers means more loyalty means less money spent getting new customers. More long-term customers means more offline referrals means more business means more reviews.
You’ll also feel better about the business you’re running, which is, of course, priceless.
Resolution #2: Give employees one new reason to have your back
If you’re running a one-person operation this doesn’t apply to you, but if you have even one employee, you should think long and hard about implementing it.
Employees are on the front lines. They’re the boots-on-the-ground crew who is coming face-to-face with your customers every day. In some local businesses, it would in fact be rare for customers to even see the owner.
If your employees hate you, you’re in trouble. If they’re indifferent to you, then you’re missing opportunities. If they love you? Well, they’re working hard for you and you want to keep them.
Before you say, “Oh, well, I’m fine then because my employees do love me,” stop.
Sometimes love just ain’t enough. If you’re underpaying them, then eventually they’re going to leave because they have this powerful need to eat. If you’re sending them out there to deal with customer service issues without giving them any power to do anything other than get screamed at, then eventually they’ll burn out. If they routinely get held accountable for variables they don’t have much control over, they’re going to disengage at best and brush off their resumes at worst.
Can’t afford to pay more? I’d challenge most business owners on that assumption, but let’s say it’s true. There are ways you can make your employee’s lives better that have nothing to do with money.
First and foremost? Listen to them: they are engaging with a reality of your business that you don’t touch or see. Find out what they think needs to be done to solve the problems they’re ramming their heads against every day.
Then fix the problems.
All humans want to feel heard and appreciated. Sometimes listening is all it takes.
Then, when they feel heard and appreciated, they’ll be ready to make your customers feel heard and appreciated, too.
Resolution #3: Create a talk trigger
Here’s a refresher on the definition of a talk trigger:
“A talk trigger is a strategic operational choice that you make in your business that compels word-of-mouth. It’s something you do differently that people notice and talk about, and when they do that it turns their customers into volunteer marketers. They do some of your sales and marketing for you.”
“‘You won’t believe what they did, that was really amazing!’ It creates a consistent story about your business.”
“Word of mouth represents, or at least influences, between 50% and 90% of all purchases, so it’s pretty important to have an actual word-of-mouth strategy, a talk trigger, but unfortunately, almost nobody does.”
Personally I recommend getting the book Talk Triggers as New Year’s Resolution 3B, but if you’d like to read a quick case study that might spark some ideas, head over to Word of Mouth: How Agencies Add More Value to Review Management. If you don’t have time to read the whole interview, Control-F your way over to “Skip’s Kitchen” and read about a talk trigger in action.
Once you’ve got a good understanding of talk triggers you can sit down, put on your thinking cap, and put one together for your business.
Sit down with your staff and brainstorm, because these aren’t the easiest thing in the world to come up with. If they were, everyone would have a talk trigger active and working for them.
Still, it doesn’t have to be something brilliant or revolutionary. Here are a few ideas I came up with just on the fly:
If you look close, you’ll notice I started with things that annoys the crap out of most customers about certain situations, then looked for ways to challenge the assumption that the way “everyone does it” is the right way to do it. I suspect every last waiting room is configured more or less the same way because someone started out configuring a waiting room that way, and now everyone just thinks: that’s the way waiting rooms are.
Be ready to ask yourself: does a waiting room really have to be that way? You’ll find, in many cases, that your mind is eager to serve up all sorts of alternatives. Your talk trigger might be buried in those alternatives.
Resolution #4: Switch up your review profile of choice
I love Google My Business, but it’s not the only review profile out there. If GMB is the only service you’ve been sending people to then you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Of course, the same goes for any other review site you’re hugging too closely.
Getting reviews on multiple sites has the potential to increase your revenue by 58%. If you’ve got 50 reviews on GMB but zero on your two hottest industry-specific platforms, you’ve got a problem.
Put together a system. Maybe you’re sending out a different review site link each week, or each month, to make sure you’re rotating through them on a regular basis. Customers might default to their favorite review site of choice on their own, but many will go and write the review wherever you happen to send them.
Resolution #5: Make reputation management routine, not reactive
All too often, reputation management gets shoved to the back burner unless there’s some kind of a crisis.
That’s a bad way to go about it, because that leaves you scrambling. It can take a lot longer to fix a bad reputation when you’re starting from Ground Zero.
Having a strategy is not enough if the strategy doesn’t translate into a series of actions that you’re taking every single time something specific happens.
Here’s an example of what a routine might look like.
- Ask every customer for a review in person (or instruct your employees to).
- Send out review links to customers who concluded business with you three days ago, but haven’t left a review yet (this can be automated).
- Read over the day’s reviews and respond to them.
- Skim HARO requests and look for opportunities to provide expert quotes.
- Add content to your blog, learning center, or social account. The content you add and the format you add it in will depend largely on the business you’re running.
- Look for opportunities for off-site content. If you’re lucky, this can be the same source every week. For example, one of my clients has a weekly column in his local newspaper. This gets him tons of local exposure and of course, ensures that those articles will come up in the search results whenever someone googles his name.
Look for sponsorship opportunities. Often even a very small gift to a local event or charity can get you backlinks, increase your exposure, and improve your reputation. The gifts don’t always have to be monetary in nature.
If all 7 of these tasks become habit, then your reputation should be in great shape almost all the time. If a crisis does hit, you’ll have built yourself a bulwark against it, and may even have a hoard of raving fans ready to defend you when something goes wrong.
Ready to make 2020 your best year ever?
Don’t be like those folks who resolve to go to the gym and eat right only to flop onto the couch with a cheeseburger one week later. For one thing, these business resolutions are probably a lot easier to keep than the whole gym thing.
Instead, start implementing these suggestions right now. Don’t worry—you’re likely to start seeing positive returns well before the dawn of 2021.