The first responses should be your own website and business Facebook page if you have them. You might also see links to Twitter and LinkedIn. Once you get past those, there should be a bunch more links before the search results become about everything but your business. These are directories, online “Yellowpages” if you will. These sites will get your basic business info; name, address and phone number (public info) and sell advertising around the listing. The idea is that if you are looking for a local business, say a beauty salon, you start searching with the location you’re interested in and get down to a list of salons in that area. Finally, you end up at the listing for a specific salon which looks interesting. (By running a search for your business, you’ve come in the back door.) So far so good, you get a free listing for your business. (And lots will let you pay to share more info.) But look around, is there are rating and review area?
The concept behind all of these sites is that they are helping consumers by allowing them to post feed back on the business. That is why Angie’s List was created, to allow consumers to research the companies they were looking to hire. Yelp! also focuses on consumer feedback and reviews. Some let the business dispute a review but most don’t. That becomes a task for the business owner.
Most small businesses rely on referrals to build their business. But we understand there are going to be customers who are not happy with us no matter how hard we work to please them. And they will complain. The problem with the internet is that it allows them to share their problems with more people. The problem for a business owner is that they can to this without you knowing about it.
My suggestion is to take a little bit of time and search your business and find these directory sites. I wouldn’t go too far into the search. In the first 3 search pages for my tax business, I found 15 sites allowing reviews. If I could, I “claimed” the site. Some let me add a little bit more info for free. But at all of them, I checked for a review. This time, I didn’t find any. But next time, and I plan on doing this every couple of months, if I find something, I will be proactive. I’ll see if the review is correct and if there is a problem I need to correct at the office, I will. If the site allows me to respond, I will do that as tactfully as possible. I will also encourage clients to review me when they are happy with my work.
These reviews aren’t going away. It seems I can’t download an app, look at a blog post or Facebook page without being asked for a like, rating or review. The issue is to take a little time and monitor what is being said about my business. I’d rather know about it now than deal with the consequences later.