Suddenly, you find yourself in need of a new television. What should you get? Which of the many options will be worth your investment? If you’re like most people, you will turn to online reviews for help sorting it out. You’ll want to know what they liked about the TV they purchased and what they didn’t.
That same mindset applies to hiring an accountant. Wait! If you are thinking, “I don’t sell a product online,” that doesn’t mean you don’t need online reviews. People are checking you and your firm out online, and reviews are often at the top of search engine results. Even if someone you know refers you to a potential client, you should know that the prospect will often search online to read what others have to say about you.
Depending on the survey you read, approximately eight or nine out of every 10 people turn to online reviews to determine the quality of a business, and around half of all people trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations. These findings have increased in recent years and may continue to do so. Your reputation and ability to bring in new business may become more dependent on what others say about you online. That’s why you need to actively solicit and manage your reviews.
Set up a Review Presence
Do you have a presence on Yelp, Google or, if you’re a ProAdvisor®, on the Find-a-ProAdvisor site? How about on social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+? These are just a few of the many places people like to leave reviews, but they can’t do it if you aren’t there. Pick the places where you want to get reviews, and either claim or set up your businesses profile. That way people have a place to tell the world how wonderful you are.
A summary of your reviews, including the total number of reviews received and your average rating, appear in website search results. This alone is enough to peak interest in you and your firm.
Ask for Reviews
There are mixed thoughts on whether you should ask someone to leave a review. Many review sites actually discourage this behavior because it slants the results. However, if you want to make sure you have an online review presence to be proud of, then you need to encourage others to share their thoughts.
Whenever possible, be sure to link directly to the review page. It makes it easier for people to complete the request. You also want to go for quantity to help ensure you get the quality that will win prospects over. Here are some ways to subtly encourage online feedback:
- Email. In your email signature block, add a simple phrase inviting people to leave their feedback on a specific site.
- Website. Have a page on your site for reviews. Recap what others say about you and direct visitors to sites where they can leave their own thoughts. The “ask” can also be built into the header of footer of your site so it appears on all pages.
- Survey. Do you survey your clients on a regular basis to see how you are performing? Provided the survey is short, conclude by asking the person to leave their thoughts online as well.
- Post-engagement communications. At the end of an engagement, you deliver something to your client. Add a sticker, image or text to that work product encouraging feedback on a specific site.
- Invoices. Build into the template of your invoices an invitation to provide feedback on the service received. If you send your invoices electronically, be sure to hyperlink to the review site.
- Blog. Write a blog post aggregating highlights from your reviews and asks people to add their own thoughts to your online presence.
- Newsletter. If you send out an eNewsletter or any form of print communications, consider building into the template a graphic that asks for feedback. Perhaps that graphic contains one of the online reviews you like as a way to encourage similar responses.
- LinkedIn recommendations. On your LinkedIn profile there is a section for recommendations. Simply click on “Ask to be recommended.” From there you can select the role you want to be recommended for and who to ask. Write a personal message asking for a review and perhaps what you want them to talk about, such as your knowledge of Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax Online, Lacerte® or ProSeries®. Also, if you recommend someone, they’ll often return the favor.
- Turn testimonials into reviews. When you get a testimonial from a client or even a simple email singing your praises, reply back and thank them for their kind words. Then ask them to consider posting that message online.
- Incentivize your team. Consider having a contest to see who in the firm can solicit the most online reviews during a certain time period. Encourage them to reach out to people they work with and direct them to a select online site. The reward doesn’t have to be large to spur friendly competition.
- Give back. If someone does something nice for you, what can you do for someone else? Perhaps you’ll make a donation to a charity as a thank you. People are motivated by helping others. In exchange for their time, they are not only helping you, but others as well.
Responding to Reviews
No one is perfect. It’s unrealistic to believe everyone will give you five out of five stars, so you will probably receive a negative review at some time. How you handle it trumps the fact that you got one to begin with.
Before you type a reply, take a deep breath. Consider contacting the person directly if you know who it is. That way, you can discuss the issue and come up with a resolution that works for both of you. It’s okay to ask the individual to update the review afterward to share that the problem has been rectified. If you don’t know who left the review, then it’s okay to respond. Do not get defensive. Rather, leave a message apologizing that you did not meet their standards. Offer a potential solution that may be as simple as calling you to discuss ways you can fix the issue. This enables you to demonstrate your true customer service philosophy – and that garners respect.
This is also a great time to ask for more reviews. If you can offset the negative with multiple positive ones, then the negative become less important to your potential buyer.
Your online reputation matters … don’t leave it to chance!