More and more people turn to online reviews when looking for service providers. Make sure your firm is benefitting from this trend.
As digital information becomes more available and the internet is increasingly seen as a referral source, it’s very important that your accounting firm have a strong web presence. That doesn’t just mean your own website, either – it means you need to be listed on local search engines and have plenty of glowing reviews from clients.
There are now a wealth of websites devoted to customer reports of their experiences at business of all kinds, from sub shops to auto mechanics to doctors and, of course, to accounting firms. These word of mouth reports on the various providers they describe have come to have the kind of power that was once reserved for the personal recommendations provided by close personal friends, relatives and colleagues. You may or may not appreciate the trend, but its power should not be ignored.
Given that your name is going to appear in these reviews, your best bet is to take charge of the situation to the extent possible and encourage your clients to review you. Naturally you hope to show up well on the various review sites, but the human tendency is to take the time to post only when driven by strong emotions such as anger or disappointment. A proactive stance that leads to more reviews by happy, satisfied clients is helpful in getting your name out there where potential clients are looking, and also in counteracting the unfortunate reviews that could be left by the occasional displeased contact. We hope that never occurs.
Try these ideas to help build a positive reputation through online reviews of your firm:
- Just ask! Many clients will be happy to review you but have never thought to do so. Include a polite request for reviews when you finish a project, through a quick tweet or in your newsletter. If you ask in the newsletter, however, it’s not wise to send a link to your local page. While that might increase the response, it is also likely to result in the appearance of fake reviews because of the single source for multiple reviewers.
- Invest in a simple collateral piece to distribute to office visitors that describes how and where they can leave reviews.
- Respond to the reviews you receive. Good or bad, it’s helpful to monitor what’s being said about your firm and politely engage in conversation around the comments. A simple thank you is often enough, or you might want to explain the situation or even apologize in some cases.
- Add a note on your website, newsletter or invoices mentioning the sites where you can be reviewed. You might want to make it a request or choose to simply indicate that you’re listed there. You could even add the logo of a review site where you have a strong local presence to your business card.
- Expect to build reviews over time. You don’t need to get 50 right away. That would actually be a problem, as a batch coming all at once would appear likely to be fake.
- Be aware of the rules regarding individual review sites. For example, it’s not acceptable to request clients for a review on Yelp. You don’t want to get blacklisted for an accidental policy violation.
Online reviews carry a lot of weight these days. Most people take them with a grain of salt, but the accumulated weight of popular opinion does give a pretty good idea of what a person can expect. Don’t be shy about asking for reviews and do pay attention to what they say. You may learn something important! It’s also nice, now that you’re thinking about it, to take a minute to review the business owners and service providers in your own life. They’d appreciate it as well.