Joanna Turpin

The world is full of people who are hard to please, and chances are good that some of these people are your customers. In the past, disgruntled customers resorted to complaining to friends if they weren’t happy with your service, or if they were really ambitious, they might send a letter to the Better Business Bureau. In the current day of the Internet, however, they have multiple opportunities to share their grievances with the world.

Welcome to the world of Web 2.0, which is a term that is used to express the new interactive way in which people use the Internet. It used to be that a company would post content on its Website, and the public could read it but not have the ability to respond. Now the Web is becoming more interactive, and customers are using every opportunity to communicate and share information through sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and others.

While many use these outlets as a way to communicate positive experiences they’d had at various establishments such as hotels or restaurants, they’re also using these sites to complain about companies with which they’ve had a bad experience (real or perceived). One of those companies they’re complaining about might be yours.

This topic came up during a workshop at the recent ACCA convention in Fort Worth, Texas. Brian Kraff, owner of Market Hardware, asked the packed room of contractors just how many had Googled their company names lately. Maybe five hands went up. Few knew that a variety of customer ratings sites, such as Google Maps, City Search, and Yahoo Local, are capturing the positive and negative comments that customers (and potentially ex-employees or competitors) have written about their companies. One contractor commented, “You mean someone can just go out there and post something bad about our company, and we have no recourse? That’s not fair.”

That’s right. The world is not fair, and customers with an axe to grind are often taking their complaints directly to the Web where they can share their feelings with thousands of their closest friends.

There’s really nothing you can do to control what is posted about your company, but it is important to devote some time to Googling your company name to see what’s out there. If you find you’re the recipient of many one-star reviews, you may want to take a closer look at your business practices. However, if you have a one-star review that is with little or no merit, there are ways to combat that.


Angie’s List, for example, has a process by which you can ask the site to remove a questionable review. That’s fairly easy to do if you’ve received mostly A ratings, then all of a sudden one pops up giving your company all Fs. Other sites don’t have that option, however, you can essentially “bury” any one-star reviews by getting your customers to write plenty of four- and five-star reviews. Reviews that are posted most recently usually go to the top of the list, so customers Googling your company name will typically see them first. You want those reviews at the top of the list to be positive, so it’s important to start collecting customer testimonials, or even better, go out there and ask for them.

That’s what Bryce Johnson, CEO, Air Conditioning By Jay, Scottsdale, Ariz., does every day. He is a very computer-savvy guy, and he not only asks his customers to write online reviews, he gives them a list of various customer ratings sites so they’ll know where to go. He also searches the Internet regularly, looking for any mention of his company in customer reviews. He isn’t fazed by this new way of doing business; if anything, he’s eager to attack it head-on.

“This is a great thing to happen in our industry,” he said. “An opportunity like this doesn’t come along all the time, so I’m excited about it.”

In his workshop, Kraff noted that soliciting positive customer reviews is one of the best methods a business can use to not only combat negative reviews but also raise its place in the Google search rankings. And don’t bother arguing with any of the people who have posted bad listings because it’s simply not worth your time - some customers won’t be happy even if they receive your services for free. Kraff did add that it’s important to have a dedicated person monitor the Internet to track any and all ratings about your company, and if you don’t have that person, hire someone.

So if you haven’t Googled yourself lately, what are you waiting for? Go see what the public is saying about your company - you might be surprised.

Publication date:03/23/2009