Category Archives: Business Tips

Got a bad review? How you should respond.

Here at Judy’s Book we get our fair share of bad reviews on businesses and subsequent complaints by businesses to remove them.  While we empathize with local establishments, first and foremost, Judy’s Book is a consumer-opinion site that exists to publish people’s opinions – the good, the bad, and everything in between. We do not exist to censor content, so we don’t edit or remove reviews except for obvious breaches of our Terms & Conditions or principles.   We’ve  found that removing a review doesn’t address the root issue and in many cases ads fuel to the fire with the user posting more reviews on our’s and other sites.  Fortunately, our research also shows that potential customers who read these reviews are pretty smart: they understand that people’s opinions are just that – opinions – and they take them with a grain of salt.

New research in Social Media also shows that how a business responds and handles a bad review can really impact the results.  Sometimes going in and engaging a disgruntled customer will help them see your company in a new light and allow other users to get your perspective.  Judy’s Book allows and encourages businesses to comment on reviews.  Here are some tips for handling a bad review.

  • The details aren’t true: Your business is being condemned for giving a reviewer a bad massage and not honoring 50 percent off coffee coupon. However, you don’t offer coffee (just tea) and you definitely don’t offer a 50 percent off.  In this case, speak up and politely let them know that they may have simply misjudged something or maybe they’re confusing you with another company. If it’s a matter of bad facts, step in and politely correct them.  You’re an attorney and the person reviewing you was someone you sued, in this case they’re reviewing their dissatisfaction and not your skill as an attorney.  Confronting in public is much better than ignoring or trying to get the review removed where they can re-post it on any number of sites.
  • Make Amends: Sometimes you just goof. Your company sold a bad product, your employee missed an appointment, the meal was brought out cold, etc. Life happens. People understand. If you blundered and someone is upset, it’s typically in your best interest to engage them and to do your best to make it right. It often doesn’t take much to smooth over one bad experience.
  • When the review develops legs: Sometimes things that shouldn’t be a big deal get out of control and “me too” responses anyway.  These conditions need to be addressed and need to be addressed quickly. Staying quiet simply because you don’t think it’s serious enough to warrant an answer is virtually certain to invite the fervor to spread beyond Judy’s Book and onto other sites. You don’t want that to happen. The best way to contain the mess is to handle it at its source. If something is gaining legs, get in the conversation and de-escalate. Often just a few words from you will be enough to quiet the publicity and get the dialogue on track.

How

Once you decide a review is worth commenting on, you need to handle it with care.  Don’t rush into a response and try and remain calm.  Upgraded (claimed) listings can send review comments to info@judysbookteam.com make sure you include a link to the review you are commenting on and keep the following in mind:

  • Be Honest: If you’re going to engage a negative reviewer, come at them completely honest, sincere and with your hands where they can see them. Apologize for your mistake and let them help you find a way to move forward. Don’t make excuses. Don’t try to spin it to make you look like the victim. If you messed up, apologize and immediately diffuse the situation. If you didn’t mess up, then be honest about what happened. Without pointing fingers.
  • Remain Calm: If you can’t remain calm in a fight, then you should not be allowed to participate in social media. Losing your cool is one of the worst things you can do.
  • Speak Like a Person: If you have a Master’s Degree this isn’t the time to show it off.  Don’t down talk or have gender, social, age biases.  The other day my wife was at our local car dealer getting our Prius checked out for a warning light.  The mechanic said “Honey, the problem was you didn’t tighten the gas cap all the way and air got into the tank” Guess what?  It was me who filled up last.  Needless to say she wasn’t happy with the service.
  • Promise to be better: End your reply with a promise to be better. Whether it’s a promise that you’ll try harder, make amends, listen more, etc., let them know that you heard them, you care, and that you want to be better for them. It’ll go a long way in establishing some goodwill.
  • Listen:  Listen without reacting. The complaints your customers have about your business aren’t really about you, they’re about them. They’re about how they feel. How they were let down. What they need.  Find the root of the problem and address that.  Sometimes that means looking beyond what they’re telling you. They’re commenting on the site because they want to be heard. Show them they have been.
  • Keep it short:  Don’t ramble on, usually 3-4 sentences is enough.

Also remember that most users generally look at the trends and one single bad review amongst many good ones doesn’t have as much weight.  Especially if the good reviews are more recent.

Responding to good reviews with a simple Thank You not only acknowledges the customer who took the time to write a review but it’s an additional touch point for repeat business and to encourage others to write reviews.

Lastly, local search sites wouldn’t exist without honest people making honest recommendations, free from influence by businesses and advertisers.  We’re going to keep fostering that in the Judy’s Book community and hope that it’ll continue to be upheld in other communities.  Thanks for being part of ours.

What’s that square thingy? – Give it a Snap!

What the snap are Featured Places?

We thought you might have been wondering, since our new Featured Places window stickers with “snapable” barcodes may be popping up all over your neighborhood at your favorite spots. Yes, those great little family run businesses just around the corner that make your neighborhood great. To help make it easier for you to recognize these businesses, Judy’s Book recently launched Featured Places: a special badge of honor given only to local businesses that the Judy’s Book community has deemed worthy to receive recognition for being so great. Sent only to the most favored businesses (and only those in the Seattle area so far), these badges take material form as special window decals to help businesses proudly announce their badge of honor to the world.

The smarts behind the snap
The Judy’s Book Featured Places badge is a window decal that isn’t just another fish in the sea of window stickers (e.g. accepted credit cards, Chamber of Commerce awards, etc).  This sticker actually allows you to interact with it. Featuring the new 2D barcode technology, it can instantly be “read” via mobile devices.  So if your mobile phone/PDA is equipped with a built-in camera and special software, it can decode the contents of the barcode and instantly take you to a mobile page that displays Judy’s Book information about the business. Pretty snappy, huh?
Wondering which phones carry this 2D barcode “snap” technology? So far, we know that the iPhone and Google’s Nexus One phone support the technology, should users choose to download the app.  We’ve personally tested these free apps and can confirm that they work.

These are the apps we recommend (feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments section):

  • NeoReader (iPhone)
  • QuickMark Mobile Barcode (iPhone)

More about the 2D barcode technology >>

So…why should I give a snap?
Here are a few examples of what you might see when you “snap” the barcode of the Featured Places window decal.  This list may change as we continue to improve and tweak as we hear feedback and come up with new creative ways to solve problems:

  • Basic business details and contact information
  • A link to the business Web site, and other useful information about the business
  • What other people are saying about the business (menu recommendations, preferred products/services offered, etc.)
  • Discounts and promotions that the business is offering.  (Perhaps if you go in now, you’ll get an entrée for free?)
  • Information about complementary nearby businesses that might be a good next stop after visiting the current (Just had a great meal at this restaurant? How about a frozen yogurt at the stand around the corner?)

So the next time you see a Featured Places sticker, start snapping!

How come my favorite spot isn’t a Featured Place?

As with all things at Judy’s Book, Featured Places is about helping locals identify the most favored businesses, according to their fellow Judy’s Book fans. In short, the business has to be liked by its customers. (FYI, businesses are not limited to restaurants and bars – doctors, dentists, florists, real estate agents, and businesses in many other categories have been selected for this too.)

  • The Judy’s Book digital badge is displayed on the business Web site or blog.
  • You – the business’s best customers –  are actively talking about this business in online communities such as Facebook, Twitter, and, of course, Judy’s Book.
  • The business is being searched for online by many people.
  • The business upholds honest and ethical practices, even with simple things such as ensuring that the business name, address, and other contact information is accurate in its Judy’s Book profile.

In sum, the more buzz we pick up about a business, the more likely it is that it will be nominated to receive a Judy’s Book Featured Places window decal.  Our goal with the window decals  is to encourage consumer confidence in local businesses and help great businesses thrive.

Want to help get a local business nominated for a Featured Places badge? Start creating buzz about them on Judy’s Book!

What Goes Around, Comes Around

While we’re on the topic of what we don’t do (see Yelp’s Troubles: Keep the User-Reviews Community Strong), we thought we’d take some time to explain a little more about what we do and why we get so excited about it. We like to think of ourselves as a friendlier Web search engine that allows people to look up local businesses and read recommendations (the good and the bad) about them that people just like themselves have written. Simply put, Judy’s Book is word of mouth on the Web, allowing anyone who’s looking around for a good local service or business to choose the best and avoid the worst.

We get excited about this business because it goes beyond Web search results and helps foster local communities. Say that your car’s brakes are on the fritz and you’re new in town: few things bring anxiety faster than the thought of choosing an automotive repair shop that may charge double what the brake job is worth. However, when a quick search on Judy’s Book helps you find a shop that 20 people in your neighborhood have found to be trustworthy, suddenly you’re not just the newbie any longer. You’re the newbie with a lot of Judy’s Book neighbors who have your back.  This is why this community activity is so valuable, even if it isn’t happening face-to-face.

Local businesses play the other equally critical role of leveraging the local community on the Web. At Judy’s Book, we recognize that not all local businesses are run the same way. Your business may be that trustworthy local repair shop, trying to get a fair share of customers while the shady shop down the street has twice the advertising budget. Judy’s Book was created to help businesses like yours leverage the power of these local Web communities to bring new, loyal customers to your doors.  And they will, because all the hard work you put into treating existing customers right will show up in the reviews they write up and the new customers who take their word for it and pay you a visit.

We have a rich set of tools designed for different types of local businesses, and for businesses at different stages.  If you are just hanging up your shingle, we have an Enhanced option for new businesses that allows you to enhance your profile with photos, a message from the owner, your own Web site, and more.  If your business has been operating for a while and you want to take it to the next level in 2010, check out our Premium option, which lets you add video, get broader exposure on the site, and get a professional write-up, among other benefits. Also, if even the thought of online marketing makes you want to go back to bed, the Premium option includes social media marketing tools.

Check out our comparison chart to see what works for your business. If you’re interested, we’d love to have a conversation with you about what it’s like to work with us. And thanks for being part of the Judy’s Book community.

Yelp’s Troubles: Keep the User-Reviews Community Strong

According to recent news reports, user-reviews site Yelp has been served with lawsuits by businesses accusing the company of extorting advertising dollars in exchange for the suppression or removal of negative reviews. As a result, Yelp, historically known for its vigilance in upholding the purity of user reviews, has had to own up to the fact that some of its business practices leave everyone wondering whether the company has a double standard when it comes to keeping things above board.

True or not, the allegations are troublesome because they cast a shadow over the larger online community of people helping other people, which is what this industry is all about at the end of the day. At Judy’s Book, we sincerely hope that these allegations are false and that Yelp will be able to sort everything out before further damage is done to the online community that we’re all part of.

In the meantime, we want to reassure the Judy’s Book community of reviewers and business partners that Judy’s Book has never, nor will ever, use negative reviews to pressure businesses into advertising with us. In fact, we have been known to turn down advertising dollars if businesses refused to accept the fact that we only remove negative reviews if they clearly violate our terms of use. We realize that unless user-generated reviews remain unsullied by external influences, the recommendations swapped by people in our community will be called into question, eroding the honesty and trust that are the foundation of this business.

That’s why we like to keep things simple and straightforward at Judy’s Book. Reviews are strictly for shopper benefit here – never used as tools to get money from businesses. While we encourage businesses to leverage our marketing packages in order to enhance their profiles, business owners cannot edit or otherwise influence shopper reviews.  They can, however, engage in the conversations about their business by posting public responses to reviews via our team of representatives. That way, everything that’s said about or by them is available for anyone to see.

What we’ve seen is that these simple practices nurture a thriving online community of people swapping recommendations about local businesses.  That’s how it should be, and we want it to stay that way, not just for Judy’s Book but the entire online community of shoppers. User-review sites wouldn’t exist without honest people making honest recommendations, free from influence by advertising dollars. We’re going to keep fostering that in the Judy’s Book community and hope that it will continue to be upheld in other online communities. Thanks for being part of ours.

Consumers are Talking about Your Business Online – Are you Participating in the Conversation?

Consumers are seeing and giving good opinions and bad about your business on local search and review sites, as well as the latest and great social media sites.  So are you participating in the conversation?  You can with a social search site that allows people to swap recommendations for local businesses and services.  For example, with Judy’s Book Business Accounts, we invite local businesses like you to say your piece and help instill trust and confidence in consumers before they even dial your number or map your location.

“This is just for the bigger guys” you say? You’d be surprised how many of your competitors are leveraging it.  To your surprise, it doesn’t cost as much as you think for the benefits you’ll receive.  Would you say it’d be a good investment if by getting involved, the very next customer walks through the door is result of your involvement, and that very customer’s life time value would pay for the cost over and over?

If 2010 is the year that you’d like to take your business to the next level, and see your dream business flourish, keep this tip in mind.  Stay tuned for more articles and tips on how to grow your business.