Follow the Leaders
We live in an age where it’s possible for companies to thrive or die based on customer reviews. “Reviews are important for almost any small to mid-sized business,” says Chris Leone, president of WebStrategies, Inc. “These days, it’s hard to be a new customer and not see an online review at some point in your buying journey.”
And like it or not, your buyers’ journeys often begin on Google. According to Leone, prospects who search for a type of service in the search engine (e.g., “staffing company VA”) are more likely to choose companies that have strong reviews associated with them.
If a customer doesn’t know your web address and chooses to search using your business name (e.g., “ACME Supply”), they’ll quickly discover reviews of your business along with your website. A search result page littered with low-star reviews doesn’t make a great first impression. Another not-so-great look? Poor ratings on Glassdoor – a well-known site where employees can rate their employers.
To sum: Less-than-stellar reviews can impact your brand image, your bottom line and the likelihood that a star employee will come calling.
Think only B2C business owners should be concerned with customer reviews? Think again. There are myriad review websites that closely examine the services and products B2B companies provide, too – from Amazon Customer Reviews to Which? to TrustPilot. If you own a business, it’s also important to monitor your online presence on sites like FinancesOnline, G2Crowd and bbb.org (Better Business Bureau).
If you’re a small to mid-size business owner with limited resources and time, where do you begin? Leone stresses that any website visible to your prospects should be on your radar. “You can find these by doing a Google search and scanning the search results page,” he explains. “Google will show different review sites for different industries, depending on what’s out there and the intent or mindset of the person doing the search. In short, act like a prospect would and take note of what you see. Then work to improve it.”
Scot Halloran, president of Trolley House Refreshments and managing partner of Groovin’ Gourmets, has an on-staff marketing employee who monitors Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and catering and wedding-specific sites each day. “There’s quite a few areas that we have to monitor and keep an eye on,” says Halloran. “If anything positive or negative pops up, she’ll relay that back to the team. Obviously, if it’s a negative review, we attack that pretty quickly. Thankfully, that’s only happened a handful of times.”
Halloran is diligent about asking for customer feedback; in fact, he uses a local service to contact customers who’ve used his service in the last 30 days. It’s a great source for garnering positive reviews. His (thankfully) limited experience with negative reviews has taught him that folks are often quick to pull the social media trigger rather than contact a business owner directly with a concern or complaint.
Essential Steps for Handling Negative Reviews*
- Be professional and avoid getting personal
- Thank your reviewers and customize your responses
- Take the time to upload an image with your response
- Indicate you’ve taken the necessary action
*Source: Small Business Association: https://www.sba.gov/blogs/how-handle-negative-reviews
“Typically, what we find is that [a negative review] stems from not necessarily the contact you’ve been doing business with directly, but someone else in the organization that just has a beef, and rather than reaching out to us as an entity, they just go straight to social media,” says Halloran.
Halloran’s approach to reacting to less-positive reviews is based on a key core value of his business: transparency. A typical response includes an immediate acknowledgment of the concern and a thank-you for the feedback; for example, “We’ve researched the situation and found the following… Thank you for bringing this to our attention.”
Most importantly: Be diligent and vigilant, and respond quickly should an issue arise.
Leone agrees that it’s important to respond. “Do so empathetically. Your response is a great opportunity to show your human side and that you’re trying to get better. No business is perfect, and people get that. That being said, if there are recurring trends in the negative reviews people leave, you should worry less about the reviews and more about fixing the systemic problem within your business that’s causing the bad reviews.”
Earlier this month, I travelled to Texas to help my sister sort through my dad’s stuff. He passed away in April, having lived a long and fruitful life. As we sorted through pictures and letters, I envisioned the arc of his long and interesting life. I marveled at how much of him was in me.
One of the powerful influences he (and mom) had on me was a love of learning. Doing well in school and going to college was never a stated expectation. It just was. Mom and Dad supported me and my siblings through college, paying the way and cheering us on.
Back to Dad’s stuff. One of the few things I brought home with me was his college ring. Class of 1958, University of Texas, with a huge longhorn on the side and his fraternity letters on the stone. I really cannot remember him not having it on his right hand. I do remember the stories of his college days that I associate with that ring.
Now I realize that this artifact, this symbol, was part of the unstated expectation that he had for me. You will go to college, build meaningful lifelong relationships, and go forth into the world and do good. He never needed to say it, I saw it on his hand every day.
What are the things in our businesses and lives that speak to our employees, customers and community? What do these things say to people?
For years, we have given engraved baseball bats to speakers and key volunteers to recognize their contributions. I see them in photos from events, and in the offices of the recipients. I hope they communicate appreciation, that the person “hit a home run” for us, and that we regard them as a heavy hitter.
You probably have symbols and artifacts in your business. These objects can be a powerful part of your culture and how you communicate it. A reminder to stay the course, if you will.
I’ve chosen to wear my father’s class ring now. In a way, the large, heavy piece of jewelry with the chipped stone conjures up the spirit of the man who shaped me. I’m a better leader because of him.
Take a minute to think about the objects in your business and your life that offer direction and meaning. I bet you will come up with some good ones. Please share them in the comments!
Dr. Gary Chapman is a number-one New York Times best-selling author known throughout the world for his book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts. The book, believed to be one of the most widely read in the world, has sold now 12 million copies in English, and has been translated into 40 other languages.
Using in-depth research provided by Dr. Paul White, a psychologist who specializes in helping family-owned businesses, Chapman has adapted the Love Languages principles taught in his original book for the business world in The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. Chapman and White’s teachings have benefited employees and individuals across a variety of organizations, including Microsoft, Nationwide Insurance, NASA and many others.
On August 14, in front of a large crowd at the Byrd Theatre in Richmond, Virginia, Chapman treated the audience – which included a select group of VACEOs members – to a behind-the-scenes look at the research and principles behind the book.
It’s a startling fact: “70 percent of the people who have jobs in this country say they feel little to no appreciation coming from the people with whom and for whom they work,” says Chapman. “Sixty-four percent of the people who leave one job and move to another job say they moved primarily because they didn’t feel appreciated for their work.”
In fact, Chapman and White say the need to feel appreciated at work is the same fundamental need as the need to feel loved in family relationships. Under appreciated employees can create a crippling ripple effect across your business. Team members become disconnected from the organization’s mission, and, soon, complaints to colleagues and drama follow. Your customers notice the lack of dedication to their needs.
On the other hand, when employees feel appreciated, employee turnover is decreased, sick days are minimized, and employees are energized and give more. Your business emits a positive energy, and customers want to do business with you. Customer satisfaction goes up, and you benefit from a more positive relationship with your staff.
But just telling your employees you appreciate them isn’t the answer. “Just as a husband who’s telling his wife that he loves her, and that’s not her Love Language, you tell your employees you appreciate them verbally, you’re getting about 40 percent of your people,” explains Chapman. “The other 60 percent aren’t getting it, because that’s not their Appreciation Language. That’s not what makes them feel appreciated. Words just roll off on them. In order for it to be effective, [your appreciation] has to be individualized.”
Before we speak the language, it’s important to understand the difference between recognition and appreciation.
“Recognition is largely about behavior,” Chapman writes in his book. “Appreciation, conversely, focuses on performance plus the employee’s value as a person. Recognition is about improving performance and focuses on what is good for the company. Appreciation emphasizes what is good for the company and what is good for the person.”
According to Chapman, each of us has a primary and a secondary Appreciation Language, and each language can have a dialect.
The Five Languages include:
Chapman cautions the audience not to be alarmed by number five: His background in anthropology tells him there are no human cultures in which people do not touch. He addresses the appropriateness of physical touch in the workplace thoroughly in his book, which we encourage you to read since it also covers specific dialects that are part of each language, and the specific skills and guidelines you need to develop as a leader to effectively express appreciation.
How can you tell which Appreciation Language your employees and co-workers prefer? According to Chapman, there are three informal ways to find out.
1. Observe their behavior. “Just observe how they respond to other people,” says Chapman. “If they’re always offering to help other people on projects or frequently ask, ‘Is there anything I can do for you,’ you see what they’re doing is Acts of Service.”
2. Observe their requests of others. “If they’re always initiating invitations to lunch with colleagues, you can assume that Quality Time is their language, because they’re asking, ‘Would you like to go to lunch with me?’ So what are their requests? If they’re the person who’s always saying, ‘Would you help me with this,’ they’re asking you for Acts of Service.”
3. Observe what they complain about. “The complaint really reveals a person’s Appreciation Language,” says Chapman. “If they’re saying ‘I can’t ever please him,’ ‘I can never please him,’ ‘I can’t ever please her,’ they’re telling you that Words of Affirmation is their language.”
Ready to empower your organization by encouraging people? Why not purchase copies of 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace for your employees like Todd Mawyer, CEO of TK Promotions, Inc., did?
His plan is to encourage his team to take the language evaluation test that’s included in the book and then discuss what they’ve learned together.
As a small business owner, you are keenly aware that even if you worked 24/7 there still would not be enough time to get everything done. Being an effective manager requires knowing the critical elements and guidelines to lead your team. Having a HR program and guidebook in place is especially critical. Even though your program will be dependent on multiple factors — such as company size, industry, regulatory and compliance bodies, here are some basics to include in your program.
HR guidelines to get started:
Your employee file should include at least these three files:
A good employee guidebook should contain several key sections and information on your company culture, policies, and procedures. Here are the must-haves:
a) Timekeeping and Payroll: Timekeeping Procedures, Paydays, Pay deductions, Time Off
b) Work Conditions: Violence in the Workplace, Workplace Safety, Drug Free Workplace Policy, Employee Standard of Conduct and Disciplinary Policy, Office and Facility Information
c) Benefits: Sick Leave, Personal Leave, Vacation, Holidays, Bereavement Leave, Jury Duty Leave, Military Leave, Maternity/Paternity Leave, Group Insurance, Worker’s Compensation Insurance, Healthcare Continuation, 401K, Business Expense Reimbursement
Lastly, I suggest you purchase a combined state and federal poster that keeps you in compliance with posting regulations. If you have more than one office, you will need to post this in each location. While there are many sources, this recommended version costs less than $20.00. Visit VA – Federal Posters.
Want to take it to the next level? Join me and Janet Duncan for the VACEOs Square Table event: “How Best to Manage Disruptive Behavior in Your Workplace” on September 6. Learn more about this Square Table event.
About Beth Williams
Beth Williams is the Director of Human Resources at Warren Whitney. She has worked in human resource management for more than 25 years with experience that spans many diverse industries, including accounting, energy, financial services and banking, legal services, pharmaceuticals, IT, and non-profit. Learn more. Warren Whitney is a valued Sponsor of Virginia Council of CEOs.
An article in the June issue of Inc. Magazine recently caught my eye. It was titled “This Secret 1930s Tradition Is Suddenly All the Rage with CEOs,” and it was written by Kate Rockwood, contributing editor at Inc.
The article is about “mastermind groups,” or what we call Roundtables at the Virginia Council of CEOs. What I found interesting was the fact that the author used “Suddenly All the Rage with CEOs” in her headline. Funny – we’ve been forming mastermind groups since our organization’s inception in 2000! Still, I’m thrilled to see the power of this peer-to-peer format promoted in the media.
Rockwood and other sources credit Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, as the founder of peer-to-peer sharing groups. So what are they?
CEO Roundtables typically include eight to 10 individuals from non-competing industries who are committed to meeting on a regular basis – typically once a month. The confidential forum allows members to speak openly about the challenges they face as business owners. Members in VACEOs Roundtable groups follow a highly structured meeting protocol in which no advice is given – only experiences shared. VACEOs members are trained on the protocol before they’re assigned to a group.
“Peer roundtables are important because they provide a unique opportunity to share and learn with a group of peers in a completely safe environment,” says Mo Fathelbab, Forum Resources Network president and author of Forum: The Secret Advantage of Successful Leaders.
“As a CEO, it’s often lonely at the top,” explains Fathelbab. “You can’t share everything with your employees, partners, board members or investors. Members of a Roundtable have no personal interest in your decisions.”
Our members quickly find Roundtables to be a confidential safe haven where anything they’d like to talk about is fair game. Discussions topics can range from “I have a new acquisition possibility I’m looking at” to “I have a teenager I don’t know how to deal with, and it’s affecting my work life.”
“The Roundtable format is like an instant Board of Directors and a constant monthly reminder to be driving for continuous improvement” – Henry Clifford, President, Livewire.
Jeffery Beir, a CEO operating out of the Boston area, found the guidance he needed to deal with a difficult situation with a key executive – and help with financial matters and working more effectively with board members. “I just feel more confident that I’m not alone in facing these issues,” Beir told Harvard Business Review. Linda Hutchinson, another CEO featured in the same article, found the guidance she needed to complete her new business development plan.
Our members find that there are many benefits to the peer sharing experience. “The Roundtable format is like an instant Board of Directors and a constant monthly reminder to be driving for continuous improvement,” says Livewire President Henry Clifford.
“My roundtable has been my sounding board and provided me with a lot of mentorship,“ says Travis Hamilton, owner of U-Fab Interiors. “I haven’t had a boss since my early 20s, so this has been crucial for my personal development. It’s pushed me to further grow my company and be a better leader.”
For others, the experience helps them feel less lonely. “For me, the opportunity to connect and share similar experiences with other CEOs has been invaluable,” explains Robyn Zacharias, president, Barber Martin Agency. “It removes the ‘It’s lonely at the top’ feeling and gives you an abundance of friendships, support and objectivity.”
Here are a few benefits to being part of a CEO peer group:
In the closing of her article, Kate Rockwood advises readers who want to join a group to follow a few important guidelines, including avoiding groups with members in competing industries, finding CEOs with similar “metabolisms,” and making sure to keep conversations flowing by connecting outside of your group, to name a few. The great news is, we do all that hard work for you at VACEOs! Interested in learning more? Contact us.
Related posts we recommend: