"In order to know what customers are thinking, businesses have to ask,ï¿¼ according to RatePoint CEO Neal Creighton. "Many companies fear negative feedback, but failing to recognize and fix negative customer experiences can harm a small business, its reputation and its future sales. A negative experience is an opportunity for small businesses to display superb customer service and communicate with customers."
Creighton recommends three steps a small business can take to strengthen its online reputation: first, make sure their e-mail and mailing addresses are easy to find on their website; second, add an area for comments; and third, regularly survey their customers via e-mail to solicit feedback. RatePoint offers services and technical support for the last two steps.
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One advantage to using a RatePoint commenting area is that negative comments can be intercepted before they get posted. Not that they're censored: rather, RatePoint provides a way for the business to address the customer complaint before the negative review goes up. If the customer is satisfied with the resolution of the issue, they can either amend their review or not post it at all. But if the business doesn't respond or doesn't successfully address the customer's concerns, the review gets posted.
"Customers want to know they are being heard, and weï¿¼ve developed a system for small businesses to make that happen," says Creighton. "Proactively resolving issues together with a customer is more effective and less costly than reacting after negative feedback is already posted publicly." RatePoint claims a 90 percent success rate in resolving customer disputes this way.
RatePoint offers several pricing tiers for its services. Businesses can survey and collect reviews from up to 125 customers for free, and there's a 30-day trial for the tools to publish the reviews online. For more customers or for publishing the reviews past the 30-day trial, plans range from $9.95/month for up to 250 e-mail addresses up to $349.95/month for 100,000 e-mail addresses. Reduced annual pricing and discounts for nonprofits are also available.
Those interested in finding out more about managing their online reputation can download RatePoint's free e-book, The Small-ï¿¼Business Ownerï¿¼s Guide to Building a Great Reputation Online.