Got Happy Customers?

Make Your Online Reputation Sparkle

There is a right way and a wrong way to clean up negative online press. Here are some helpful tips.

The Automotive Recycling Magazine
Spring 2014

Every business has an online reputation, and the impact of this reputation goes further than most realize. You need to know whether yours is good or bad, and whether it’s accurate or not. Then you can participate in the conversation and make sure your online reputation reflects well on your business. The bottom-line result is not only a better star rating, it’s also increased revenue.

At SureCritic, we have a great presentation slide that shows the storefront of an automotive business, completely covered in graffiti. The red spray paint reads, “Don’t Buy Here!” “Bad Service!” and, “Sux!” You get the picture. It amazes me that some businesses have this same problem with their appearance online. They would repair their physical building immediately, but their large (and growing), online storefront window looks awful.

It’s true that there are some serious problems with most available online reviews:

  1. There’s no validity metric. Anyone, including your competitors, can write a review on any business.
  2. Many online reviews are outdated. They can stay online for years, even if a business resolves the customer’s dissatisfaction immediately. The business owners or management may have changed, but the reviews don’t acknowledge that or take it into account.
  3. Many review sites have poor sample sizes, often displaying fewer than five reviews. This usually isn’t close to representing the entire customer base of a business.
  4. Customers who write organic reviews tend to be the ones that had extreme experiences. They are extremely satisfied or – more often, extremely upset. This is a problem because these extreme cases don’t accurately represent how your business performs. There’s a huge middle section of satisfied customers whose experiences aren’t reflected in these reviews.

Combine all this with the fact that bad reviews are like car crashes: people can’t help but look at them.

But before you get discouraged, understand that so much can be done to turn this around.

The Big Turnaround

Start with Google and Yelp. These are typically the most prominent websites for ratings and reviews. Google provides all businesses with a free website. You MUST take ownership of this free resource. Search for your Google+ Local site, select the link “Are you the business owner?” and simply follow the steps. This will allow you to update your business information and add pictures, videos, and text. You will also be able to respond to reviews, which is critical.

Going forward, continually add content to your Google+ Local site. Next, take ownership of your Yelp site, and then respond to those reviews.

We know that a better sampling of reviews will eventually become more representative of your actual high levels of customer satisfaction. Therefore, you should implement a process to generate more reviews. At this stage, it’s important to have some understanding about how Google and Yelp “think.”

When they feel a business is attempting to manipulate the system, they simply make it all go away. They often do this by removing a large portion of reviews. This obviously has a negative impact on the business by decreasing the number of posted reviews and therefore the sample size. Follow the rules established by Google and Yelp to avoid the pain they can inflict.

To put it plainly: avoid review spam. Google and Yelp do not want to see multiple reviews coming in from the same IP address. Therefore, don’t provide tablets for customers to write reviews at your business. You do not want too many reviews posting too quickly. Red flags go up if your past review frequency was minimal, and then suddenly throttles up.

One-timers don’t help. When customers write only one review, their review will often be filtered out. Yelp has 501’s, or drive-by’s. This is when someone writes a review with five stars, but they have zero Yelp “friends” and have written only one Yelp review – yours. Their review may post for a couple days and make you look great, but then it will likely get filtered by Yelp.

Red Flags and Fake Reviews

Too many short reviews can also be problematic. Google and Yelp have their algorithms and logic behind their attempts to determine what is real and what is fake. Word count is one of these criteria.

Always remember, you shouldn’t attempt to cheat the system. DO NOT:
• Pay for reviews
• Compensate for positive reviews
• Post false reviews
• Post on behalf of another person
• Repost reviews
• Provide devices for reviews
• Blast your competitors
• Partner with the wrong company
• Mess with Google

The FTC has fined businesses upwards of $250,000 for paying companies to post fake reviews. Here are a few recent examples of problems encountered by trying to manipulate reviews:

• The New York Attorney General settled a lawsuit with 17 companies who offered to post fake reviews for a fictitious yogurt store the AG’s office had set up.
• sued a social media reputation management firm for attempting to post fake reviews on Edmunds for its auto dealership customers.
• Yelp sued a law firm for posting fake reviews.
• Yelp sued the parent company of and

Your strategy should include identifying customers who are active Google users and Yelpers. Those are the customers you want writing reviews about their experience with your business. In order to make this as easy as possible for your customers, email them links to your business Google+ Local and Yelp sites. Then, direct those that are active Google users to the Google link. Direct the Yelpers (they know who they are) to the Yelp link.

Our first goal is to make your Google+ Local and Yelp sites as attractive as possible. This is because they are not going away. Then, begin to identify the next most common review sites for your business. Although we are enhancing these sites, understand that they are still often damaging to a business reputation. They contain direct links to your competitors. Therefore, even if they are averaging 5 stars, your prospects on these sites are just one click from being lost to the competition.

Our next goal is to dilute and displace these sites, or any other review sites that do not properly represent your actual level of customer satisfaction, and link to your competitors. This is where your multi-site strategy pays off. Here are examples of sites that have the ability to optimize high in search:
• Facebook
• Twitter
• LinkedIn
• YouTube
• Blogs
• SureCritic (shameless plug)

Be sure to take advantage of any free directory listing or any website available to you. Take ownership and load content on the following free sites:
• Yahoo Local
• Bing Local
• CitySearch
• Yellowbook
• Dex
• Insider Pages
• Manta

Now, monitor what is being said about you. Continually search for your business on all search engines, and check review sites and any other sites that encourage user-generated content. There are several services that assist with this, and the free Google Alerts service can provide value ( Be sure to keep an eye on your competition. Periodically search for them by name, and then add the word “reviews” to the search. The goal is to mimic what your prospects are already doing so you see what they see.

When a less-than-stellar review on your business is posted, you MUST respond. According to FordDirect, 59% of customers feel better about a business that responds to reviews. Even if the poor review is completely legitimate, if you are honest and sincere with your response, you give yourself a great chance of offsetting an otherwise damaging review. Many view negative reviews as the new positive. It gives businesses a chance to learn from their mistakes, to interact, and to show the world how they are able to resolve customer concerns.

One business owner stated this well: “Complaints are great; the more detailed, the better. They tell us where our service or overall experience is failing. Plus, they are the easiest form of feedback to get. No training or solicitation required. People are naturally good at complaining ...”

Proper Responses

Here are a few tips on responding to reviews: 
• Response should come from an owner or manager
• Calm down, and then respond within 24 to 48 hours
• Don’t get defensive
• Don’t get personal
• Don’t throw gas on the fire
• Apologize
• Show empathy
• Be a friend, not a salesperson
• Thank the customer
• Keep it short and sweet
• Watch spelling and grammar
• Periodically respond to positive reviews

Recently, Harvard conducted a study on the impact of Yelp reviews on revenue. They found that for every one-star increase, there was a 5% to 9% increase in revenue. Unfortunately, there’s no real metric that shows the amount of potential business that is lost at the stage consumers read negative reviews about a given business, but we know it happens.

Coming from the CSI side, I’ll always believe it all starts with a business taking care of the customer properly. Have a process in place that uncovers the level of satisfaction of every customer. You should utilize this information to continually work towards “wowing” a higher percentage of your customers.

Today, it’s imperative to participate online. Then, stay current as the landscape continues to quickly change.


Dusty Dunkle is President of Customer Research, Inc. (CRI), and is the co-founder and Vice-President of SureCritic. Dusty graduated from Washington State University, and then joined CRI in 1992. He evolved CRI, a regional company with a single service offering, into an international multi-channel marketing company specializing in customer loyalty and customer satisfaction measurement services. CRI currently serves thousands of clients. Dusty also co-founded SureCritic, a corporation that offers a comprehensive reputation enhancement and social sharing platform, by applying this knowledge and experience in the current social media space. SureCritic currently serves over 3000 automotive businesses.

To learn more about CRI and SureCritic services, contact Dusty Dunkle at (800) 886-3472 X502, by email at, or visit