Online reputation management is important for any business in a time when anyone can leave feedback on the Web for the whole world to see. However, accounting firms build their entire businesses on trust from the ground up. After all, no company or individual is going to be interested in having someone manage their financial matters unless they have an impeccable reputation.
Unfortunately, mistakes do happen and, even if you do your very best to protect and grow your good reputation, you can never please everyone. Having a reputation management strategy is especially important in the world of accounting since both business customers and consumers are more likely than ever to seek out online reviews before entrusting their accounting needs to you.
Establish a Strong Search Engine Presence
The Edelman Trust Barometer study found that two thirds of respondents considered online search to be the most trustworthy source of information, so that’s where your reputation management strategy should start. Both businesses and consumers are more likely than ever to seek out companies on Google before they even think about doing business with them. When you enter a company name in Google, you’ll often see snippets of reviews in the first page of the results, complete with ratings of up to five stars. As an accounting firm, anything other than five-star reviews appearing in the search results spells bad news.
Even if they know about your business already, people may also look up your accounting practice on Google for other reasons, such as to find directions to your office or contact information. For this reason, having consistent contact information is essential to avoid confusion and ensure that the search engines know exactly where your business is located. Known in the world of local search engine optimization (SEO) as citations, these online references to your business should always provide identical information, typically including your company name, address and phone number (NAP). If you’re moving to a new location, you’ll want to ensure that all citations are up-to-date.
Establishing a strong presence in the search results is the key to building and protecting your online reputation, and a list of consistent citations is one of the first and most important steps. Aside from claiming your profiles on the mainstream directories, such as Google My Business, Yelp and Bing Places, there are some other important resources specifically tailored towards accountants. Some of the most important are WalletHub, CPAdirectory and AccountingMatch.com among others.
Monitor Your Reputation Using Automated Tools
Usually, the biggest problem with negative feedback is that it tends to spiral out of control unless it’s dealt with immediately. How well and how quickly a company recovers from any damage to their reputation depends largely on how they respond to a bad review. Nonetheless, it’s impossible to know about damaging content, such as online complaints or deliberate misinformation, if you’re not monitoring your business online.
Fortunately, there are many tools and services you can use to monitor your reputation and receive alerts if anything amiss appears in the search results or anywhere else. For example, you can use Google Alerts to automatically receive a notification whenever your accounting firm is mentioned online. Reputation Resolutions also offers a valuable Internet monitoring tool you can use for monitoring social networks, blogs, forums, news sites and search results so you know what people are saying about your firm on some of the world’s busiest websites.
Respond Professionally to Criticism
Consumers and businesses alike often put more weight into the way a company responds to a complaint than the complaint itself. However, if you leave negative feedback unanswered, you’ll only succeed in further angering the disgruntled customer while also leaving a bad impression on everyone else. Since establishing trust is so important for accountants, transparency, and professionalism are important traits to exercise. Taking criticism personally and getting on the defensive, however, are not.
The very fact that anyone can now say pretty much anything they like about a business online still makes many companies nervous. After all, companies no longer have nearly as much direct control over their reputations as they once did. While actively working to remove content such as slander and blatant misinformation is important, you should also be able to identify constructive criticism and respond to it appropriately. Simply trying to remove such content will serve only to hurt your reputation further.
It’s also important to actively encourage people to leave reviews in the first place. Nonetheless, smaller accounting firms are often lacking in ratings and reviews in the mainstream directories, such as Yelp and Google. However, by encouraging people to leave reviews, you’ll have a better chance of establishing a good reputation and, as you probably realize, a strong reputation is much harder to tarnish.
At Reputation Resolutions, we understand that CPAs rely enormously on maintaining excellent reputations for acquiring new customers. Our team of experts has helped numerous companies build and recover their reputations. If you’re interested in becoming a brand whose name people immediately associate with trust and excellence, write to us today or call (855)239-5322.