As an accountant, your business is built on more than your skills–it’s built on trust. Handling other people’s financial circumstances is a big responsibility that requires discretion and intense attention to detail. You have to build relationships with your clients and keep a stellar reputation to continue to attract new clients.
But accountants are also human, and that means mistakes happen. Even if you don’t make a major mistake, you can’t always please every client. And if those unhappy clients leave reviews or post about their displeasure on social media, Google, or other reviews platforms, it can damage your reputation and wreak havoc on your firm’s business.
That’s where reputation management comes in. Developing a solid reputation management strategy allows you to protect your firm’s online reputation by building it up ahead of time. Follow our reputation management tips for accountants to help you bury negative reviews and rise in the search engine results.
The Importance of Your Online Reputation
Many accountants still operate on word-of-mouth or referral. You may not have a large following on social media or pay much attention to your website. But the days where that’s enough to promote and protect your business are long over.
Over 85% of consumers conduct online research before choosing an accountant. That means that 85% of your potential clients get their first impression of your business from your online presence, and that is oftentimes Google. And first impressions are difficult to change, especially if they’re negative.
Think of it this way, the last time you looked up a new place to eat, did you choose a two-star restaurant? We bet you scrolled right past the places with bad reviews and chose a four or five-star restaurant with good reviews. Between a two-star rating and a four-star rating, people are 95% more likely to trust and call a business with a four-star rating.
It’s human instinct to trust the consensus of our peers and want the best. And that’s just one night’s dinner. How much more important is it to people to choose a trustworthy accountant?
Your online reputation affects client perception and, therefore, your business’s reality. Invest in protecting and growing your reputation to protect and grow your business.
How To Grow Your Reputation
Take Ownership of Your Online Profiles
It’s not possible to manage your profiles if you’re not actively monitoring them. Find out where your firm is located online and make sure that you claim and have admin rights to all these profiles. This includes both social media sites and directory listings. Start by checking:
- Google (Google Business Profile)
- CPA Directory
- Right Financial Advisor
If you don’t have control over your profiles or the logins have been misplaced, do what you can to gain access. Sometimes it’s as easy as clicking “claim your business”. For others, you may have to go through a verification process to ensure you really own the business.
Once you have ownership and access to all your profiles, make sure that the information listed on them is completely correct and matches across all profiles. Make sure your name, address, and contact information are spelled correctly and uniformly across the platforms because that’s how Google and other search engines verify your firm’s validity. If conflicting information is listed, search engine algorithms will push you down in the search results, which can affect your reputation management efforts.
This may seem overly simplistic, but it’s one of the most important reputation management tips for accountants. The only way to bury and balance out negative reviews is to garner as many positive reviews as possible.
If you currently have zero reviews, you need positive reviews to establish your reputation. If you’re struggling with negative reviews, you need positive reviews to balance them out and improve your rankings. Remember, it’s simple math–the fewer reviews you have overall, the more impact each review has on your ranking.
For example, if you have four 5-star reviews and one 1-star review, you suddenly sink to a three-star rating. But if you have a hundred 5-star reviews and only one negative review, you still have a 4.9-star rating! Asking for reviews gives people searching for an accountant a broader and more accurate representation of your firm.
There are several ways you can solicit reviews from your clients:
A great way to solicit reviews from your existing clients is to set up email tracks and drip campaigns. You can set up triggers in your CRM or reputation management software to send emails after you have an appointment with your clients. Let them know that you appreciate their business and ask them to contact you with any questions.
Add a section that asks them about their experience with you. Ask if they were satisfied with your service and provide two buttons–“yes” and “no”. The yes button should lead them directly to a Google or Facebook reviews page so they can leave a good review. The no button should link directly back to your office so you can address their dissatisfaction or concerns.
You can also set up a similar experience by having people rate their experience 1 to 5 stars. If they click 1, 2, or 3 stars, they should be shown a page that says “We’re sorry to hear that. Would you like to talk to someone about how we can improve your experience?” and direct them to the office. If they click 4 or 5 stars, thank them and ask if they’d mind leaving a review!
Most bad reviews are written because people feel unheard. Give them the opportunity to vent their frustrations directly to you. This allows you to fix the problem and repair the relationship while also preventing damage to your reputation from a negative review.
Recycle Good Reviews
Another way to solicit more positive reviews is to ask people who have already written good reviews to leave them on multiple platforms. People who have already had a good experience with your firm are usually thrilled to be asked for their help.
When someone leaves a good review on Google, respond by thanking them for their kind words. Then in an email nurture campaign, ask if they’d be willing to share their story on Facebook as well and provide them with a link. People like to feel important, so let them know how important their opinion is to you and others, and you’ll likely end up with a brand advocate for life.
Respond to Every Review–Positive and Negative
This is another deeply important aspect of reputation management. You must respond to all reviews, both positive and negative, in a timely manner. Responding to positive reviews rewards your clients for engaging with your brand and encourages other people to engage as well. Quick response times also make your firm seem proactive and on top of things, which potential clients will find attractive.
Responding to negative reviews is important for two reasons. First, it lets people know that you are actively working to fix any issues and that you’re responsive to customer needs. Secondly, it allows you to reduce some of the power of the negative review.
For instance, imagine a dissatisfied client ranting about long wait times or paperwork being filled out incorrectly. When you respond immediately with something apologetic and transparent like the example below, it soothes the angry client while also showcasing how proactive your firm is. This sends a subconscious message to the reader that maybe this was an off day for the firm or an exaggeration on the client’s part rather than the norm.
“We are so sorry that you’ve had a bad experience, [username]. We work hard to ensure that every client receives our full attention and the best possible service. Please contact us at [phone number and/or email] and let us know what we can do to make it right.
Tips on Responding to Negative Reviews
- Do not respond in anger. Keep your responses cool, calm, and collected.
- Never fight with the client. Apologize for their experience and invite them to contact you offline. Remember that fighting with the client online proves their point and makes you look like the bad guy.
- Use this as an opportunity to grow. If a genuine mistake was made, apologize to your client and do everything you can to make it right. If this is a recurring theme in your negative comments, fix the process or service issue to nip further bad reviews in the bud.
- Ask for a retraction. Most bad reviews come from clients who feel unheard. If you’re able to solve the problem for them or your apology is accepted, it’s likely that they wouldn’t mind amending their review or deleting it altogether.
An All-in-One Reputation Management Solution
Surefire Local’s all-in-one platform allows you to run brand sentiment analyses, send review requests, automate follow-up reminders, and respond to reviews–all from one place! Use Surefire Local to automate and streamline your accounting firm’s reputation management strategy. Sign up for a demo today. Looking for more reputation management tips for accountants? Sign up for our digital marketing and reputation management webinars to learn more about how to grow your firm!