Monday, August 17, 2015

Are You Encouraging Positive Customer Reviews?

People are looking up your company online before they make a purchase.

According to a survey conducted by Dimensional Research, an overwhelming 90 percent of respondents who recalled reading online reviews claimed that positive online reviews influenced buying decisions. 90 percent! If that isn’t enough to convince you to encourage online customer reviews, let’s talk about how BBB customer reviews compare to other review and rating sites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor, Manta, Merchant Circle, Angie’s List, Expedia, Google, and the list goes on.

More and more, the system of online reviews is being manipulated and that’s a problem for innocent people looking to get real, accurate information before they buy. BBB provides guidelines to help identify real reviews from fake or paid comments. Reviews are vetted by BBB team members (yes, a real person) before they are published online and reviewers, upon request, must be able to provide substantiation of the marketplace interactions.

So, what exactly happens when someone submits a customer review?

  1. BBB team members verify each customer review to determine that real marketplace interactions have occurred.
  2. The review is forwarded to the business, which is allowed the opportunity to confirm the reviewer as an actual customer.
  3. Both the business and reviewer have the opportunity to submit comments on the review.
  4. Inappropriate language and personal information like names, addresses and phone numbers are redacted to protect the privacy of the parties involved.
  5. The review is posted to the company’s BBB Business Review.

What are the options for businesses?

A business has three follow-up options once a review is received:

Accept without comment: If the business chooses to ignore the review, BBB will automatically publish it within three days.

If the business responds to the review, the response will be forwarded to the customer and both parties’ comments will be published.

Challenge: If the business challenges the review, BBB will alert the customer and request substantiation of the marketplace interaction.

The bottom line is that BBB customer reviews are vetted. Most other review sites cannot say the same. So, with over 2.3 million requests for BBB reports (business reviews) last year in Wisconsin alone, why aren’t you encouraging your customers to leave a positive review?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Overpayment Scam Targeting Wisconsin Businesses

The classic “check overpayment” scam has been around forever. Typically, scammers target consumers, job seekers or people selling items on Craigslist by overpaying (via check) and asking the victim to send the difference – the amount that was overpaid – back to the scammer. The scammers are very creative when it comes to explaining WHY they had to overpay, but their excuses are always as phony as the check their sending to their victims.
Rarely, the victims of these “check overpayment” scams are businesses – until now. If you own a business, especially a home improvement business, you’ll want to read on.

Earlier this spring, a roofing contractor in Fond du Lac received an email asking for an estimate on a new roof. There’s nothing unusual about that, except that when the roofer arrived at the house, he noticed it was for sale. The contractor complied with the request and provided an estimate. The “owner” accepted the estimate, even signed a contract -- all via email. Then, the “owner” sent the contractor a check for a down payment that was for…you guessed it…more than the estimate, and asked the roofer to wire the amount of the overpayment back to him.

Fortunately, the roofing contractor smelled a rat and never cashed the check or sent money back to the “owner.” The emails were coming from a scammer overseas, and not the real owner of the home. If the contractor had deposited the check into his own account and withdrew money to send back to the scammer, he would have later discovered that the check was counterfeit and would have lost the money he sent to the scammer.

The BBB has learned that this scam is happening not only here in Wisconsin, but to businesses across the United States, too. Know the red flags, and follow these tips on accepting checks from unknown parties:

  • Never assume that the check is legitimate, even if it’s a cashier’s check. It may take weeks for the financial institution to learn that it is counterfeit.
  • Never accept a check for more than the purchase price of the product or service. Ask the buyer to write the check for the correct amount. If the buyer refuses to send the correct amount, return the check.
  • Keep in mind, you are the party who is ultimately liable to your financial institution. If you withdraw money against a deposited check that turns out to be counterfeit, you’ll have to repay the bank for the amount of the withdrawal.
  • Verify all checks, as well as certified checks, with the issuing financial institution. Get the financial institution’s phone number from directory assistance or an Internet site that you know to be reputable, never from the party who gave you the check.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

BBB Shines a Spotlight on Award-Winning Organizations – Sure-Dry Basement Systems, Inc.

The Better Business Bureau sometimes may have to call out companies and organizations with bad business practices. However, it is equally important to spotlight companies with exceptional business behavior as well. That’s why BBB Foundation began the Torch Award for Ethics. This year, Sure-Dry Basement Systems, Inc. became a winner of the 2015 BBB Torch Award for Ethics in the 11-50 employee-sized category.

Sure-Dry Basement Systems, Inc. has been in business since 1994 in Menasha, Wisconsin. The company specializes in “All Things Basementy” for both residential and commercial properties. As the largest foundation repair contractor of Northeast and Central Wisconsin, they preform services such as basement waterproofing, structural repair, finishing, crawl spaces, egress windows, and concrete lifting.

Douglas Newhouse, President of Sure-Dry Basement Systems, is the leader behind this strong, ethical organization. BBB had the opportunity to ask Newhouse some important questions about character and ethics, and we hope that others can learn from this award-winning organization.

Tell us how ethics plays a role in the branding of Sure-Dry?

“Ethics defines who we are. Before we publish what we do or how we do it we have already defined who we are. The Sure-Dry name represents a standard of excellence beginning with a high ethical standard of how we present ourselves to our customers. We believe that the true satisfaction of our customers only comes with our commitment to their care in a professional way. We believe that in order to be professional we must have a high standard of ethics. Ethics and professionalism go hand in hand. We make a point to mention in our branding efforts, the thousands of satisfied customers we have accrued since our inception in 1994. We never dissemble, embellish or misrepresent who we are, nor do we manipulate or distort facts to create a false expectation or conclusion for those we wish to serve honorably.“

What did you care about most when you were ten years old?

“When I was ten years old I was curious about why people behaved certain ways. I tried to figure out how I should present myself. I concluded that words and actions had consequences. Truth could always be defended with honor but a lie always needed another lie to support it and eventually when the supporting lies become more unbelievable truth would declare that I am a liar, which is not an honorable thing to be. I cared about how I would be thought of by others and wanted to be thought of as one who made life better for those around me, not worse.”

In your line of work, expertise on the subject matter is very important. How do you insure that your employees are fully knowledgeable on the subject and trained well enough to effectively fix the client's problem?

“We have an extensive training program that covers the details of everything we do. After a considerable amount of video training and interaction with a trainer, new hires are always pared with seasoned veterans for on the job training. We believe that experience is ultimately the best teacher so we train by experience and allow advancement in position when an employee is able to demonstrate that they can consistently uphold our standard of workmanship and professional communication to our customers and the individual’s co-workers.”

Labor job, such as Sure-Dry Basement Systems, can get very physically and emotionally exhausting to employees. How do you motivate your employees to go above and beyond expectations of both you and the client?

“At Sure-Dry we tie pay to performance. We incentivize high performance and quality workmanship with a bonus program that gives the employees an incentive to perform at a high level for every customer.”

In addition to their services, Sure-Dry is actively involved in many community organizations. How/why did your company get so involved? How do you chose what volunteer opportunities to participate in, have any events in particular stuck out to you?

“Sure-Dry is not just a service business but a service minded business. Serving is what we do and the way we think. We like to participate in volunteer opportunities that directly affect people in need. We like to touch people’s lives individually and locally. We would rather make a big difference in a few lives than a seeming unnoticeable difference in many lives. Make a Wish foundation has been dear to our hearts in that we have an opportunity to create a joyful memory in the life of someone who’s life is otherwise full of stress and discouragement. The Menasha Boys and Girls club is also a project that we are particularly proud to be a part of as it will positively impact the lives of boys and girls in our local community for many years to come.”

These are just a few examples of how Sure-Dry Basement Systems, Inc. works to maintain ethical practices. How does your company strive to be ethical?

Visit to learn more about the BBB Torch Award for Ethics competition or to nominate a deserving company or charity.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Boost Your Business With Time Management

As a small business owner, you probably feel as if there are not enough hours in the day. Everything falls on you to get things done, so you often end up working nights, weekends and holidays.  One of the most important things you can master when running a new business is time management. If you have control over how you spend your time, you will feel more organized and efficient and ultimately be more successful. 

Here are a few ways to accomplish this: 

Set Priorities – At the beginning of each day, identify one or two tasks you absolutely need to complete by days end. Finish these before you start on anything else. You’ll also need to account for unplanned distractions such as phone calls, staff interruptions, etc. Planning ahead will keep you on task and you will feel like you have accomplished something each day.

Stay Organized – Keep track of your meetings on a calendar and if you have a staff, use a joint calendar so everyone knows when colleagues will be out of the office and the details of their meetings.  Also make sure to set aside time each week to catch up on paperwork and menial tasks that can pile up quickly when left undone.  Are you a smartphone user? Earlier this year, Business News Daily suggested several free apps to help you streamline your strategies. If you keep up with the smaller jobs on a daily or weekly basis, it will save you a ton of time in the long run.  

Delegate – You might be able to do it all but when you delegate, it takes a lot of pressure off you and frees up your time to tackle the larger ventures of your business.  Delegating is often one of the most difficult things for new business owners but if you find hardworking people you trust, it becomes easier.

Take Care of Yourself – This might not seem business related but when you are run down and stressed, your work suffers.  Give yourself a chance to recharge once in a while and you will return refreshed and more focused. This is more easily accomplished once you begin incorporating the lessons listed above. 

For more information you can trust, visit us at, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Internet Safety: How You Can Protect Your Small Business From Internet Crimes

Small businesses are becoming more frequently targeted in Internet based crimes by hackers who are increasingly sophisticated and threats that are more widespread. It’s easy for criminals to hack a small business's computer system, if it has a weak defense. Putting an Internet security plan in place will help lessen your risk and prevent criminals from accessing sensitive information like banking numbers, email accounts, customer information, financial records, etc.  

We’ve compiled a few tips and resources to help you establish cybersecurity precautions for your small business.

  • Train your employees.
    • Set clear expectations and rules regarding what can and cannot be installed or downloaded on work computers.
    • Make sure employees are backing up their work regularly.
    • Facilitate password changes on a regular basis and make sure employees know what constitutes a secure password.
    • Employees should be able to recognize suspicious links and emails and know not to open them.

  • Assess your computer network and formulate a cybersecurity plan. 
    • The FCC offers a Small Biz Cyber Planner that helps businesses discover and protect themselves from “growing cyber threats.”
    • Encrypt any confidential information.
    • Update your security software regularly. Bugs, viruses and malware are ever evolving. In order for your computer to remain secure, you need to stay up to date with security software.

  • Protect your customers by having and following a privacy policy. 
    • If you use the Internet to communicate with customers and collect their information, you could be putting them at risk. 
    • The FCC offers some best practices which can help your small business safeguard clients from online risks.
    • Keep any data retention to a minimum. Unless you need the information to deliver the product, don’t ask for it. The less sensitive information you have, the less risk to your business and to customers.
    • Talk to your customers and make sure they understand what information you need and why. If you keep track of purchase history to help make product recommendations, explain this. Additionally, try to make policies as simple and clear as possible. Oftentimes consumers skim through the fine print. Break it down into pieces of information that will be easily digested.

For more information you can trust, visit us at, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hiring Tips for Small Businesses

Running a small business can often be stressful and especially difficult to do all on your own. It’s important to surround yourself with trustworthy and hardworking employees in order to grow your business and take some of the pressure off yourself.  
Here are some tips for hiring the best employees. Find the Right Fit – Look for someone who complements your work style. You don’t necessarily want them to agree with everything you do, but you also don’t want them challenging you every step of the way. Find someone who is a nice balance you trust their opinions but they have their own ideas as well.

Take Your Time - Allow plenty of time to find the right personnel for your company and don’t just settle because you are in a time crunch. If you are desperate for extra help and don’t have time to search through all the applications and websites, consider using a temp agency. This way you don’t have to commit to anyone in particular and they may end up working out for you anyway!

Define the Position - Make sure you know exactly what you need the new hire to do. Clearly articulate their responsibilities and what you expect of them, as well as what you can offer them (benefits, vacation, etc). This is a two-way street, you want them to be happy working for you so they give you their best work. Consider being more flexible either with hours or allowing some time to work from home. This makes your company more desirable.  

Search Outside the Box - Treat everyone you meet and speak with as a potential candidate. This doesn’t mean you are constantly interviewing but you never know who you will meet that might be perfect for a position in your company. Keep track of top contenders and their attributes – they may not work for your current needs but down the road something may open up where they are an ideal fit. Also, don’t put all the pressure on yourself or one person in the office to be the sole recruiter. Allow everyone on staff to keep an eye out for potential new hires as they already have a great idea of what it takes to work for your company.

Are you a business more than a year old? Becoming a BBB Accredited Business will help potential employees see that your company is a trustworthy and reputable business.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

What to Do When a Customer Complains

We have all heard the mantra, "the customer is always right".  While this sentiment comes from a good place and encourages a positive attitude towards customers, it is quite simply, not always true. In fact, it can actually reward customers for their demanding and rude behavior. 

Encountering a rude customer, or a customer who wants something you cannot give them, is not an uncommon occurrence for business owners. It's important to develop a strategy when faced with these types of situations. It can mean the difference between a customer feeling satisfied or promising to never do business with you again.

  • Stay calm. No matter how angry or rude the customer is you never want to react similarly, as it could escalate things and make matters worse.  
  • Be a good listener. Try not to interrupt the customer until they are finished, as this will likely make them more frustrated.
  • Show the customer you were listening by summarizing their words back to them. Then ask questions to further clarify their complaint.  
  • Apologize. Regardless of who is at fault, a simple "We're sorry you've had such a frustrating experience" can go a long way.
  • Tell the customer what you can do. You may not be able to give the customer exactly what they want, but by offering an alternative suggestion you are showing the customer you would still like to do what you can to make things right.  
  • Know when to walk away. Sometimes there is no way to satisfy an angry customer.  If this is the case, all you can do is offer an apology and step away from the conversation.

Something else to consider: living by "the customer is always right" mantra can also be bad for your employees and the general company moral. Your employees come to work each day and help make your product what it is. Make sure your company policies support the employees responsible for handling customer grievances. They should feel respected and empowered. 

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