Tuesday, May 19, 2015

New Identity Theft Recovery Plan Helps Businesses

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently came out with a all inclusive resource for consumers and businesses dealing with identity theft. Here are the details and steps your business can take to help your staff and your customers. 

Maybe it’s a suspicious tax document flagged by your HR staff or a customer concern about an unauthorized charge. Identity theft can reveal itself in many ways. Regardless of the tip-off, there’s a new one-stop federal resource – IdentityTheft.gov – to help people report and recover from ID theft.
Last year, the FTC got more than 330,000 complaints related to ID theft. You probably received some, too, from employees, customers, family, and friends. In those initial jarring hours after people find out it’s happened to them, what they really need is a recovery plan – and that’s just what IdentityTheft.gov offers. 
It starts with four essential do-it-now steps to take at the first sign of identity theft. Once people have their bearings, the site walks them through “what to do next” actions, complete with checklists and sample letters.

Why the new approach? Last fall, the President signed an Executive Order calling on the FTC and other agencies to streamline resources to make it easier for ID theft victims to recover. By breaking it down step-by-step, IdentityTheft.gov connects people to government agencies and other groups essential to that process, including the IRS, Social Security Administration, local consumer protection offices, and credit bureaus.
And there’s more to come. Future enhancements to the site will let people create a customized plan based on their specific experience.
Speaking of steps, here are three things your business can do to help.
1.   Tell employees about IdentityTheft.gov. Victims of ID theft spend hours online and on the phone just trying to get accurate information. By organizing key resources systematically, IdentityTheft.gov can put them in the fast lane on the road to recovery. Consider naming a trusted member of your HR team to talk to employees about ID theft prevention and IdentityTheft.gov.
2.   Publicize IdentityTheft.gov to your customers.  Suppose a consumer contacts your company about an unauthorized charge or unapproved account. Many businesses already have a protocol in place for employees to follow. What about adding the simple step of mentioning IdentityTheft.gov?
3.   Talk up identity theft prevention and recovery in your community.  Everyone knows someone who has been the victim of ID theft. That’s why identity theft prevention and recovery is a perfect pet project for your industry association or community group. Start by taking the simple step of sharing IdentityTheft.gov in your professional circles and on your social networks.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Why Customer Reviews are Good for Business

The recently released Local Consumer Review Survey from BrightLocal.com indicates how customer reviews impact the buyer’s decision.   

Key findings include:

  • 88% of consumers have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business
  • 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • 85% of consumers say they read up to 10 reviews before they feel they can trust a business
  • 72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more
  • 57% of consumers will visit a local business website after reading a positive review

Customer reviews are now posted on BBB Business Reviews to allow the online community insight into a customer’s experience.   Any business with a BBB Business Review can receive and respond to customer reviews.   Every business is also notified of the posted customer review by BBB and has 48 hours to respond to the review and verify that the customer was a client, before it is posted to their online report.

Here are a few reasons why customer reviews are a great tool for consumers and businesses:

The reviewer must verify their email address.  

This extra step dissuades anonymous reviewers, holding the customer accountable for their response.

Businesses also verify the customer. 

If a business claims the reviewer was not an actual customer, they must provide proof of a transaction, in order for the review to be posted to the company report.

Businesses may respond to the review. 

All reviews and responses are published and transparent.

Customer reviews will include positive feedback.  

This allows positive experiences to be posted to a business report, not just negative interactions.

Customer reviews give you opinions you may not otherwise want to hear.   

By submitting a review, the customer gives up the right to post a complaint.  This gives people an option to post an opinion, good or bad.

Accredited Businesses may also encourage their customers to post their experience on their BBB Business Review by installing our customer review seal on their website.   The seal is available through the exclusive accredited business login on bbb.org/wisconsin.  For assistance, live chat is available M-F on our website.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Announcing the BBB Torch Award for Ethics Finalists

The Wisconsin Better Business Bureau Foundation Center for Character Ethics is pleased to announce the finalists for its prestigious 2015 Torch Awards for Ethics.
The finalists are (in alphabetical order): 
  • 4Imprint (Oshkosh)
  • Action Organizing Services, LLC  (Milwaukee)
  • Busch Precision (Milwaukee)
  • Harley-Davidson Motor Company (Milwaukee)
  • Hunger Task Force (Milwaukee)
  • Innovative Services, Inc. (Green Bay)
  • InVision Business Development & Marketing, LLC (Madison)
  • Paul Davis Restoration & Remodeling (Milwaukee)
  • Realty Executives Integrity (Cedarburg)
  • Sure-Dry Basement Systems, Inc. (Menasha)
  • Thrivent Financial (Appleton)
The BBB’s Torch Award for Ethics is a statewide competition that honors companies and charities who do business in Wisconsin, and that demonstrate excellence in ethical practices, service excellence, reputation, honest advertising, peer recognition, management practices and employee training in ethical behavior. This is the eleventh award program by the Wisconsin BBB Foundation, a non-profit organization. Award categories are based on the size of the company.
In today’s business environment, trust and ethical practices are of the utmost importance and for this reason companies such as these deserve to stand out and be recognized, “ said Ran Hoth, CEO and President of the Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin. “The BBB congratulates all of the distinguished and outstanding finalists.”
Winners will be announced at the BBB’s Torch Awards luncheon ceremony on Thursday, May 14, 2015 in the Garage at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee. Richard R. Pieper, Sr., non-executive chairman of PPC Partners, Inc. is our Keynote Speaker. Ted Perry of WITI Fox 6 News is the Master of Ceremonies.
Come support these strong Wisconsin businesses! Join the BBB along with past, current, and future ethics award winners at this special awards banquet. A surprise announcement will also be made as we reveal the first-time, “CEO Leader of Integrity Award.” You don’t want to miss it!
The cost of the luncheon is $65 per person or $500 for a corporate table of eight. Students pay $25 per person. For more information go to ourwebsite or contact Carole Milos at cmilos@wisconsin.bbb.org or 414-847-6064. Click here to see past winners.
The Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin is a non-profit organization, whose mission is to promote business ethics through self-regulation.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Is Your Business Ready for 4/21?

As if the rush of tax season isn’t enough, this Tuesday April 21st Google is releasing an algorithm update focused on mobile responsiveness. Some are calling it ‘Mobilegeddon’ or the ‘Mopocalypse.’ So, what does this mean for you? Well, if your company’s website is one of the many that are not mobile responsive, you might want to worry (at least a little bit).

So, What is Mobile Responsive Web Design?

Mobile responsive web design means that your website scales down to fit on a smartphone, tablet or other hand-held device. It’s important for the user experience because Google estimates that about 50% of searches are conducted on a mobile device.  (Click here for other mobile-related stats)

BBB has seen a large increase in mobile traffic to our website recently as well – in the last year, 17.4% of traffic to
bbb.org/wisconsin was on a mobile device. And just think, only a few years ago, that number was 0.  

One of the great benefits of being a BBB Accredited Business is that your BBB business review comes up high in a Google search. But, if your website is not mobile responsive, you could be missing out on a large volume of potential customers.

What Do I Do?

You should test your website by going to Google’s Mobile Friendly Test Page. All you have to do is copy your website URL and paste it into the testing box, click “Analyze,” and see what Google says from there.

If your results are not mobile friendly, then it might be a good idea to check with your website developer and see what you can do to optimize your website to become mobile friendly. If you need a web designer or web developer, check out the BBB accredited business directory, where you can search for this or any other professional that is screened, approved, licensed and monitored according to BBB standards.

Written By: Julie Kosobucki, Marketing, Communications and Social Media Coordinator at Better Business Bureau® Serving Wisconsin


Thursday, April 2, 2015

BBB Warning: Scams Currently Affecting Small Businesses

Scams targeting small businesses are not only becoming more frequent, but are also appearing in many different forms. Most recently, BBB has received reports of office supply scams and Yellow Page spoofs. 

Office Supply Scam 

How It Works:
Scammers will call your small business claiming to be from an office supply company making offers for limited time pricing, discounts, or going-out-of-business sales. Once you have agreed to make a purchase, weeks later you receive a large invoice for products you did not order. If the scammer is questioned regarding the invoice, they will often back off. However, if your Accounts Receivable staff is authorized to pay any and all invoices, and are unaware of current scams, your business could fall victim. 

How to Avoid this Scam:
  • Train your staff and make sure they are up-to-date and aware of current scams and schemes. 
  • Make sure your staff does not respond to unsolicited phone offers. All sales pitches should be made in writing.
  • Do not engage with unknown sellers. Make sure they are a trustworthy business by visiting bbb.org.

Yellow Page Spoof

How It Works:
A scammer posing as Yellow Pages might contact your business about updating your directory information. They ask you to confirm some basic information such as your name, address, and phone number. Weeks later you will receive an invoice for an ad in the Yellow Pages. When you call to complain, the scammer posing as a representative tells you that you made a verbal confirmation. They might even play you a spliced recording making it sound like you had agreed to placing an ad. 

How to Avoid this Scam:
  • Hang up. Don't confirm information over the phone from unsolicited callers.
  • Don't trust caller ID. Scammers sometimes use special technology to fake the number and name that appear on your phone. 
  • The Yellow Pages name and logo are not trademarked, making it an easy target for scammers to impersonate. 

If you are unsure if you have fallen victim to a scam, trust your instinct. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is. If your business has experience with or has fallen victim to these scams be sure to contact your local Better Business Bureau. 

If you are seeking specific information about a business, or simply need assistance, contact BBB Serving Wisconsin by info@wisconsin.bbb.org or call 414-847-6000. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

3 “Slam Dunk” Ideas to Capitalize on “March Madness”

Whether they’re basketball fans or not, most Americans will be tuning in for at least some portion of “March Madness.” The annual NCAA basketball tournament begins on March 17 with 68 teams, and culminates with the last two remaining teams playing in the championship game on April 6. Millions of people will watch – whether it’s to cheer for the hometown team or for the underdog. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the sporting event garners more television advertising revenue than any other event, except the Super Bowl.

If you’re a savvy business owner, you’ve probably already thought of ways that you can use the fervor of “March Madness” to your advantage. With such widespread appeal, it’s a great way to engage current or potential customers, and show them that what’s important to them is important to you, too.

Here are some ways that you can use March Madness to your advantage, even if you don’t have a big marketing budget:

  1. Use your social media sites to offer promotions that tie-in with the tournament. Offer a discount every time the local team wins, or to any customer who walks in wearing the local team’s colors. Use hash tags so that readers who are interested in the topic can more easily find your posts. Click here for more information on hashtags.

  2. Launch an email marketing campaign with a basketball theme, even if your business has nothing to do with sports. Encourage readers to come into your store or visit your website for a chance to win prizes.

  3. Sponsor a contest or promotion or purchase an advertisement at a nearby venue where people will be watching the game. You’ll get your brand or company name out in front of fans, without paying big bucks for a national TV commercial.

Keep in mind that terms like “March Madness”, “The Big Dance” and “Final Four” are trademarked, so don’t use them in any promotions or you risk getting sued by the NCAA. However, there are ways to make your audience aware that your promotion is related to the tournament, without actually saying it.  Own an ice cream shop? Offer a “Bracket Buster” parfait or “Marshmallow Madness”. You get the picture.

Monday, March 9, 2015

7 Crucial Web Design Tips for 2015 - Guest Post

Web development and design has been changing by leaps and bounds for years, and 2015 will be no different. Many small businesses are under the impression that if they have a decent web site built, then that is the end of it for a while, but, it is really the beginning. Without a continued effort to improve and grow a web site, it risks the possibility to become stagnant in Google. 

We have developed some crucial web design tips for 2015 to keep your web site from being passed by the Google Bots (Google's web crawling bot also known as a spider).

Update your Site Content Regularly

Web site that are slow to update their content risk becoming stagnant. To avoid this, get on a regular schedule for updating content on a regular basis by adding new content, new photos, blog posts and more pages to your web site. The more that your site is updated, the more likely the search engines will crawl the site. 

Create Site Maps

No one likes it when someone makes them work harder then they need to, this holds true for the search engines as well. Google, Bing, Yahoo and the like, do not like to guess what the plan is for your web site is. Creating a simple .xml site map giving the ranking, priority and the frequency, will give the bots a true map as to how the site is run and what should be looked at first. 

Avoid Duplicate Content

Your web site should contain content that is not copied from other sites. Search engines not only can pick up on that really quickly, but you risk getting your web site banned or put in a lower site ranking. By duplicating content on the web, you are only repeating what has already been said. Stand on your own and show the world your expertise by creating original content regularly for your web site. 

Reduce your Site Loading Times

Make sure that you are hosting with a good hosting provider that has low down time. Most reputable hosting companies now boast a solid up time of about 99%. If your web site is down for too long, Google notes this and your site is crawled less frequently then someone who has a good uptime. 

Optimize Images Using Proper Coding

Images are so important on your web site. Good quality photos that have been not only adjusted to the proper size to reduce load times, but, are set to the proper format as well. Know when to use a .gif, .png, and a .jpg. Also, your photos need to have the alt tags filled in as well as title and descriptions. Give the photo a useful name as well. Naming them "image1.jpg" is not a good name. Try instead "cheeseburger.jpg" instead. 

Avoid Cookie Cutter Web Design 

I am not sure how many times we have ran across a client who has a web site developed using a template build for their industry and then come to us and wonder why they have little success with it. It is silly to expect that your web site will be any different or treated any different then your competition if the only thing that a potential client has to rate you on is your price because your web site is the exact same other then a couple pictures from theirs. Your business needs a custom web site that reflects the uniqueness of your brand. 

Search Engine Optimization

Your web site needs to have at least the basics in Search Engine Optimization done to stay competitive. Titles tags, meta data, sub titles, alt tags, .xml site maps and listing your site with the major search engines is KEY to any successful web site. 

For more website tips and information, follow ABug Bytes Web Development Studio on social media.

Blog post written by: Jill Ochoa, President, ABug Bytes Web Development Studio. Contact Jill at Ill@abugbytes.com

Would you like to submit a guest blog post? Click here to find out more on the BBB blog.