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The Essential Guide for Tradesmen to Protect Their Online Reputation

Rhino Trade Insurance 13 March 2024

Despite most trades having been around for thousands of years, tradespeople are now living in a new era. This is an age where the virtual world can make or break your business. 

And while our ancient ancestors didn’t have access to Yelp, Google Business or Facebook, we like to think they would have understood the value of reputation.

For today’s tradespeople, it’s not enough to be good at what you do, and hope that word of mouth will do the rest. You must also know how to manage your online presence. In this blog, Rhino will tackle the topic of online reputation and how to protect yours. 

It’s going to be a long one, so pop the kettle on!

Digital Transformation in the Trades Sector

We’re living in a time of rapid change. In just the past three decades, we’ve gone from the ‘World Wide Web’ being something only a handful of people had access to, to being logged in 24/7 via our smartphones, laptops, smart TVs, even our watches. 

This has had a big impact on how tradespeople do business. These days, it’s easy for potential customers to view information about a trades business in just a matter of seconds, with what they find acting as a key driver in their consumer decisions. 

But what does this mean for you as a tradesperson? In short, two things:

  1. You need an online presence.
  2. It needs to reflect well on you and your business. 

Breaking this down, let’s look at online presence first. This simply means having some sort of public record of your business online which allows potential customers to see who you are, where you’re located, the services you offer, your callout rates, your contact information and, crucially, some reviews and ratings of your services. 

Next – your reputation. This is essentially how others view your business and broadly speaking it’s a reflection of who you are. Having said that, without any online savvy you could fall victim to reputational damage that you don’t deserve, which could have a profoundly negative impact on your business. 

The Risks of Negative Digital Exposure

The risks of negative digital exposure for tradespeople are serious. 

As we mentioned, most people look online to find their plumbers, electricians, bricklayers, carpenters, fencers, gardeners, window cleaners and gas engineers, with things like star ratings and reviews playing a key role in their hiring decisions. 

Negative digital exposure – whether poor reviews, lack of digital presence, incorrect contact information or offensive posts – can seriously harm your business and impact your livelihood.

What Can Go Wrong for Tradespeople Online?

They say a reputation takes years to build, and just seconds to destroy. Don’t let your hard work go down the drain. Here are some of the things to watch out for.

  • Lack of online presence

Customers not being able to locate your business in the first place is falling at the first hurdle when it comes to building a good online reputation. 

  • Negative reviews

Bad online reviews are bad news for any tradesperson, which is made worse by the fact that people are more likely to share a negative experience than a positive one. Negative reviews generally come from two places – unsatisfied customers, and customers who haven’t heard back from you. A minority might come from people with a personal or professional vendetta which can be trickier to address – more on this later.

  • Failing to respond to customers enquiries

This is one of the main reasons why some tradespeople get inundated with negative online reviews. Few things get a potential customer more hopping mad than feeling ignored.

  • Getting involved in online arguments

Online arguments aren’t a good look for any business. Getting into verbal sparring matches in a public forum, including Facebook comments sections, will mark you out as confrontational and aggressive – even if you’re in the right.

  • Causing offence

A joke in poor taste, sharing an offensive image or quote or simply using swear words can all come back to bite you. Seeing this type of thing can be a major turn off potential clients. 

Proactive Measures to Safeguard Online Reputation

  • Building an online presence

If you build it, they will come. Your own website, an account on Google Business, a Facebook page, an Instagram account, and if you’re really dedicated to maximising your business’s online exposure, a TikTok and X (formerly known as Twitter) account are essential. There are also online directories you can register with which are specific to tradespeople, such as Yelp, TrustATrader and CheckATrade. Registering your business is as many places as possible can legitimise your business and help the search engines suggest you to potential customers.  

  • Do great work and ask people to review you

The most important way to keep bad reviews at bay is to do great work, work to schedule wherever possible and be transparent and honest in your dealings with customers. Even if you do get one or two bad reviews, (hey, you can’t please everyone), make sure that the positive reviews outweigh the bad to keep your star ratings high. To achieve this, don’t be shy about asking your happy customers to leave you a good review online. Once a job is complete, the customer has paid and they’ve confirmed that they are happy, direct them to your platform of choice (e.g., Google Reviews) to give you a quick rating. This request can be made via email or text message soon after the job is finished. 

  • Respond in a timely manner

We understand that when you’re on the job, you don’t have the time to keep looking at your phone and fielding enquiries from potential customers. To address this, you could set up an automated response to your business accounts, thanking the customer for getting in touch and letting them know you’ll get back to them as soon as possible. This gives you a day or two of breathing space before you need to reply.

  • Check what people are saying

You need to know how your business appears to others who may be searching for it online. This way, you can catch any negative reviews and take the opportunity to respond in a professional manner. However…

  • Don’t run your mouth

Whenever you’re posting online under your business channels, never let yourself sink to insulting language or confrontational behaviour. Similarly, don’t feel the need to weigh in on controversial topics while posting as your business – if you must do this then stick to your personal accounts.

  • Know your rights

If someone seems to be trying to target your business with false allegations or fake negative reviews, feel free to politely respond in your own defense but we don’t recommend getting into disputes with trolls online. Instead, submit a report on the libelous post to the host website (e.g., Google Reviews, Yelp) to request that the negative reviews are taken down. 

Remember, defamation is a crime and if someone has targeted your business with the intent to cause you a financial loss, you can report them to the Police.

  • Keep it PC

When firing off a tweet or making a comment under your official business account, imagine there are people of all ages in your audience. There’s nothing wrong with being a bit cheeky if that’s in your personality, but you should always draw the line at jokes about the protected characteristics (disability, race, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief and sex).

  • Get your employees on board

If you’re one of the many self-employed tradespeople who hires others, then you need to ensure that your hires are also fully clued up on your online strategy. Every person working in your business should be aware of the business’s online footprint and the potential reputational damage that can be done. 

For example, if your apprentice is a wannabe TikTok star and makes a video for social media showing them breaking safety regulations while wearing your company logo, it could seriously damage your reputation in your industry. If someone scrolls social media and ‘Likes’ offensive content from your company accounts, this can also land you in hot water.

  • Don’t fake it

We are sure you’d never think of doing this, but never be tempted to boost your business profile with false positive reviews. Not only is it easy to spot (an influx of new comments from recently-made profiles which only have one review), it will mark you out as dishonest and call your services into question.

The Final Word

A good reputation begins with being good at what you do. Given our digital age, you also need to use strategies to ensure word gets out and your glowing reviews get seen by potential customers online. The tips we’ve given in this article will set you on the right path towards building, maintaining and protecting your online reputation. 

Rhino have built up hundreds of 5-star online reviews in our years in operation, each one coming from a real customer who was more than happy to share their great experience with Rhino. See what everyone is shouting about by giving the Rhino team a buzz today.

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