Posted in Business Articles, Content Marketing, Housekeeping, Small Business Tips

Top 4 Active Facebook Groups for Building a Better Maid Service

Facebook networking pictureProfessional discussion groups jump from LinkedIn to Facebook.

In the past year, you may have observed the slow death of professional discussion groups on LinkedIn; though a few continue to receive a steady flow of new discussions started, the conversations are often a rehash of old ones.

So where have all of the veteran CBOs gone to keep their edge? Why, to Facebook, of course, where the posts and discussions and ideas flow freer and faster. No longer is Facebook simply the realm of our “social” lives but, rather, is now the critical intersection of all facets of life.

Want to check for yourself? You can find out pretty easily which of the LinkedIn groups you’ve joined over the years are actually active. In preparing this article, I check out my own groups and found only 8 active discussions (active = has at least 1 comment in the last 24 hours) out of 45 groups; in fact only 8 of those groups had a new discussion posted in the last week. Four were in ISSA and two were in ARCSI, so I’m definitely staying in those groups.

To check on your Facebook groups, navigate to your groups menu on the left side of your Facebook News Feed; make sure you are scrolled all the way to the top of the page. Hover to the right of the word Groups and click on More. Now you’re looking at a complete list of the Facebook groups you’ve joined or been added to. You can see the currently active one – with recent notifications you haven’t looked at yet – by the number to the right of each group name.

What we learned at CBT is that our Facebook group, CBT Cleaning Industry News is far more engaged than the exact same posts and probing questions to our LinkedIn group.

Toward helping you find your next amazing group to help you move your business forward, here are 4 of the most active and engaged Facebook groups with exclusive or very heavy emphasis on cleaning and maid services:

 

Groove Learning

Started by Rohan Gilkes, owner of MaidsInBlack.com as well as several SaaS platforms and subscription boxes

Closed Group: request to join and an admin will have to approve you. This group is highly focused on digitally automated customer interaction and employee management, and could be a good resource for those maid services adding or converting to online booking from traditional in-home or phone estimates.

Quality Driven

Started by Martha Woodward, owner of DustingDivas.com, and Maria Dorian, owner of WelcomeHomeCleaning.com as well as Quality Driven, an SaaS platform for maid services

Closed Group: request to join and an admin will have to approve you. This group is focused on the quality control and continuous improvement systems you need to ensure that the performance your technicians deliver meets/matches up with customer expectations so that both groups of people are more likely to stay with you.

The ZenMaid MasterMind (Exclusive)

Started by Amar Ghose, owner of Fast Friendly Spotless as well as ZenMaid, an SaaS platform for maid services

Closed Group: request to join and an admin will have to approve you. This group is focused on all aspects of starting up a cleaning or maid service – from how to post recruiting ads on free job sites to handling your first breakage claim.

Turnover. Help for Move In/Out Property Managers and Service Providers

Started by Kayla Storlid, owner of Kayla’s Custom Cleaning as well as turnoverapp, an SaaS platform for maid services

Closed Group: request to join and an admin will have to approve you. This group is focused on helping other cleaning services establish a profitable turn-clean process, whether as an annual division or as a seasonal project, such as with local college dorm and apartment turns before the start of term.

Keep in mind that nearly all online discussion groups – even those on Facebook – are started and operated by individuals who have a product or service to sell. Keep this in mind as you choose new groups to join. There are also a number of groups you can join when you purchase or subscribe to a particular technology or service; these groups are often “Secret,” so you won’t be able to search for them.

As always, what happens online, stays online – forever – in a digital format that someone can always get to no matter your privacy settings. Be social responsibly.
CeCe Mikell is the Editor-in-Chief for CleaningBusinessToday.com, coming to the cleaning industry from a 15-year career as a college professor of communication and business. She also consults with cleaning business owners on business development projects.

Originally published on January 27, 2016 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.

Posted in Business Articles, Housekeeping, Small Business Tips

10 Best Tips for Winning at College House Turn-Cleans

College move out cleaningCleaning business owners weigh in on how they make college dorm cleaning an annual revenue booster.

As fall term comes to a close, college students across the US are past mid-terms and looking forward to the final stretch before a nice, long vacation break before spring term. And as soon as spring term gets started, that’s when college maintenance departments go shopping for cleaning companies to contract for their annual student housing turn-cleans.

CleaningBusinessToday.com caught up with several CBOs who have turned this “down and dirty” job into an annual summer revenue booster, and here are their tips for getting the bid, preparing for the 48-hour to 1-week “Hell Week,” and surviving to look forward to doing it again the next year.

Kayla Storlid
Kayla’s Custom Cleaning
Madison, WI

Kayla’s Custom Cleaning, LLC has been doing large turnover projects for several years. This year we did over 140 units in 5 days. Each month we complete on average 10-30 units. The key to an effective turn-over is being prepared. You need to be organized! It is crucial to make sure you have enough sets of equipment, plenty of product, lots of extra people to help and a great manager. Your manager needs to have the ability to stay one step ahead of the team at all times and is capable of understanding where everyone is at in the completion process. We have developed an app to automate this process. It saves us a ton of time and money and allows me to manage the entire project remotely.

  1. The key to having a successful turnover is to under-promise and over-deliver. We find it very effective to have a checking team for every unit to ensure quality and make sure no units go missed.
  2. It is crucial that you over-staff and that you do not cut your staff too early in case you run into last minute additional units or several call-ins.
  3. If you keep organized and one step ahead of the game, you can make great additional revenue and your team has a lot of fun. The key to getting the job and not losing it is to never, ever miss a deadline!


Amy Wiggs King
2 Green Chicks
Norman, OK

This summer (2015) we did our first set of college dorm/apartment turns ahead of the campus opening for fall term students. I had several great CBOs to help me through it, and now that I’ve had some time to reflect on how it went this first year, three things jump out as having made the difference between breaking even (or losing money) and making good money with this special project:

1.      Be Detailed and Meticulous in Your Bidding

When bidding, ensure you include business references that can vouch for the great work you have done and can do for their business. You want to make certain the bid clearly explains if you will be using the client’s supplies and cleaning products/equipment or if you will be responsible for providing the products. Lastly it never hurts to ask if the company you are bidding for has other properties or campuses that need your services.

2.     Over-prepare with your Team

Forecasting how many teams you will need is crucial, as well as deciding how many people to have on each team and assigning them tasks. Having a huge “let’s do this meeting” beforehand really helps as well to set expectations and to answer questions. I made binders for each team that had FAQs to help them while out in the field, things such as “what to do if…,” contact phone numbers, map of apartment complex, checklists for notations (for communicating issues back to client), timesheets, etc. Also ensure you have plenty of supplies at hand for the job and that you have staff to help wash cloths, fill buckets, clean vacuums at the end of each day. And investing in less expensive lightweight vacuums is a good idea; they are much easier to lug up and down stairs – and there will be a lot of stairs!

3.     Over-communicate with Everyone

As in any special project job, communication with the client is crucial to ensure you do not have any issues at the end of the cleaning period; things are so chaotic, and it’s easy to lose track!  My Quality Manager and I had a sign off sheet that we used before we considered the unit “done.” We performed a walkthrough and checked for anything missed. Each night, we emailed updates to the client to provide status of what units were cleaned, what units had issues (broken blinds, needed new burner plates, etc.). I believe this communication is necessary for a smooth transition and to get payment!


Kyle Walker
Real World Services
Logan, OH

I start the marketing process for new college housing cleans at the beginning of every school year. If you think about it, this is really when the housing managers start looking for a new cleaning service, as they have just finished a turn season and know if they are going to be looking to hire a new service next year if they were not happy with the results the previous cleaning company provided them.

I also start marketing to them again in February, as most housing managers want to have a signed contract by the end of March or early April.

Our turn season lasts from April until the first week of September. We begin the hiring process in early March or as soon as we know we have a signed contract. In 2015, I hired an additional 40 staff members just to handle the cleaning of our 600 apartments during this short time frame.

Here are some tips for someone doing this for the first time:

  1. Over-hire by several FTEs.
  2. Always count on people not showing up and calling off sick when you have strict deadlines to meet. (NOTE: this is not specific to college/apartment turn cleans.)
  3. Provide your staff with all of the supplies and equipment to do their job well.
  4. Check in with each tech/team daily to make sure the cleaning list is correct before dispatching the job.

The reason we at Real World Services come out smelling like roses is because we are constantly communicating with our property managers both throughout the year and especially during the turn period to make sure things are going smoothly.

Originally published on November 4, 2015 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.

Posted in Content Marketing, Published Writing, Small Business Tips

5 Changes that Enhanced Our Convention and Trade Show Experience

ISSA Convention and Trade Show BoothIt’s only one week – that annual convention and trade show – so how you spend your time is critical for both your immediate enjoyment and your long-term success through the next year.

As I reflect on our editorial focus for November – Making Changes – I can’t help but stop and flip through my fresh memory album from CleaningBusinessToday.com’s third year as an exhibitor at ISSA/Interclean North America and sponsor for the ARCSI Annual Convention and about the recent upgrades to improve the mobile accessibility of the knowledge we’ve produced and curated over he past almost three years:

  • Broadcasting select events LIVE with Periscope – follow us @CleanBizToday and watch broadcast recordings
  • Opening up our booth to the benefit of our advertisers and providing them with an outreach platform and private meeting space
  • Raffling off a ProTeam Sierra Backpack vacuum to winner Craig Baker of Mess Maid Right NW in Portland, OR (he told me he’s hoping to convince his wife and partner to switch)
  • Giving away the Cleaning Business Builders Core Values Cards, used to make smarter hiring decisions as well as give staff the tools to learn to see and appreciate each other more deliberately
  • Talking about current events in business and labor regulations with experts and planning/scheduling articles for upcoming release

As CBOs continue to anticipate increased costs of business from minimum wage increases and healthcare-related costs while at the same time facing labor shortages, I invite you to share your questions and your experiences with us at CleaningBusinessToday.com for open discussion.

Subscribe to CBT Clean Feed – bringing you the latest news directly to your email

Join our groups on Facebook and LinkedIn

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CeCe Mikell is the Editor-in-Chief for CleaningBusinessToday.com, coming to the cleaning industry from a 15-year career as a college professor of communication and business. She also works with several cleaning business owners on business development projects.

Originally published on November 2, 2015 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.
Posted in Content Marketing, Ghost Writer, Housekeeping

8 Things You Can’t Miss at the Cleaning Convention

600600p3069EDNmain1811derek-christian-issa-show-floor-600-x-250-REVSchedules are already filling up; make sure you get time with the experts you need.

Since the founding of ARCSI and, in particular, the year I served as its President, I’ve never missed a convention, and I’m pretty sure neither Liz Trotter nor Derek Christian have either; in fact, both have served on the board and been slightly outrageous advocates for the annual convention – Liz betting Derek that she could get more convention registrations than he could. Yes, Liz won, and Derek had to dye his hair blue that year.

And each year, there’s more to do, new topics and vendors and activities vying for your attention. And let’s not discount the attraction that is Las Vegas itself!

So when you’re looking for me, for Liz or for Derek, here are the 7 places you can definitely find us at Convention:

Private Consultations with Me, Liz or Derek

Naturally, booking a 30-minute private consultation with one of us is the easiest way to ensure that you’re on our schedule with some dedicated time. It’s easy to check online and see when we’re still available to meet new folks like you! Be sure to check with the other consultants to see what opportunities they are offering as well. Convention is a great time to try everyone out!

Workforce Innovation Summit

After the success of the Disruptive Innovation Summit in 2014, I’m excited to see the format return and to focus on another rapidly evolving aspect of our businesses: our staff. In addition to having information from CleaningBusinessToday.com available during the summit, CBT is proud to be introducing Dr. Jeff Waddoups from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to talk about impending minimum wage increases and how the demand for and actuality of them is likely to change the ways we recruit and retain employees.

Time Management

Make sure you favorite Liz’s Time Management workshop Wednesday at 11:00 am and add it to your agenda in the ISSA Mobile App. This ARCSI session is a true workshop; you’ll be out of your seat and even talking in front of the group before you know it! You might even be able to convince Liz to stick around for some after-workshop workshopping through lunch.

CBT Show Floor Tour

Derek is putting his years of working trade shows to work in this Show Floor Tour, specifically designed to introduce first-timers not only to booths of particular interest to residential cleaners but also how to get free samples out of vendors! The Tour starts on Wednesday at 1:00 pm, after the ARCSI morning education sessions.

Creating a Culture of Promotion

Continuing discussions from the Workforce Innovation Summit, Liz will be presenting on the ISSA Show Floor Thursday at 12:00 pm on how and why to build out your company structure to make promotion the mechanism for empowering professional growth…which leads to business growth. Liz will be available in the CleaningBusinessToday.com Booth 3296 following the class for further discussion.

 

Happy Hour at the CleaningBusinessToday.com Booth 3296

Possibly the most underrated “event” of the entire convention is the ISSA Happy Hour on the show floor. In addition to enjoying a beverage on ISSA, many exhibitors have special events at their booths only during that one hour. At the CleaningBusinessToday.com Booth 3296, you can get a FREE deck of Core Values Cards, courtesy of Cleaning Business Builders (first 35 people only) and even win a ProTeam Sierra Backpack vacuum. Be sure to visit the booth before Happy Hour to drop your card in the raffle.

CBB Breakfast and Business Forecasting Class

Start your last day of convention off with FREE breakfast and a Business Forecasting class in the CBB Suite at Harrah’s. The class will show you how key metrics tracking can predict what your business will look like in 1, 2, 5, even 10 years from now. If you’ve wanted to know when you’ll hit the $1M revenue mark, this is the class to hit! Space is limited; watch for RSVP information in your ARCSI convention packet.

Improving Customer Retention and Employee Retention in Tandem

Cap off convention with this great class with Derek on the ISSA Show Floor. Admit it: the two things that challenge you the most are people – your staff and your clients. Derek’s going to show you how things you do to make your staff happier and more motivated lead to your customers being happier and sticking with your service longer.

And don’t worry; he’ll be done before you head out to catch Kevin O’Leary from Shark Tank and to see if Teresa Ward wins his Solution Guru contest.

Tom Stewart and his wife, Janice Stewart, are co-owners of Castle-Keepers, the 1st company to achieve CIMS certification. Tom is a nationally-recognized leader & innovator in the house cleaning industry. He is co-founder and Publisher of Cleaning Business Today.

Originally published October 5, 2015 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.

Posted in Content Marketing, Housekeeping

When-Where-How to Find New Cleaning Products

600600p3069EDNmain1804ISSA-show-floor-600-x-250If your labor costs so much more than your products and supplies, why does it matter what you use?

It’s easy to get pulled into the conversations about the rise of on-demand business models, online marketplaces and how much they cost CBOs in revenue shares, and the dramatic increase in worker and class action lawsuits claiming employee misclassification damages. The summer has been active in all of those areas, and we at CleaningBusinessToday.com have been scrambling to keep up with the announcements and cases.

In October 2015, though, we want to return to some basics: what products and supplies are working, not working, and are new for you to investigate?

And the ISSA/Interclean Trade Show is a prime opportunity for CBOs across the country to collect samples and take a hard look at what they’re using and what they might be using to clean

  • more quickly
  • more effectively
  • with less product
  • with less water

All toward the end goal of high efficiency. Why efficiency? Because time is what costs you the most money, not the actual products.

And this year for the first time at ISSA, the trade show includes an Outdoor Exhibit Space to allow for product demonstrations. See them in action and even try them out yourself before making a decision!

And be sure to favorite CleaningBusinessToday.com Booth 3296 in the ISSA Mobile App and use the Map feature for walking guidance to find us easily!

CeCe Mikell is the Editor-in-Chief for CleaningBusinessToday.com, coming to the cleaning industry from a 15-year career as a college professor of communication and business. She also works with several cleaning business owners on business development projects.

Originally published October 1, 2015 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.

Posted in Content Marketing, Housekeeping, Small Business Tips

1 App to Organize Your Convention Experience

mobile app for conventionDownload the free ISSA/Interclean 2015 mobile app, load up your targets, take notes, and let the app guide you around the trade show floor!

You could “wing it.” Convention, that is. Especially if this is your first time attending, you may not have realized that the word “convention” is much larger than you think.

Your registration for the ARCSI Convention includes entry into the ISSA Trade Show and many of the ISSA activities, but those two organizations are working in parallel. They have two different schedules for you to keep track of. They have different hotels.

But the one thing they share is the ISSA/Interclean 2015 mobile app:

  • BOTH convention education schedules
  • ALL trade show vendors
  • ALL shared activities, like the keynote speakers and the Scavenger Hunt

So here’s what you should be doing in the last four weeks before arriving in Las Vegas for the conventions:

http://app.issa.com/public/landing/editions/issa2015/images/content_bg_left.jpg

  • Download the ISSA Mobile App to your phone and tablet
  • Login with your 6-digit badge number – ARCSI or BSCAI can provide you with your ISSA badge number (whichever association you’re registered through)
    • Select the first photo section that says 700+ Exhibitors; be sure to favorite
    • ARCSI – Booth 3293
    • Cleaning Business Today – Booth 3296
    • Other booths that reflect the results of your Business Needs Assessment
  • Select the photo that says 40+ Seminars; be sure to favorite these ISSA sessions by specialists in residential cleaning or open to all at the trade show:
    • State of the Residential Cleaning Industry
    • Creating a Culture of Promotion
    • Show Floor Happy Hour
    • Improving Customer Retention and Employee Retention in Tandem
  • Scroll down and select the icon for Co-located Events and choose ARCSI; favorite the sessions you’re choosing to attend – especially those times when there are two happening at the same time. If you like to look at a printed schedule first, print off the schedule from the ARCSI convention website.
  • Keep track of your schedule using the Agenda icon (looks like a calendar) at the bottom of the home screen; use to identify what free time you have open for play or other appointments.
  • Review your selections by using the My Show icon
  • Add Notes to each of your selected booths, events, and products to remind yourself why you have chosen them – click on the small pencil icon in the upper right of any favorited booth, event, or product
  • Use the Notes feature to record your thoughts and decisions – for use in Friday’s session on what to do with all of the info you collected at convention
  • Be sure to flag all of the Scavenger Hunt participant booths to be eligible to win one of 3 iPad Minis! Use the app to play in the Scavenger Hunt.
  • Practice navigating the show floor using the Maps feature in the app. Plan one move at a time with Create a New Route or map out all of your favorites to optimize your time and energy with Open SmartRoute.

We’ll look forward to seeing you at the CleaningBusinessToday.com Booth 3296, right across the aisle from the ARCSI booth!

Originally published on September 21, 2015 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.

Posted in Content Marketing, Ghost Writer, Housekeeping

I Married the Cleaning Lady: The Dawn to Dusk Story

600600p3069EDNmain1752dawn-to-dusk-600-x-2502015 Petra Huppert HEART Scholarship winner John Winter talks about the beginnings of Dawn to Dusk, meeting and marrying the owner Dawn, and becoming a cleaning business owner himself.

CBT: When, why and how did you get your start in the cleaning industry and with Dawn to Dusk
JW: Dawn started her cleaning business in 2006 after she got divorced from her first husband and needed to support her two kids; she specifically wanted something that gave her control over her time, and she could work cleaning houses while her kids were in school.

CBT: What was your very first cleaning client or cleaning job? Do you still have that client?
JW: Dawn’s first client was a referral from a networking group we belong to; we are still in the networking group, but that first client later had a financial setback and couldn’t afford to continue with our service.

CBT: What has been the mission that you’ve used to focus your business development and growth?
JW: Our mission is to provide our clients and customers with cleaning service that exceeds their expectations. We strive to provide long term customer relations as well as employee relations. Our caring and helpful staff will be there for our client’s needs. We understand the importance of integrity and the value of earning the trust and respect of our clients. Our quality service and reliability as well as using the most natural green cleaning products are what set us apart from our competition.

CBT: What would say has been your biggest unexpected challenge to date?
JW: We once had all our cleaning technicians quit at the same time, and they took some of our customers with them and started their own business.

dawn-300-x-400CBT: Is it true that your cleaning business is the way you two met? 
JW: Yes, it’s true! I had just lost my wife Sharon to cancer in 2007, and I needed my house cleaned. I called up Dawn to Dusk Cleaning Service to get a cleaning quote, thinking they would send out Alice from “The Brady Bunch.” Instead Dawn came out, and she was more like Jeanie from “I Dream of Jeanie.” A year and a half later, I married the cleaning lady. When God closes one door, He always opens another. Today we work full time together, and it has been a joy to build a business together; we have cleaned many houses together as well.

CBT: As you’ve sought growth, what resources and/or mentors have been instrumental in supporting you to greater success?
JW: We started out with a local business coach with whom we traded home cleanings for business coaching. When that ended, we found another local business coach but soon found that she did not have the expertise that we needed for the cleaning business. When we joined ARCSI and went to the conventions, we met some great cleaning business owners who continue to be an outstanding professional network. There we learned about Foundations of Success and joined and went for a week-long amazing training jump start that we are continuing through the end of 2016; it was exactly what we needed to take our business to the next levels.

john-300-x-400CBT: What is one way that you’ve changed as a person and a leader?
JW: After going to the ARCSI convention it really open my eyes to see that this is not just a women’s business (forgive me!). I met Joe Walsh, Derek Christian, and Tom Stewart and was really impressed with them and their businesses. It sent a message that this business can be as big as we want to build it and can be a business we both can do together.

CBT: What do you do that believe helps others change?
JW: We found that when we live and work by our core values, we are setting examples for our team to do the same and they will follow.  Thank you, Liz Trotter, for helping us with this.

CBT: As the winner of the 2015 Petra Huppert HEART Scholarship to attend the ARCSI Convention and ISSA Trade Show, what are you looking forward to most at convention? 
JW: We love attending ARCSI conventions and surrounding ourselves with other cleaning professionals and business owners; we learn so much to help grow our business. We hope to learn ways of hiring quality cleaning technicians and ways to keep them long term. We also like learning about the new technology and software that will help our business grow. There is so much more, but these are just a few.

Originally published September 3, 2015 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.
Posted in Business Articles, Housekeeping, Small Business Tips

Google, Amazon, Homejoy and Customer Service in the Dog Days of Summer

fall cleaning business trendsThe start of the school year, the demise of Homejoy and the entrance of Amazon and Google into on-demand home services make Autumn 2015 the perfect time to focus on customer service.

 

The reason we focus on Customer Service in August, specifically, is because it’s the beginning of the classic seasonal turn for major facets of the cleaning industry: home cleaning ramps up as kids go back to school and bring home new germs; vacation rental turns level out for the same reason; commercial bidding heats up as big businesses approach the end of the fiscal year; carpet cleaning picks up as the kids are less underfoot at home. And in 60 days, it’ll be time to launch holiday marketing campaigns and hire some extra support to push through the 2-month holiday crush that ends every year.

Making Customer Service Your Edge

This second half of the year is typically stronger for cleaning businesses in general, and one thing we’ll be watching here at CleaningBusinessToday.com is customer behavior. With the exit of Homejoy from the maid service market and expansion of Amazon’s and Google’s home services divisions, the “trend” of the on-demand, tech-enabled service access is about to be tested.

A New Era of On-Demand Competitors

Publisher Derek Christian writes in his op ed this month that what we’re seeing is the transition between Home Services 1.0 into its evolution into 2.0. And the choice CBOs have is one of customer service, specifically which kinds of consumers you want to serve and which ones you’re willing give up to competitors in your market.

Customer service is what drives your choice of staffing model: choosing one that empowers the best customer experience possible. And there are many different customer experiences in demand. That’s the beauty of the evolution we’re experiencing today in the cleaning industry: being at the center of an expanding marketspace with more customer interest than ever – demanding better customer service than ever.

CeCe Mikell is the Editor-in-Chief for Cleaning Business Today, coming to the cleaning industry from a 15-year career as a college professor of communication and business. She also works with several cleaning business owners on business development projects.

Originally published August 22, 2015 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.
Posted in Small Business Tips

How to Foil a Facebook Hack

internet securityNeed a procedure for handling a computer hack or other malfunction? Here’s a free one for you!

As I was trying to post to Facebook an announcement about Derek Christian’s webinar on sales last month, I got logged out unexpectedly. When I hit the POST button, all of a sudden I was on the Facebook login page. So I entered my info and hit the LOGIN button, and it happened.

Facebook error messageNow thanks to my extreme nerdism from the early days of computers for the masses, I’m well acquainted with the various diagnostic mechanisms of a single CPU, and Facebook isn’t one of them. So when I saw that Facebook had so kindly managed to scan my computer and detect malware – AND was offering to clean my computer for me at the click of a button – I was, naturally, suspicious. And I called Facebook some names.

Here’s where we confirm that I’m a top level nerd: I got excited that I had caught a hack-in-progress. Not mad. Not frustrated. Not even irritated at the work interruption. Excited. Why? Because it gives me the chance to share this experience with you – and most especially the chance to foil a hacker.

Step 1: Inform my Network Administrator. That happens to be tech junkie Tom Stewart. He advises step 2.

Step 2: Run a full system scan for viruses and malware. Naturally, ours at work are all set to run once a month, and mine came back fine 22 days ago. So off the scan goes – and finds some malware! I know, I’m the only one who’s excited by malware!

My next step isn’t likely to be a common one because, come on, who has two different Facebook profiles? I do: one for friends and family and another for work – which is the one you all can see. But, you see, I couldn’t login to my work account because the hack attempt was blocking me.

This might be the first time I can clearly identify having two separate profiles as an advantage; if I didn’t flip back and forth several times a day, I might have gone days or weeks with malware on my computer and not known it.

Step 3: Login to my personal Facebook profile to see what might be happening on my work profile. Thankfully, I didn’t see anything, couldn’t detect any weird or downright inappropriate posts, so I asked my connections to help me out by checking out what they could see – but not to friend my other profile or click on any links. It’s good to know some other tech junkies who’ll help out!

Step 4: Report final results of the system scan to my Network Administrator – yep, Tom. In this case, definitely malware.

The most important thing that I did during this entire process is pay attention. I know, that sounds so simple, but it’s really not. Paying attention with social media assumes that

  1. I’m on a particular social site often enough to develop a sense of what’s “normal” so that
  2. I am surprised enough to see something “not normal” that I actually recognize it as “not normal.”

That’s really all it means to pay attention – in general. In this case, paying attention netted me two discoveries:

  1. Logging in takes me to my News Feed, not a big box with red highlighting that uses the word malware, and
  2. Facebook isn’t in control of my computer, so telling me that Facebook could clean up my computer with one button click was a BIG RED FLAG.

Thankfully, I have an experienced network administrator on site who knows how to run reliable scans and purge the nasties from my computer or our entire network. If you don’t have someone on staff, you’ll want to search out and establish a good relationship with someone who can. After all, there aren’t many CBOs who can effectively and efficiently run their businesses without a computer, even if all they’re using is a free email account, Google Calendar and MS Office in the early years.

CeCe Mikell is Editor-in-Chief for Cleaning Business Today, coming from the cleaning industry from a 15-year career as a college professor of communication and business. She also works with several cleaning business owners on business development projects.

Originally published on August 12, 2015 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.

Posted in Business Articles, Small Business Tips

5 Ways to Win the Game of Reviews

online reviewsCleaning up your customer service and your quality procedures are key to getting great reviews online – and upgrading the not-so-good ones.

In March 2014, it looked like the online review landscape might be changed when Joe Hadeed, owner of Hadeed Carpet Cleaning, won a suit against Yelp that would require Yelp to release the legal identities of seven anonymous reviewers who had posted reviews that could not be matched with actual customer services provided.

The ruling was later overturned on a technicality because Hadeed could not show definitively that the anonymous reviewers were not customers; their names or service addresses were not available to be compared with Hadeed’s customer records.

And so began the saga that led to more lawsuits from businesses against Yelp and other online review sites/services where, many suspect, there are more purchased reviews than organic ones. The sheer volume of lawsuits against Yelp alone that Prost Productions, Inc., has successfully raised funding for a documentary Billion Dollar Bully investigating Yelp’s alleged transgressions.

But if Yelp’s recent food delivery acquisition is any indication, Yelp is headed for direct battle with Google and Amazon in the online marketplace arena, far beyond the game of reviews.

The Question: Is buying (good or bad) reviews unethical?

Business and technology lawyer Joy Butler (link: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joybutler) explains, “Not only is buying reviews an unethical business practice, it is illegal and can lead to significant punitive monetary damages leveled against you by the government. In one case, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) penalized Legacy Learning Systems $250,000 to settle FTC charges that the company paid affiliate marketers to pose as independent consumers and write glowing online reviews about the company’s products. Posting negative reviews about a competitor’s business could lead to lawsuits alleging things like libel and product disparagement.”

While creating and posting positive reviews for your company may initially seem like a good marketing technique,” Butler continues, “it can be an expensive mistake. The Federal Trade Commission’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising Prohibitions specifically prohibit such online shilling. If you pay anyone for endorsing or recommending your company’s services, the law expects you to disclose such compensation. This even includes bloggers and other social media types to whom a company might give free company products in the hopes of favorable blog and social media mentions. The FTC regards those freebies as compensation and expects that compensation to be disclosed in any resulting online reviews.

The First Amendment versus The Internet

Despite the fact that buying reviews is illegal – whether good ones for your own business or bad ones for a competitor – the fact remains that it’s so easy and fast to do that the legal system’s ability to track and catch perpetrators is strained.

Why? Because “the Internet” empowers the creation of new options and opportunity faster than laws and legal loopholes can keep up.

At this time, the law cannot compel a website like Yelp to reveal the identities of reviewers who wish to remain anonymous. And without clear evidence that an anonymous review is made by someone who is not a consumer of the services about which the review is written, the court is obligated to protect the reviewer’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech, even anonymously.

Amazon Fights Back

In April 2015, Amazon filed suit against California resident Jay Gentile as well as several anonymous owner/operators of “reviews for purchase” websites, several specifically aimed at securing reviews for product listed on Amazon’s open marketplace.

Bobsled Marketing owner and consultant Kiri Masters works with a number of companies with products listed for sale on Amazon; she offers these insights about the practice of review purchasing:

  • Customer reviews are critical to sales conversion on product pages. One of my clients who had only two reviews across their product listings recently ran a promotion to encourage genuine customer reviews; now their sales are around $1,000/week
  • Amazon’s terms of service defer to the FTC’s requirement for persons receiving a product for free to disclose it as such in their reviews. Most reviewers comply with this requirement, so it should. It is interesting to note however that when a brand is generously giving away their product for free, few testers will give it a poor review, opting instead to attempt to resolve it with the brand.

 

Masters notes that the ethics of giving products away for free in exchange for a usually-favorable review is murky, even when the reviewer is careful to disclose this fact in their review.

5 Steps to Earning Positive Organic Reviews

With Amazon Home Services – including cleaning services – expanding rapidly since its launch earlier in 2015 and Google expected to follow with its own online marketplace and reviews plugged in, the Amazon lawsuit is being closely watched by all stakeholders in the review industry.

But what we know is that consumers rely on what appear to be objective reviews by fellow service recipients to determine not just with whom they actually spend money but often whom they even visit your website with your credentials and amazing testimonials or call for a conversation first.

For business owners choosing to steer far clear of any hint of wrong-doing, continue developing your quality control procedures and metrics as well as your customer loyalty-building initiatives:

  1. Train thoroughly
  2. Inspect and quality check pro-actively
  3. Anticipate and respond to complaints quickly and positively
  4. Wow each customer
  5. Ask happy customers for reviews periodically

CeCe Mikell is the Editor-in-Chief for Cleaning Business Today, coming to the cleaning industry from a 15-year career as a college professor of communication and business. She also works with several cleaning business owners on business development projects.

Originally published August 11, 2015 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.