Bart Mroz: Today, on the show, we have Chelsea Craig, founder of Rhino Reviews. In 2018 Chelsea founded Rhino Reviews to support businesses and their need to have an honest and positive reputation in the digital space.

Chelsea has worked with 80 businesses in all industries, including luxury construction, digital energy, property management, healthcare, retail, hospitality, and education, to help build and repair their online reputations by growing and leveraging their online reviews.

Why don’t we start by learning a little about you?  Maybe a quick bio? 

Chelsea Craig: Thanks. I’m really excited just to have the opportunity to talk with you today. I founded the company about two years ago. I’m both Reputation Management, and Google Certified. I really love having the opportunity to work with clients in all different industries, learn about their businesses, and support them in any way that I can. That’s the professional side. 

The more fun personal side is that I had the opportunity to move to Philadelphia a couple of years ago and all this started as a transplant here and really just loving, prior to COVID, having the chance to explore the city and get to know the culture and kind of a unique identity that is Philadelphia. Now with COVID, things are looking a little different in quarantine.

But if anyone has new Netflix recommendations or anything, feel free to reach out after the show and provide them because, much like everyone else, I’m going a little stir crazy.  

Bart: For those who might not be familiar with what you do or with Rhino Reviews, can you give us a small rundown of what it can do for small merchants?

Chelsea: The internet and social media have really transformed businesses in the past couple of years – and even accelerated much more now due to COVID; their online presence became more and more important. And it’s only becoming more important as a way for customers to find them. If you’re looking for a new restaurant to go to or a new doctor, perhaps you need a new dentist, we’re now turning to Google for that recommendation. Everyone is seeking social validation kind of in the digital space. If you need a new restaurant, you type in ‘food near me’. You’re judging where you’re eating that evening based on these stars and rankings on Google or the various platforms such as Yelp or another booking site.

And what we found is that in a lot of these small businesses, these reviews have a crucial effect upon their success, but they’re already overwhelmed with running their day to day of the actual business. And they need support both in how to systemize and grow these reviews, but also to monitor and engage with these customers.

And that was essentially what we set out to provide –  a way to automate and streamline the process for these businesses and offer solutions where it’s handoff hands-off fully managed solution so that we can ensure that their reputation is protected online while continuing to develop and grow their business offline.

Bart: We’ve definitely talked about a lot of this – reviews are pretty hard. How did the company start? 

Chelsea: It mostly was a string of weird coincidences. Everyone in my personal network are entrepreneurs and has their own business. So I was a little bit of the anomaly, working at Frito-Lay and ‘drinking the corporate Kool-aid’. 

I stepped away from that to pursue my MBA. And during that time frame, I helped out some of my network with social media and a little bit of online digital marketing. That was something that was just entertaining to me. And within a two week timeframe, three of the businesses that I was helping received completely fake and false reviews. And I saw the effects that it was having on their business and the effects it was having on the owners personally, because they really take these reviews to heart. 

These businesses are essentially their babies. And I thought, there has to be a way to help gather positive reviews so these negative ones don’t hurt as badly, but also a way to make this whole process easier. Also, just from conversations with them and other business owners, as we started to go a little bit deeper, it has evolved since then.  

A string of coincidences brought us here today. And we continue to look for customer and client feedback, considering that’s how we were formed. These businesses know best as to what they need and what they’re looking for.

We’re always evolving and adding different options for our clients based on what they see and what they need. 

Bart: Can you walk us through from the get-go, how would you approach a merchant or small restaurant or things like that? Take us through the process.

Chelsea: One of the things we do if we’re speaking to a current client, is a simple Google of themselves. It sounds a little superficial, and no one wants to Google themselves, but we always recommend that they  literally type in the business name and see what comes up, because this is what your customers are seeing.

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. If you saw those Google results, would you be influenced to click on that business and learn more or to click on that business in order for them to become an active customer? Or are those reviews kind of pushing you away? So we typically start off with a simple Google search.

We look at the number of reviews they have, the number of platforms that they’re listed on, and the star ranking that they have for them personally. We then do the same thing with a couple of their competitors and see where they rank compared to them. Are you on the business lists and platforms that you need to be on? There are over 85 different business listing sites. If you’re a doctor for example, yes, there’s Google, but there’s also WebMD there’s Healthgrades. Are you registered and claimed on those platforms that are relevant to your industry? Is the information out there accurate and correct? A lot of that data is pulled from data scraping, so you want to make sure the phone numbers and the websites are correct. And then for us, the most important, do you have reviews on those relevant platforms? 

If you do have reviews, are they positive? Are they responded to? And responded to within a timely manner? We take each little step deeper and deeper,  to build out their full reputation analysis. The last thing we do is if someone has a lot of great reviews out there; how are you leveraging these reviews? Are you streaming them back to your website? Are you using them on social media? What can we do to be creative with it? It starts at its core. Just do a simple Google search. 

Bart: What’s the implication of the current state with the world and what have you seen, at the beginning of this and through where we are now, some of the restaurants are having a hard time. I’ve seen a whole bunch of bad reviews for no reason, including the restaurants who are really struggling. 

Chelsea: It’s really a shame. Reviews, much like many things we’re going through are very polarizing.  People tend to either write them when they absolutely love something, or when they absolutely hate it.

And unfortunately, with everything going on right now, emotions are high across the board. We are seeing a larger impact with negative organic reviews. On the flip side of that though, and what is great is we’ve done a lot of campaigns with clients just leveraging and being honest with our customers about what they’re going through.

Typically, when we’re working with clients, we create a process for them to be able to ask their customers for reviews. Whenever that transaction is finished, whether it’s a meal, immediately when they finish that meal, if they’re, going to the doctors whenever they’re finished that appointment. Maybe when they purchase something, whenever they receive that item in the mail, what we’ve shifted to the past couple months is changing up that campaign and really painting the picture of, ‘Hey, we’re a small local business and we’re struggling. If we’ve had the opportunity to serve you and you enjoy it, working with our company or enjoyed the meal at our restaurant, please leave us a review. These reviews are huge and a great way to show support for us in the community.’ And we have seen a much higher return rate on those positive reviews when they’re asked for. It’s an excellent way to try and balance the negatives that are going on. The other thing that we’re seeing just across the board is a lot more engagement, both positive and negative. The return rates from organic negative reviews as well as positive reviews within the campaigns is much higher than normal.

Our thought with that is people are online more than ever. They’re looking to engage in any way possible. From that standpoint, it is also a good time to really try and get out there in the digital space and speak with your customers. Build that loyalty. 

Bart: Do you find that across the board, reviews or posts on Facebook when a restaurant or small merchant has a negative reaction – do you see people coming to the rescue a lot? 

Chelsea:  It depends on the type of comment it is, and also on the business. I have seen situations where the business owner themselves has made it known that this is a completely fabricated situation and there’s malicious intent with it.

And in those situations, it is pretty great to see the community that they have that comes back and rallies through. The one-off reviews where they’re a little bit more hidden and not as blasted – no, we don’t see that. But what we do see is just comments in general on posts. As well as direct messages to businesses are much higher. The positive comments on Facebook and Instagram to pictures, a lot of those kinds of memories. ‘Hey, we miss seeing you. We miss that.’  We are seeing that engagement a lot higher. 

Bart: We were in a beach town, so we have a lot of young kids trying to work at places like ice cream shops and people are, in my mind, misunderstanding people. It’s not okay to be nasty in normal times. But this is an extraordinary time. Do not do that, especially to kids who are in their first job. They’re 14, 15, 16 years old. 

We’ve seen a whole bunch of comments from local restaurants and it’s like, what do you do? And the beauty of towns like we’re in is that the town definitely comes back and goes, ‘Oh my God, who was that person?’ They’ll go after it.

Chelsea: Obviously at some point in time, negative reviews do serve a purpose, but taking things with a grain of salt right now, and that’s where some of the businesses that we have been getting negative reviews with, we also deal with responding to them for our clients. And it’s a lot. A lot of the eCommerce for example, USPS is struggling across the board. 

PSA if you’re sending a birthday card to someone, send it out two weeks early because it is taking forever to get there. And everybody knows that we all see it, but businesses are getting slammed saying, ‘Hey, I received tracking don’t order from them. It took four weeks longer than normal.’

Businesses are hurting across the board, so taking things with a grain of salt right now, maybe if you are frustrated, go on a walk, think about if you’re still really frustrated before you write that review.

But again, it’s, it’s what you mentioned. It’s that human factor. You would think that people recognize that, but unfortunately they don’t, so it isn’t great. 

Bart: They don’t see how that affects everything. I’ve dealt with it, obviously, we do eCommerce so we see it all the time. And right now it’s a struggle for everybody between logistics and, getting stuff delivered. People complain about USPS, but that’s still the cheapest way to ship stuff. And as soon as you go to FedEx or UPS – you get it, but you’re going to pay for it. And, unfortunately, business can’t afford them. Unfortunately, it can’t afford it on the margins they’re running as it is.

Chelsea: What we’re trying to do now is work with a lot of our clients on identifying those kinds of themes that we’re seeing and having those conversations or creating an FAQ or adding that in there, like a post-sale follow-up, just, bringing up those points that we’re seeing are causing frustration and trying to address them upfront. So that we can hopefully kind of be proactive and say, ‘Hey, we are warning them about this.’ They’ll know about it. So hopefully, that prevents that review from coming through. 

Bart: We’ve seen them with some of our clients too, they are putting their messaging on there.  COVID messaging, you just have to do it, 

Chelsea: It’s true. It’s literally changing everything.

Bart:  Let’s talk about the company itself. You’re private, are you looking for an investment? Is it ‘going as you go’? How big is the team? We’ve talked about this for a while and I know you adjusted some things along the way.  How’s it going? 

Chelsea: As the owner-operator, have sub-contracted employees to help as things ebb and flow. But as far as everything that we could have expected within the first two years where we’re hitting our targets so it’s been really great.  I credit both yourself and then a lot of the clients we work with, and just an incredible network of people really providing feedback, coaching, and anything at all, all the above.

The biggest thing I’m learning in this, even when you’re a solopreneur, it truly takes a village and your network, and the support system and the coaches that you have are everything. I’ve loved the two years. I’m excited with how things have gone. I look forward to figuring out what the next two years will look like, but it’s going well. 

Bart: What are the biggest risks, challenges, or pain points that you have to go through now? Obviously, a year ago was different than what is happening now, but what kind of pain points are you looking at?

Chelsea: There’s different levels of the pain points. For me, the one that immediately jumps, that I believe most entrepreneurs could relate to is the struggle of staying out of the weeds every day. And continuing to think big picture. I am by nature, an executor. And what I mean by that is I’m not the best with strategy. I’m a doer. You give me a to-do list and it will be done to the minute it is due. But taking a moment, taking a day out of my week, taking a couple hours, and really stepping back and looking at the strategy for the business: ‘Okay, where are the goals that I have for the next three, six, nine months, two years down the line and what am I doing today?’

What’s the execution that I’m pursuing to make sure that we’re getting where we’re on track for those goals?  So I think stepping out of the weeds, stepping out of the line of fire for a minute and remembering that I’m in charge of, you know, the strategy behind not just the business. 

It’s so hard because with any business across the board there are things that are fires, there’s money-making activities that you need to do. But you also need to make sure that you’re aligned on a strategy and a goal standpoint.  So I’ve worked with a couple of stellar business coaches who I still work with, who were absolutely amazing.

And then tying in with that is staying up to date and figuring out where the industry is going. The digital space changes so quickly and making sure that the service that I’m providing to my clients is still relevant. As well as continuing to just educate myself, because in a year things will look totally different, or in a month, but making sure that I’m the most updated and educated so that I can continue to provide the expertise that my clients know and expect from me.  

Bart: What’s the one piece of advice that you would give merchants right now during this crazy, strange time that we’re in?

Chelsea: I don’t know if it’s and across the board and I think it’s dependent upon brand, but one thing that I’ve seen a lot of companies do well, and I think that everyone can relate and is resonating well is just being honest with their customers. I think being candid and being honest right now is being very well received.  

Things are hard across the board and people are looking for that human and authentic connection, and this is really a time to open and embrace that. I think a lot of the times, especially with this social media-heavy world that we live in, there was this pressure to portray this, perfectly well-run, packaged business, or perfectly well run packaged ‘anything’.

Right now, no one is going through anything perfect or anything ‘magazine-worthy’. So being honest with your customers about where you are, and being honest about your journey, it’s an opportunity to form an authentic bond between your customers and you and that loyalty and engagement. That’s what will get you through right now, as well as continue to bring you back. Once things get to their normal level, again. 

Bart: Some kind of normalcy. 

Chelsea: Whatever that might look like. 

Bart: Let’s go back to you because it’s about you. If you are not doing this, what would you be doing?

Chelsea: If you would ask me two years ago, if I thought I would be doing this, I would say no. What goes through my mind is because I’m ranging from ‘I would be working at corporate, I think I’d be a sales manager’ to ‘I would also have a cooking show,’ but unfortunately, no one would eat what I cook. At my last apartment, I will admit that I took out all the fire alarms because every time I cooked, I would set them off. So I just decided it was better to not have fire alarms. 

Bart: That’s probably a bad idea.

Chelsea: I truly love anything with a team. And feeling like I’m supporting the team. Right now I feel like I support my clients with that, but I think I’d do something with that. I love sales and engaging and talking to people. From a more kind of professional side, probably some type of sales manager.

Bart Our final question: what’s the last thing you bought online? 

Chelsea: It’s actually a secret.  And I’m not trying to avoid this. I can give you some details. One of my friends is about to do something pretty life-changing in their personal life and it’s supposed to happen actually tomorrow. I bought them a surprise celebration present. 

Bart: I’ll take that. We don’t need to reveal what it is. Keep people in suspense. Do you have a shameless plug, where people can find you online?

Chelsea: You can learn more just about our process and what we do at Rhino-Reviews.com.  

Additionally, if you’re looking to stay on top of any updates or just learn more again about the review industry, follow us on LinkedIn.  We frequently post updates on Google as well as different services that we’re offering our clients, Facebook as well. 

And lastly, if you’d like to reach me directly, my email is Chelsea@rhino-reviews.com. Feel free to send me an email. I’m always happy to help or just chat in any way.

I look forward to hearing from everyone. 

Photo by henry perks on Unsplash