Why You Should Pay Attention to Online Reviews:
The digital age has changed a lot about how business is done. Payment methods are different, the way you market to customers has evolved, and how you maintain business has shifted.
Some things, however, never change. Customer reviews and referrals still drive a lot of home improvement business. And, with the digital age making the distribution of information much larger and quicker, ensuring that you offer superb customer service is critical.
According to the Better Business Bureau, the business type with the most complaints is roofing contractors, with 3.2 million logged grievances. General contractors follow in second place with 2.3 million complaints, and remodeling contractors sit at number six, just below new car dealers.
These industries are not dishonest; they just work with sensitive subject matter. People’s houses are often one of the biggest investments they’ll ever make, and putting something that important on the line during home remodeling can create quite a bit of tension.
“For homeowners, dealing with contractors certainly can be an emotional issue,” says Michael Fertik, CEO of Reputation.com, a company that works to protect the character of individuals and companies online. “A homeowner might not understand the complexities or skill set of a contractor’s business, and the result may be a review that’s exaggerated and deleterious.”
Whether the reviews are accurate or not, they are a reality of the business, and managing your online reputation is becoming a more important part of your future success.
“Anybody in the remodeling business who really thinks deeply about it knows reviews will not go away,” notes Craig Webb, editor-in-chief of Remodeling magazine, who wrote a pointed column about the effect online review sites have had on contracting businesses.
The article asked the question: Should remodelers boycott review sites that have been shown to harm businesses with negative reviews? Overwhelmingly, the conclusion is no.
“Overall, I do think entities like Yelp provide useful value for consumers,” says Paul Levy, an attorney for Public Citizen, commenting on an instance where a contractor tried to sue a customer for writing a series of negative online reviews. “I’d hate to see people deterred from participating in them.”
There is no question whether online reviews are valuable. According to BrightLocal’s 2014 Local Consumer Review Survey, 88 percent of consumers said they read reviews to determine the quality of a local business, and 72 percent said positive reviews make them trust a local business more.
Furthermore, a 2015 study by SoftwareAdvice.com found that 86 percent of consumers interviewed would be willing to pay more for services if the company had positive online reviews.
Managing online reviews could be considered a necessary evil, but if done correctly, online reviews can actually become a powerful asset. Here are a few tips for getting, sharing and handling online reviews–positive or negative:
How to Get Positive Reviews:
1. Ask for Feedback
In general, people are more motivated to write a review after a negative experience than a positive one. You need to encourage customers to share good experiences online, because they may not think to do it otherwise.
Don’t be shy when asking for a review. Sending an email weeks after the project has been completed won’t do the trick. Ask in person when you finish a project, and mention it again during your follow-up phone call a few days later.
In between actual conversations, give customers plenty of opportunities to leave a review by sending an email and promoting links to review sites on your website.
Generally, people will give you feedback sooner rather than later, so encourage customers to leave reviews right away. If you wait too long, they probably won’t leave anything substantial, if at all.
PRO TIP: Avoid creating or buying fake reviews. Review websites and search engines are cracking down on inauthentic reviews and may even punish your business for trying to promote fabricated feedback.
2. Make it Easy
When customers write a positive review, they are doing you a service, so make it easy for them to find the appropriate places to leave their happy thoughts.
Email is a great way to reach out to customers about leaving online reviews because they are already on the Internet. In a follow-up email, thank customers for their business, and then provide links and step-by-step instructions for leaving feedback.
Include direct links to websites where your business is listed, and provide a number of options for review sites, especially for those who don’t have an account for sites like Angie’s List. Clear instructions can also help direct less web-savvy customers through the review process, so you don’t miss out on their praise because they are unfamiliar with the site.
There are a few review websites that should always be included in your follow-up emails. Yelp, Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau all have high search authority, as well as specific review sections for home improvement and home remodeling businesses.
Another important site to direct customers to is your Google+ page. This social media platform thrives on comments and interaction, and is directly linked to Google’s local search results. Get endorsements on the first page of Google’s search results by taking advantage of Google+ as a review center.
3. Always Provide Great Customer Service
A 2013 survey by Dimensional Research found that 45 percent of consumers share bad customer service experiences on social media, while 30 percent said they share good customer service experiences. And an astounding 95 percent said they share bad experiences with others, while 87 percent are motivated to share good experiences.
For customers to share their positive experience with your company, they need to feel like the service not only met, but exceeded, their expectations. To do this, customer service has to be on the forefront of every employee’s mind.
A quality customer service experience can even compensate for mistakes that happen during the home remodeling process, which are unavoidable sometimes. The way your company handles mistakes can impress a customer and motivate him or her to share the experience, promoting your service and expertise online even (if something went wrong).
4. Display Reviews, Even Negative Ones
Obviously, the goal with online reviews is to get a positive endorsement for your company. But, sometimes negative reviews make their way online, and they should be handled with care.
Negative reviews aren’t always a bad thing when properly addressed. Here are a few steps you can take to turn a bad review into a positive online interaction.
1. Never argue publicly with a customer or reviewer. Although a review may upset you, wait until you’ve calmed down to respond to the post in a non-argumentative and factual manner.
2. Look at other reviews posted by that account. Some reviews come from habitual company shamers, spam robots or even vindictive competition. Regardless, you still need to respond to the post with exceptional customer service in mind, but this will better help you determine what type of action needs to be taken.
3. Reply with action steps that outline how your company will fix the problem brought up in the review. How you respond to that reviewer’s issue will let future customers know how you will handle problems that could potentially arise with them.
PRO TIP: Always have someone monitoring websites where reviews can be posted about your company. Whether you use a marketing agency, have your own department, or monitor reviews yourself, someone should always be watching for online reviews that have been posted. Positive reviews should immediately be shared online and negative reviews should be responded to as quickly as possible to turn the situation around.
The key to modern-day business success is harnessing the power of the Internet. Many people use the Web every day, and it’s becoming the place where a lot of business is conducted. Maintaining your online reputation is essential to retaining current business and garnering new customers.