As a HVAC business owner, you may wonder how much consumers pay attention to online reviews when selecting HVAC and other home services providers. According to a new survey from Software Advice, a resource that helps buyers find field service software, the answer appears to be: quite a bit.

The survey of U.S. residential service customers began by asking respondents how they found their most recent residential service provider (Figure 1). Fifty-six percent used online resources, such as reviews sites and search engines, which often point to online reviews. Forty-four percent used traditional methods such as asking family and friends for referrals. Since the majority use online sources, it’s important for businesses to have an online presence and to be positively represented on online review sites.

Of those who utilize online reviews, the survey found that 96 percent consider online reviews moderately to extremely valuable when seeking residential service providers (Figure 2). Another 3 percent found them minimally valuable. Only 1 percent found online reviews not valuable at all. So virtually everyone who looks at online reviews finds some value in them.

What information do consumers look for in online reviews? According to the survey, No. 1 is quality of service, which was cited by 87 percent of respondents (Figure 3). Next are cost, quote accuracy, punctuality, and availability.

The survey also asked which online reviews sites are most popular among respondents (Figure 4). Yelp was found to the most popular online reviews site for all service businesses including HVAC. Seventy-four percent of survey respondents said they read Yelp reviews when selecting a residential service. This was almost 10 percent more than the second leading online reviews site, Google+ Local. The third most popular online reviews site was Angie’s List.

“The impact of online reviews for today’s field service business in all sectors, including HVAC, is enormous,” said researcher Justin Guinn of Software Advice. “Businesses that aren’t present on sites like Yelp, Google +, and Angie’s List are missing out on introducing their business to tons of potential customers. Furthermore, these businesses are also missing out on a wonderful customer engagement tool. These review sites give voices to customers looking to praise, criticize, question, and generally converse with and about businesses. If businesses don’t participate with their own voices, then the conversation stagnates, when it could be driving more business, creating advocates, and winning customers from competitors.”

To find out if positive reviews would make a financial difference, the survey asked if respondents would be willing to pay more for a well-reviewed company (Figure 5). Eighty-six percent said they would pay more for providers with better online reviews and ratings — 40 percent would pay slightly more, 36 percent would pay moderately more, and 10 percent would pay significantly more. Thus, positive reviews can very definitely add to a company’s bottom line.

Regarding the financial importance of online reviews, Guinn said, “The report really came out as a guide for HVAC business owners to use for optimizing their presence on online reviews sites. If done properly, these review sites are real revenue generators.”

The takeaway for HVAC contractors is to establish a business profile on Yelp and other online reviews sites, and to actively monitor and converse with reviewers, both positive and negative. Ask satisfied customers to give you a positive review on Yelp. Quickly address any negative comments.

Guinn said, “The first step for field service businesses looking to leverage online reviews sites to increase their revenue is to claim their free profiles from these sites. After that, businesses need to be active on these sites and communicate with reviewers. This is a good initial strategy, but businesses looking to really utilize online review sites to drive more business, can take it a step further.

“Take a business profile on Yelp for example. When it comes to listing services provided, businesses need to think outside the box and include all terms a potential customer might use to search for their service. Along the same line, businesses encouraging customers to leave reviews is great. Businesses encouraging customer to leave reviews that are descriptive around certain services they offer is better. These tweaks will increase your business profile rank when searched for on Yelp and the likes. And data shows an increase in those ranks is an increase in revenue.”

Publication date: 4/6/2015

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