The Positives of Negative Reviews
Poor online reviews can lead to loyal customers
|EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS: At Bell Brothers, a customer presented her own award to technician Justin Engelleiter for providing great service and exceeding her expectations.|
Just about every HVAC contractor has been the recipient of a bad online review. Most of these reviews usually fall into one of two camps: customers who have legitimate gripes and customers who are simply hard to please. Regardless whether a contractor thinks a complaint is valid, it’s important to respond as quickly as possible to mitigate the situation.
As Lauren Edvalson, director of marketing, Bell Bros. Plumbing, Heating, and Air, Sacramento, California, noted: “We’ve had our challenges with negative reviews, but our policy is to always address them within the same business day. It’s not always possible to find the client’s information in our database, but we do our best to resolve the concern through public comments so that others can see we truly care about resolving the concern.”
And, as many contractors have discovered, customers who know a company cares about them are more likely to do business with that company in the future.
Responding immediately to negative online reviews is something every contractor should do, said Mike Montano, president, 1800AnyTyme Plumbing, Heating, Electrical, Air Conditioning, Vista, California. “Make sure they know you care and that you want to make it right. An online response should ideally come from the president, because the customer wants to hear from the top. Then, send a private message that says, ‘I’m the president of the company, I want to make this right, here’s my personal cell phone number, please call me.’ Then, show you care by making it right.”
With more than 4,200 five-star reviews on websites ranging from Google to Yelp to Angie’s List, Conway Services Heating, Cooling, and Plumbing, Cordova, Tennessee, knows a thing or two about online reviews. “We have some of the greatest employees who sincerely take care of our customers in every way possible, but we are also human, and, from time to time, we can make a mistake,” said John Conway, marketing manager, Conway Services. “Sometimes that mistake can come through as a negative review, and, when that happens, we quickly jump into action seven days a week.”
The first step Conway takes is to reach out to the customer and thank them for the review. “That’s right — we thank them for the negative review. You want them to know you care and that you are going to take action to make them happy immediately. Post a response to the review and make sure the response is professional. Never argue with a customer online — the customer is always right, even when they are wrong. That being said, I feel that most reviews are pretty accurate — at least they are accurate on how the customer feels at the time. And, if something’s gone bad, we want to know so we can correct it as soon as possible. We wouldn’t want to ever leave a customer out there who is unhappy.”
Responding immediately to negative reviews and offering to fix what is making the customer unhappy can even result in more loyal customers. Edvalson noted a customer recently posted a negative review on the company’s Facebook page following a miscommunication about parts that were supposed to be ordered for her furnace. “We gave her a call right away and were able to resolve the issue by listening to her and offering a sincere apology for her wasted time. She removed the review and will be keeping her club membership with us.”
Rich Morgan, owner, Magic Touch Mechanical, Mesa, Arizona, had a similar experience with a customer who posted a negative review after one of his home energy auditors failed to deliver the final report that was promised. “I called the customer and expressed my sincerest apologies. I explained I had already issued a full refund prior to calling and that we were unaware this individual had dropped the ball [and the employee was subsequently let go]. I offered a free do-over visit with the department manager and myself, and the customer was ‘blown away by how much we care.’ The customers purchased almost every recommendation we made on the report.”
Because every situation is unique, Morgan does not believe in having a cookie-cutter response for bad reviews. Instead, he prefers to first explore the facts, which includes talking to all the parties involved (e.g., client, dispatcher, technician, customer service representative). “That way, I can determine if, one, we did indeed deliver less than world-class service; two, if we did, do we have the opportunity to make it right or issue a refund if needed; three, was it possibly a communication breakdown; or, four, is the bad review unwarranted. Once I know the facts, I reply accordingly. No matter what, I always keep the reader in mind when drafting a response, not just the reviewer.”
ASK AND YE SHALL RECEIVE
While too many negative reviews can be a problem for a business, so can too few positive reviews. One of the reasons why contractors may not have more positive reviews is that they fail to have their technicians ask customers for them. It is for this reason that Montano founded ReviewBuzz, a system that makes it easy for contractors and their employees to ask and receive more five-star online reviews.
“To get great online reviews, contractors need to leverage their technicians. Employees are the ones who have the relationships with the customers, so they should be the ones asking for reviews. We’re about helping employees create better customer experiences, so they can end up with more positive reviews.”
To that end, ReviewBuzz makes it easier for customers to leave a review about the technician and/or company on a site of their choice (e.g., Yelp, Angie’s List, Facebook). Employees who get good reviews are awarded points, which can then be cashed in for prizes that are offered by the contractor. “This is the carrot that encourages employees to ask for reviews and do a better job,” said Montano.
At Hobaica Services in Phoenix, it’s standard practice for employees to ask for feedback during every customer interaction, said president Louis Hobaica. “Our main goal is to create a positive, memorable experience for every customer, so they quickly become our friends. We ask each customer if they’ll post an online review at Nearby Now, Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, and/or Yelp regarding their experience with us, because friends do favors for friends. We follow that up by saying, ‘If there is anything that I failed to do today that will keep you from posting a five-star review for me, please let me know so I can correct it immediately.’ We then thank our customers for doing this and get a commitment with a handshake.”
Hobaica noted the key to the company’s success is to train employees to ask for reviews after every single encounter, then provide incentives to employees who generate positive reviews. In fact, the company has a section on its website where customers are encouraged to write reviews and become raving fans. “Online reviews are very powerful sources of information. Positive reviews create a preferred status for a company, because customers would much rather purchase from a company with positive reviews than those without. On the other hand, negative reviews will steer consumers away from purchasing from a company.”
Morgan also directs his technicians and installers to ask for feedback at the end of a service call. “We used to use satisfaction surveys, which gave us the chance to fix something that was not right before we even left. It was rare that someone would give us a good review on the spot and change their opinion after we left. Recently, we started using a service provided by our SEO vendor that allows us to check-in right from the customer’s home and request a review by sending an email invitation. This will replace our old way of using paper surveys.”
Positive reviews can result in more leads, because consumers are going to solicit services from companies that look good online and have a large number of five-star reviews, said Montano. “It really all sits on the shoulders of the employees. Employees who are more engaged and excited are more likely to deliver better customer experiences, so contractors end up with more five-star reviews from happier customers.”
For a limited time, ReviewBuzz is offering a free Yelp Tool Kit to readers of The NEWS. This $199 tool kit shows contractors how to get more phone calls from Yelp, ensure reviews are filtered less often, and increase the company’s overall rating. To receive your free tool kit, contact Mike Montano at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publication date: 6/15/2015