What people say about your company has never carried more weight. The Internet’s become an easily accessible and influential forum for current or prospective customers to share their opinions of your company’s service.
And, a negative review — whether it’s warranted or not — can crush your company’s credibility in just a few sentences.
ANGIE’S LIST AND YELP
Websites such as Angie’s List and Yelp offer customers a megaphone through which to share their unfiltered positive or negative experiences in a very public fashion. More than 3 million paid member households are currently using Angie’s List, and Yelp had an average of approximately 135 million monthly unique visitors in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Dave Hutchins, owner of Bay Area A/C, Crystal River, Florida, has avoided Yelp because of many issues his company has associated with the site, though he believes in the validity of Angie’s List.
“Angie’s List has been great,” said Hutchins. “We get some very good customers from Angie’s List and have won their Super Service Award several times. They aren’t perfect and will try to sell you on their advertising, which we have participated in from time to time. I recommend contractors join personally as a member and check out the HVAC competition, as some have a tremendous amount of reviews.”
“We, too, have avoided Yelp due to issues with them and how they want you to pay to make corrections,” said Maria Valdivia, Universal Air Quality, Sacramento, California. We are on Angie’s List and so far have had no issues with them. We do enjoy the easy process of having our customers fill out reviews online or via the postage-paid letter from Angie’s List.”
Susan Roberts Frew, former business coach and owner of Sunshine Plumbing, Heating, and Air in Denver helped that company grow its business 380 percent in one year using reviews from Angie’s List, Yelp, Google, social media, and word of mouth. In a recent webinar, she emphasized the importance of online reviews.
When discussing sites like Angie’s List and Yelp, Roberts Frew said, “Love them, hate them, or whatever else you think of them, you need to figure out how to work with them because they drive so much business to and from your company.”
CLIMBING THE RATINGS BOARD
Every aspect of your business is now eligible for criticism or praise. For example, the grading categories on Angie’s List include professionalism, punctuality, responsiveness, quality, price, and an overall rating. Better ratings and more reviews will move a company to the top of the search results for an area, as will paid advertising.
“We are currently a paid advertiser with Angie’s List,” said Michael Rosenberg, president, Rosenberg Indoor Comfort, San Antonio. “We pay an annual fee to move toward the top of the search engine with them. We’ve received 130 client reviews from them and these reviews help us get to the top, as well. We receive about five service calls/leads a month from them. With the cost of the advertising and the business we get, it’s well worth it.”
William B. Raymond, Frank & Lindy Plumbing & Heating Service Co., Peekskill, New York, said his company previously did some advertising with Angie’s List, but did not have great returns and has also had issues with Yelp.
“Honestly, Yelp is tough,” said Raymond. “For some reason, we have multiple listings there, and we continue to work with them to consolidate. They pressure us to advertise with them, which we currently do not.”
Without doling out cash, a multitude of positive reviews is the only way to move up the charts. Often, garnering those reviews is accomplished easier through the help of a third-party source.
“We currently use Review Buzz to encourage reviews,” said Rosenberg. “Review Buzz allows us to send an email to each of our clients after a service call, and it asks them for a review. All of these reviews are listed on our website through several links. Clients can also leave a review directly on our website. We also proactively send Angie’s List client names so they can match them to their clients and send them review requests.”
A site like Review Buzz, which Frank & Lindy Plumbing & Heating Service Co. also uses, will ask customers to leave reviews of each employee who provided them service and relay that information to the company through a rating system.
“Our dispatcher sends a welcome email to the customer with a picture of our technician,” said Raymond. “After the call is complete, the dispatcher sends an email request for a review and a survey. The incentives we offer customers are for referrals only. We won’t pay for reviews. Review Buzz handles the entire process. From their site, reviews can be sent anywhere [Google, Angie’s List, Yelp, Yahoo, Yellowpages.com, etc.].”
RESPONDING TO REVIEWS
One of the trickiest aspects of dealing with online reviews can be responding to them. Obviously, not all reviews are positive, and properly addressing customer issues, while also avoiding conflict, is a serious concern for contractors.
“We read out some of the positive reviews to our team during meetings,” said Rosenberg. “If we receive a negative review, we respond to it right away with an online response, and we call the client to resolve the issues. These reviews have helped us save a client.”
“We need to do a better job responding to positive reviews,” said Raymond. “We do respond to negative reviews when possible and appropriate. Thankfully, we have very few.”
“Even if you do get negative feedback, you can turn it into a positive by engaging in a constructive way and showing that you’re a genuine business,” said Shama Kabani, author of “The Zen of Social Media Marketing,” per Forbes. “People are not looking for perfection online. What they’re really looking for is humanity and a genuine response, so a negative review can be a great opportunity to respond in a positive and transparent manner. And that has a good impact on all your customers.”
Publication date: 9/14/2015