Koch Air LLC has partnered with ReviewBuzz to help its dealers solicit more online reviews and sell more equipment. As a Carrier Corp. distributor, Koch Air successfully promotes several Carrier marketing programs, though this one has caught fire with at least one Koch Air customer.
Gary Kerns, president of Superior Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. in Richmond, Kentucky, has 30 years of experience in HVAC and 24 years as owner of Superior. As of April 16, Kerns had been using ReviewBuzz for two weeks.
“I’m sold on the idea,” he said. “We’ve gotten results quicker than I expected. A customer called me a few days ago as a result of using ReviewBuzz and said, “The reason I called is because of your reviews. I don’t trust just anyone. I want somebody like your company in my house.”
Kerns said he was initially skeptical about internet marketing. “We’re not internet-savvy. My partner looked at ReviewBuzz while at a meeting with Koch Air in Louisville and thought we should try it out. The thing we did know is that our internet presence is more important than ever because young people use their phones for everything, and they are our customers of tomorrow. We had to do something to increase our presence or we would be missing out.”
Kerns said his technicians have embraced the technology. “The technician hands out a BuzzCard to get the review process going. Techs years ago were just judged as mechanics, but my guys want to be recognized as more than that — they like the satisfaction that comes with the recognition of their business and customer-service skills.”
The ReviewBuzz process allows a customer to rate the level of service and then write a review to any social media site they wish. The review becomes public, and other potential customers can then see the actual reviews. “There is a trust factor already established before a technician ever walks in the customer’s door,” Kerns said.
The customer drives the location of the review by picking from social media options, such as Google, Yelp, Facebook, Yahoo, Bing, or Better Business Bureau, whatever they are most familiar with is where they will write the review. ReviewBuzz allows for a large number of social media options for the customer and works with the contractor to help determine which social media connections are used most often in their market.
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The average technician age at Superior Heating & Air Conditioning is 32 in a state where the average technician age is 51. Kerns is 57, but he thinks young, and he likes the way the youth in his company thinks.
The population of the Richmond area that Kerns’ company serves is about 60,000.
“This kind of stuff is crucial in a small market as it helps us pull in more customers,” Kerns said. “My own techs tell me they search for services the same way. What other customers say about a home services company is driving today’s lead generation.
“It’s not so much about features and benefits in our business as it is about being involved with our customers and employees,” he continued. “I trust my technicians. They can’t work with their hands tied today — they want to have the flexibility to make decisions with customers, so I give them more room to treat customers fairly, and it has paid off for us. The employees act more like business owners. In fact, I tell them I want them to treat every customer interaction as if this were their business.”
When Mike Montano was 23 years old, he was divorced with an 8-year-old daughter who became his motivation in life and business. He discovered the plumbing and HVAC trades could be a path to success and found creative ways to ensure that success.
He started his contracting business in 1998 and went on to become a successful plumbing/HVAC contractor in the San Diego area before selling his business in January to spend more time on ReviewBuzz. After about four years in the contracting business, Montano found he had a talent for building website traffic but quickly realized being found meant nothing unless it converted into a phone call. Out of the need to get more calls, he quickly realized it no longer was just about visibility — it was now about credibility. After testing many of his websites, he found he got more calls when he displayed his positive online reviews. Not just any reviews, but reviews on sites that matter and that his potential customers would trust, such as Google, Facebook, and Yelp.
His experiences taught him that no one could sell or market a business better than its customers. Customer advocacy became a passion, and that’s why he created ReviewBuzz and decided to share this breakthrough by writing his book, “Stop Marketing. Be Remarkable!”
“I thought about how I did my own online search,” Montano said. “I was using reviews and ratings from Amazon, and I wouldn’t do business with a company that didn’t have good reviews or had a low number of reviews. It made sense to me that it was only a matter of time before that was going to be important in our business, too. I did a lot of research on landing-page conversions, and found that reviews, in terms of credibility, had a significant impact on conversions. When somebody lands on your site, it’s not what you say that matters most; it’s what your customers say that really matters to consumers. They want validation that you’re a real business, and any smart consumer knows you can say whatever you want on your own website about how good your company is.”
Montano couldn’t just attempt to create a system that simply scammed the Google algorithms, though many have tried (and some still do). “Google was delisting companies if they tried to run a review scam,” he said. “I knew I couldn’t incentivize people to write good reviews, so I came up with an incentive program for my employees to motivate them to earn good feedback in the form of five-star reviews and referrals. There was a considerable amount of skepticism among my older technicians, but the younger techs were all over it. It went on that way until the more experienced techs saw during our weekly sales meetings that the younger techs were earning more money, and they were using their customer’s five-star reviews to close more deals. That’s how ReviewBuzz was born.”
Montano had created a prototype of the future ReviewBuzz to use in his own business and, at one point, put together a demo for some fellow Nexstar members at one of the best-practices group dealer meetings. They were so excited that about 50 of Montano’s peers came to his office to learn more. By 2012, ReviewBuzz had become official.
According to Montano, a service technician named Troy shared his take on the process, which helped to solidify for Montano the real purpose of ReviewBuzz. Troy enjoyed being able to come home from work and share with his two young boys what his customers said about him. It was more important to Troy to demonstrate the level of care he delivered every day.
“We all take pride in our work,” Montano said. “Whatever you do, it’s like your signature. ReviewBuzz is not really about the technology — it’s simply about good old-fashioned word of mouth. I created ReviewBuzz for marketing reasons, but it actually helped me build a better business based on customers’ feedback.
“As a contractor, I know that the hardest part of the business is the people part,” he continued. “Managing your people and customers can be very stressful. There is a lot of negativity in customer service, because people often only call you when they have complaints. Many customers will quickly find that your happy customers are looking to brag about their great experiences with the people who helped them. Businesses need to understand that it’s about turning your employees into advocates. They will then turn your customers’ service experiences into five-star reviews.
“We have tens of thousands of techs in our system today. We want to help good people get recognition from happy customers and their employers, create a permanent record — a sort of Carfax — for people, and then turn that into new opportunities for customers,” Montano said.
ReviewBuzz is very different from a private review that usually hangs on the bulletin board at work.
“This is public, and everybody knows what a good job you’re doing. Techs like the feedback, the accountability, and the opportunity to prove their worth in the customer-service interaction,” Montano said.
In addition, for many, it provides a vehicle through which to grow their own business within a business. The process leverages five-star personalized reviews and allows companies to turn these reviews into strong brand equity, and the technicians are the catalyst.
“Building a strong word-of-mouth brand starts with world-class service, and that starts at the top with the leaders. The companies that are most successful with ReviewBuzz have leaders that are hyper-focused on customer service,” said Montano.
To that end, Montano believes that leadership in the business begins the process of building a better brand to reach customers.
“Most contractors don’t like to hear this because they believe it’s too touchy/feely, but here’s the cold, hard truth: If you want to build a strong word-of-mouth business where you’re spending less on marketing and bringing in more customers, then you have to create a remarkable experience for your customers,” he said. “And the secret to creating a remarkable experience for your customer is to create a remarkable experience for your employees, because they are your first true brand advocates.
“But here’s where it gets a little uncomfortable for some contractors: This all begins with you, as a leader, stepping up and building a strong company culture — a culture focused on caring for people, empowering employees, and implementing a willingness to accept the truth — even when it hurts.
“I once read a quote from the great Richard Branson, and it has stuck with me ever since. He said: ‘If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers. It’s that simple.’ I believe that to my core. If you create a remarkable experience for your employees, they’ll create remarkable experiences for your customers. And everyone wins when this happens — you, your employees, and your customers.”
For more information and a free copy of Montano’s book, visit reviewbuzz.com/book
Publication date: 7/25/2016