Online Reviews Are the New Word of Mouth
With the internet available at the fingertips of nearly every prospective customer, any bit of information someone could want is only a tap and swipe away — which includes information about your HVAC company.
All of us consume content differently now because of this constant internet access.The old standby when you needed a referral for a trustworthy air conditioning or heating company was to ask a friend. While some of that old school word-of-mouth referral traffic is still out there — more and more of us are turning to Google instead of our friends and family.
ONLINE REVIEWS TRUSTED AS MUCH AS A REFERRAL FROM A FRIEND
According to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey, 85 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
MARKETING PLANS SHOULD INCLUDE ACTIVE ONLINE REVIEW MANAGEMENT
Many HVAC contractors have been slow to accept the necessity of a substantive online review management plan. Common objections include:
- “The reviews will just happen naturally;”
- “I don’t want to pressure customers into giving a review;” and
- “It doesn’t feel right to ask for a review.”
Let's address these objections.
“The reviews will just happen naturally.”
It certainly is possible, but natural positive reviews are sporadic at best. More often than not, people don’t think to leave reviews for positive experiences. They are naturally most motivated to leave reviews if the situation was not satisfactory. The “if you build it they will come” style of getting reviews just won’t cut it if you are trying to improve an overall low rating score or a low quantity of reviews.
“I don’t want to pressure customers into giving a review,” and “It doesn’t feel right to ask for a review.”
It’s quite common for happy customers to be open to leaving a review when asked. If you’ve gone above and beyond to satisfy your customer at a repair, tune-up, or new installation — they are usually more than happy to leave a review when asked. Per the same BrightLocal study mentioned earlier, 67 percent of customers reported leaving a review for a local business, with 74 percent of customers having been directly asked for their feedback.
It’s time to accept that active monitoring and pursuit of online reviews must be a part of your contractor marketing plan.
IMPLEMENTING A REVIEW MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Staying on top of your reviews can be time intensive, so it may be worth considering additional software to help with the more tedious aspects of managing your online reputation. Whether you do it manually or with assistance, there are a few core parts to any successful review management plan. Those include:
- Online review activity monitoring;
- Company review responses;
- New review outreach;
- Follow-up communication; and
- Review platform compliance.
Online Review Activity Monitoring
It’s important to know where you stand throughout the web. Know your review counts and star rating average on the most popular review platforms. For HVAC companies specifically, Google, Yelp, and Facebook are good places to start. Check back on a regular basis manually (or use software that alerts you when new reviews are added) so that you can stay aware of the state of your online reputation.
Company Review Responses
Whether good or bad, your business should leave a level-headed response to all of your customer reviews. For positive reviews, a simple, “We appreciate your kind review. Thanks for being a customer!” is sufficient. For negative reviews, try to take the conversation offline by suggesting they reach out to a specific phone number or email address. This allows you the opportunity to salvage a bad customer service experience and possibly convert a negative review into a positive one.
New Review Outreach
When you have a satisfied customer, simply follow up with them and ask for the review. This is much the same as the “ask for the sale” tactic — a direct, sincere approach that asks for their assistance in growing your small business and its online presence. You can do this manually via email, providing the links to the places they could leave reviews. Alternatively, you could use an automated process to start the review process on the job site with a connected tablet or immediately afterwards in the office by adding your newly satisfied customer to your review outreach software.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get reviews on the first ask. While happy customers may be very willing to leave a positive review, they may also be very busy people. Emails can be missed or ignored with positive intentions for later.
That’s why — manually or via a software solution — recurring follow up communication is important for effective new review generation. There is a fine line between persistence and pestering, so make sure that your follow up emails are not too overbearing. It’s fairly safe to send your follow up emails one week and two weeks out from your original request date. If the “review lead” doesn’t act after that, you may want to refocus your communication efforts on other prospective reviewers.
Review Platform Compliance
Something most people don’t think about is how their review platform or tactics are in compliance. Some review sites have specific rules in their terms of service related to if and how you can ask for reviews. Yelp, for example, is well known to have a policy against soliciting for reviews at all. Google has been known to remove the reviews generated with the assistance of 3rd party review software that has not followed its specific policies regarding the pre-population of review and rating information.
If you plan on operating your review management plan internally, be mindful of the guidelines provided by each review site to avoid review removal and losing the fruits of your labor for not complying with their rules. If you are using a third party software solution, make sure it is well maintained and that they are keeping up to date with compliance efforts.
MANAGING REVIEWS SHOULD BE ADDED TO YOUR NORMAL WORKFLOW
Online reviews are becoming the new word of mouth, so it is important to be mindful of the importance of your online reputation. Your reviews shape how people think about your company and can have a heavy impact in a prospective customer’s business selection decisions.
Whether you do it manually or with the aid of technology, it is important for your business to consider adding a review management plan to your existing online marketing plans.
Publication date: 8/20/2018