Thanks to the internet, everyone’s a critic nowadays. No, seriously. Siskel and Ebert are a thing of the past. Today, we have movie review sites, like Rotten Tomatoes, Fandango, Metacritic, etc. And it doesn’t stop there — small businesses everywhere are reviewed by customers every day on sites, like Yelp, HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, and Thumbtack.

Prospective customers, especially millennials, get their referrals from online reviews. I, myself, do the same. In fact, I had to do so recently when my dog had to make an emergency trip to a veterinarian. I searched “local vet hospitals” — because of course this incident happened after hours — for recommendations. And, like most everyone else on the planet, I was turned off by 1-star reviews and negative comments because, let’s face it, I’m not trusting my baby with just anyone.

It’s much the same for HVAC contractors. If someone sees a bunch of negative reviews — and worse yet, no response from the business — it’s unlikely that person is going to trust that company to come into their home.


So, how do contractors get positive reviews under their belts? That’s right: They ask for them. Simple, right? It can be. Just start training your techs  to ask the customer, “Did I provide excellent service today?” at the end of every service to call. When the customer answers affirmatively, techs should reply by saying, “I would really appreciate if you could take a few seconds to leave a review about your experience today.” Easy peasy. You’d be surprised how many customers will take the time, especially if the tech explains he or she is evaluated on reviews.

You can also take it a step further, like Butch Welsch, owner of Welsch Heating & Cooling in St. Louis, who goes out of his way to thank customers for positive reviews, which helps to create a lasting relationship.

“For any review that mentions positive things about an employee, we send them a handwritten note from me, the owner, thanking them for acknowledging our employee or service,” he said.


One of the worst things a business can do is not respond to a negative comment. We all know there are internet trolls out there — and the old adage holds true: “There are two sides to every story.” So, share your side. Did you try to rectify the situation by offering to fix the problem or issue a refund? Share that publicly.

According to Mitch Ortenburg, SEO specialist, Online-Access, contractors can use negative reviews as an opportunity to improve their brand perception. Just keep in mind these three things: attitude, understanding, and response.

“Attitude is really where it all begins,” Ortenburg said. “Understandably, you won’t like seeing a negative review out there for your company. You take pride in what you do, and you’re ready to passionately defend it. However, gaining control of your emotions will help you to think rationally about the entire situation and will help you going forward. Don’t let the bad review turn your pride and passion against you. Keep the ‘long game’ in mind. Your response will influence how future prospective customers see you — no different than the review itself. Your response means a great deal — more than you probably know…”

Understanding normally boils down to either admitting fault or assigning blame to the customer.

“Speak with your staff to get an understanding of their side of the situation,” Ortenburg said. “Then, you’ll want to reach out to the client and hear their side. It’s good to follow up with the customer before responding to see if the relationship can be salvaged. Hopefully, they can be appeased enough to retract their review.

“Responding — here comes the fun part,” he continued. “The ‘we screwed up’ is the easier of the two. You can just respond by owning up to the mistake and making every effort to communicate that it’s not how you normally do business. These reviews can actually be beneficial (in moderation). This gives prospective clients a feel for how you actually run your business. When life happens and someone makes a mistake, you owning up to it and admitting your shortcoming shows them how you handle situations when mistakes happen. As long as you have an overall rating of 4.7 or so, your average customer will be happy to keep you in their consideration. In fact, having a 4.7 is better than having a 5.0. Why? Because 5.0 is perfect, and perfection is suspicious. A 4.7 or 4.8 is more believable. Getting a bad review once in a blue moon isn’t a bad thing.”

And when the customer is completely off-base, it’s important to keep a level head, Ortenburg noted. It’s okay to share some of the details about the customer relationship to prove your point, but keep in mind to approach the response from a factual standpoint rather than one loaded with emotion, he said.

“The facts will convey the emotion; you don’t have to incorporate it yourself,” he added. “Essentially, you’re playing the part of the defendant, and the public is your jury.”

So, are you taking the steps to effectively manage your online reputation? If you don’t, it may cost you more in the
long run.

Publication date: 4/2/2018

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