A house is the average consumer’s largest investment. Homeowners need to be able to trust the company they choose to come inside, atop, or on the premises of their nest egg. They already trust other consumers and turn to them to help guide their decision. And their journey to decision takes place largely online.
Below, we discuss how online reviews influence your customers’ decisions and 9 ways to cultivate an online reputation that generates more customers and revenue.
Online Reputation Tips that Generate More Customers and More Revenue
1. Understand the importance of online reputation.
- Reviews are a factor in local search ranking. The number of reviews and average rank of review significantly impact your ranking in local search engine results pages (SERPS).
- Most homeowners don’t understand the complexities of the services you provide, hence the incredible opportunity for content marketing. When you don’t understand what’s wrong, you really have to take a leap of faith and trust that the company you choose is competent, fair, and honest.
- Home service technicians come to a place of residence. And most of us require a base level of trust before allowing just anyone coming in, around, or on top of their home.
- Home Services such as a new roof or HVAC system can be expensive! No one wants to be up-sold on something expensive that they don’t need.
- Customer experience is a strong differentiator. In the commoditized home service space, reviews can be the deciding factor for a consumer choosing between companies.
2. Understand your consumers' journey to decision.
For most homeowners, the journey to decision begins with a Google Search. Consumers trust fellow consumers. And online reviews are today’s word of mouth.
When homeowners turn to search, Google’s Map pack takes up significant real estate on the results page, and features 3 lucky local businesses with their star reviews beneath.
For most of the services you offer, homeowners need you when they need you. And as they look for a business like you to call, the reviews are right below. Consumers don’t have to be actively seeking out reviews but will certainly be swayed by them.
In addition to sending trust signals to consumers, a healthy number of fresh and positive reviews will send important signals to search engines to boost your local organic search ranking. Put more simply, fresh positive reviews will increase the likelihood that you show up in that map pack on page 1 for consumers to consider.
Consider the following scenarios:
- Anne knows her HVAC system is struggling and needs help. She doesn’t have a specific company in mind for the job so she pulls out her smartphone and types in “HVAC service near me.” She sees local service ads, paid ads, and, in prominent display, Google’s local map pack. Your company is one of three that shows up, but you have 2 stars beneath your name. Rather than click through to your website, she immediately looks at the competition.
- Alternatively, Anne might be conducting the same search online and your company lacks reviews so Fran not only doesn’t trust or know what to make of it but also doesn’t see you in the map-pack search results.
“Your website is the front door to your business, but they’re never going to make it that far if you have terrible reviews or aren’t showing up,” remarks Cole Willis, Regional Lead Home Services Consultant. In the steps that follow, we discuss how to prevent both of these situations from happening to you.
3. Be present on review sites and set up listening.
Set up business listings on popular sites, especially Google My Business and Yelp. Keep your business listings current with accurate and consistent information about your business (name, address, phone number, hours, etc.). Set up email alerts associated with each listing so that you can closely monitor reviews.
4. Generate fresh reviews from consumers.
Don’t shy away from asking for reviews. Keep in mind that too few reviews can be just as bad as a few negative reviews. And what’s the best way to push out the negative reviews? Keep a healthy influx of fresh reviews.
- Send an email blast to current customers. If you’ve not done a great job of asking for reviews, get caught up to speed by sending an email blast to your current customers you’ve recently serviced. To improve convenience, simply ask them to rate their experience on a scale of 1-5. You can then follow up with those who clicked 5 to ask for a Google Review. Be sure to also follow up with those who clicked 3 or less to ask what you can do better.
- Incentivize your team to get reviews. Who doesn’t love a healthy competition? Gamify getting reviews. Create a leaderboard for your team and offer a reward to whoever gets the most reviews in a month. Be sure to equip them with what they need to succeed, such as business branded business cards with a link to your Google Business Listing and a simple statement such as “Please share your experience with me on Google.” Encourage technicians to write their name on the card.
5. Respond to positive reviews.
Who doesn’t love a positive review?! Businesses can get so hung up on how to respond to the negative reviews that they forget to respond to the positive. But remember, you need a process for both. When responding to positive reviews, we recommend keeping it quick and simple. Thank the reviewer for choosing your business.
6. Get ahead of and respond to negative reviews.
The #1 negative complaint we hear is “They ripped me off. Other common negative reviews are “they were late,” “they got to my house and said I needed a new unit…then I called someone else and they said I just needed $40 freon.”
The easiest way to head off a negative review is to get ahead of it. In the above case where the client had a new unit sprung on them, make sure your service reps are trained in educating customers. Customers don’t know what they don’t know, so make them aware of their options (“You can replace it or we can fix it a couple of times…here’s how we see that working out cost-wise to you in the short and long-run…”).
Another great way to get ahead of a negative review is to send an automated email after each purchase or service. In your email, ask the customer how your business did and volunteer to solve any misunderstandings or issues. At this point, consumers don’t feel they’re past the point of resolution. Therefore, they’re far less likely to resort to single-handedly ripping apart your reputation online.
Despite your best efforts, some negative reviews will still slip through and that’s okay. Decide whether you wish to respond publicly or privately, but always respond. It’s your opportunity to resolve the issue directly with your customer and change the course of the relationship.
Contracting Business recommends loosely using the following script — Introduce yourself. Thank them for the review. Apologize for the less than 5-star-experience, acknowledge their complaint, explain what you’ve done to address the problem, and personally invite them to return.
7. Use consumer feedback to improve your business.
Look at consumer feedback as more than just a reputation management matter. It’s an opportunity to improve your service and your business. What can you do to help prevent negative experiences like these from happening?
To prevent consumers from being caught off guard with an unexpected HVAC expense, Executive Home Services Consultant recommends providing homeowners a report on the health of the unit. “They don’t know what they don’t know,” he says, “so trust matters.” Rather than feeling like you’re ripping them off by springing a sudden expense on them for unknown reasons, they’ll appreciate the transparency.
Among smaller home service contracting companies, we often hear consumers complain about a lack of response to service calls. While this is a product of bandwidth, it and the negative reviews about it can be prevented by employing opportunity dispatch.
8. Use technology to monitor and manage your reputation more efficiently.
Time is money and hard to come by in the busy home service space. The more time you and your team can save, the better. Successful home service companies outsource and use technology that allows them to readily solicit, review, and respond to reviews in a convenient place.
9. Amplify the positive customer voice.
Market your reviews to amplify the positive customer voice. You’ve worked hard to provide superior service and earned each of those 5-star reviews. Tap into the power of social proof by showcasing compelling 5-star reviews to visitors on your website distributing them on social media.