It probably comes as no surprise to most home service business owners that a customer’s journey to find them starts online.
Of course, most potential customers immediately turn to Google or other search engines these days. But, did you know that nearly 60% of consumers run an even deeper internet search on your company and a whopping 90% also read online reviews before they pull the trigger?
And, human nature being what it is, it should also be expected that when people are happy with their service, they are less apt to write a review unless they’re prompted by a friendly reminder to do so. However, when someone is very unhappy with their service, they are far more likely to take to the internet to complain.
If you aren’t paying attention to your online reviews, you might be missing an opportunity to correct misconceptions and assure readers that you are paying attention to your customer complaints.
This is not an area to take lightly. A home service public relations agency or reputation management firm might be necessary to keep up with these reviews if you don’t have an employee who can be dedicated to this task.
As you begin to seriously consider your online reviews, here are a few tips to handling reviews professionally.
Don’t Write False Reviews!
This has been tried many times and it rarely ends well. Keep in mind that this is not only unethical but can make your company seem petty and seriously damage your credibility and trustworthiness if consumers find out that you’ve been writing good reviews for yourself while bad-mouthing your competitors.
Consumers aren’t dumb. No matter how sneaky you might think you’re being, you probably aren’t as inconspicuous as you think you are. Internet users can generally figure out which reviews are real and which are fake from the tone and issue. And, if your competitor follows a few cues and internet bread crumbs, they can call you out or even sue you. It’s not worth it.
Read and Respond Promptly
If you are operating a healthy business, this task can be daunting because of the sheer number of reviews. But you need to stay on top of all your reviews—good and bad. For good reviews, simply acknowledging them should be enough. If someone takes the time to write a good review, it’s just good business to respond with a “thank you” or other form of recognition.
For bad reviews, remember that your response will be seen by everyone. Even if you plan on calling the reviewer, you need to respond to the complaint online so that future readers will see that you are responsive.
You can keep your responses simple and still get the point across to potential clients that you are working on or have already remedied the situation. There is no need to rehash the issue online. Simply note that you are acknowledging the complaint with empathy and state that you are contacting the reviewer offline.
But, whether the review is good or bad, you should try to answer them quickly. Letting reviews languish online for months with no acknowledgement tells potential customers that you don’t care enough about your customers to recognize their efforts to provide feedback.
Don’t Try to Sell
You have a website, a sales team, customer service representatives and an advertising budget. And, with all those options, you don’t need to drop sales pitches onto your reviews platforms. People know when they’re being sold to, and they don’t like this maneuver when they are trying to register a complaint.
The best way to handle a bad review is to talk to the customer as though they were a friend. You wouldn’t try to sell your friend a new service if they were less than pleased about the service they’d already received. So, don’t do it to your customers, either.
Make Your Response Meaningful
It’s also imperative that you put some thought into your responses.
If you’ve ever gone to other review platforms and read through a series of answers to reviews and they all sound the same, you know that these responses are canned and probably not heartfelt. Customers can see that, too.
People want to see that a real person is responding to their reviews because they are looking to make a connection to have their good word or complaint heard.
Ask for Reviews
If you’re looking at your reviews platforms and don’t seem to be getting many positive reviews, there’s only one thing you can do to spur that action: ask your satisfied customers for reviews.
Many home service business owners and their service technicians have a hard time asking customers for these reviews but given how much stock potential clients put in real reviews today, it’s a necessity.
And, since so many consumers now read these reviews, it’s perfectly acceptable to request your clients contribute to your Google Reviews and Yelp pages. Getting your techs to ask for reviews can be easy if you provide them with incentives.
You can also encourage your customers to leave good reviews by printing out cards or instructions on invoices that provide them with advice on how to leave a review.
But the most important thing to remember is to not take bad reviews so personally that you act out. It’s understandable that you are proud of the work you’ve done to build your business so when you see a bad review, it might be difficult not to be defensive.
Don’t take it personally and lash out at the reviewer. Just keep in mind that everyone on the internet can see your response and remember that the internet is forever—deleting an inappropriate response to a bad review won’t get rid of the screenshots others may have taken of your poor judgement.
This might be another reason to hire a public relations agency to keep up with your reviews. These experts can stay on top of answering these reviews, won’t take them personally and will develop responses that are professional and timely.
Just remember that everyone gets good and bad reviews. The way to mitigate bad reviews is to respond quickly and be sincere and professional in your response. And, if you resolve the customer’s problem well, you could always ask for an updated review. This can turn a negative review into a positive, which makes for great review reading.
Heather Ripley is founder and CEO of Ripley PR, an elite, global public relations agency specializing in the skilled trades, B2B tech and franchising. Ripley PR is recognized as the top PR agency for the home service industry. It also has been listed by Entrepreneur Magazine as a Top Franchise PR Agency five years in a row and was named to Forbes’ America’s Best PR Agencies for 2021. Ripley is the author of “NEXT LEVEL NOW: PR Secrets to Drive Explosive Growth for your Home Service Business,” which is now available on all audiobook platforms. For additional information, visit www.ripleypr.com.