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Are online contracting services right for you?

Oct. 13, 2016
At a minimum, companies should assign the task of monitoring their online presence so they know what is being said about them. Angie's List has recently reconfigured its service platform to be able to deliver all aspects of what the consumers want and deserve to know about how to maintain and improve their homes. HomeAdvisor provides a necessary resource for contractors to get noticed and helps them build their profiles to maximize business potential.
Image: iStock/ThinkStock.

CHICAGO — Contractors and homeowners alike are looking toward the Internet now more than ever for information, and ways to promote their business through social media and online review sites, for example. Online sites such as Angie’s List and Home Advisor and Yelp can ultimately increase exposure and aid in securing a customer base. 

The vast majority of American consumers conduct online reviews before they hire or buy products. Many also expect to reach service pros via mobile devices rather than in-person or on the telephone.

“Companies that do not offer their services in an online format are at a distinct disadvantage that will only grow over time,” said Cheryl Reed, director of external communication, Angie’s List.

Reed suggests that, at a minimum, companies should assign the task of monitoring their online presence so they know what is being said about them and to develop a system of responding and reacting positively to these reviews and comments so customers can see the company’s commitment to customer care.

Angie’s List has recently reconfigured its service platform to be able to deliver all aspects of what the consumers want and deserve to know about how to maintain and improve their homes.

“We envision a time when our members will have deep portfolios of information about the appliances and devices in their homes such that we can alert them when they need maintenance or replacement and handle the service transaction for them. Companies that do not become involved in this kind of automate, online interaction will be, again, at a disadvantage,” said Reed.

HomeAdvisor — a company that, in the past 12 months, has received more than 11 million project requests from homeowners and have connected them to its prescreened network of over 130,000 professionals — found that 95 percent of homeowners go online to research before hiring a home professional and also found that more than 40 percent of homeowners wouldn’t hire a pro that doesn’t have an online presence. HomeAdvisor provides a necessary resource for contractors to get noticed and helps them build their profiles to maximize business potential.

“Because we found that pros with a robust profile will receive 60 percent more customer contacts,” said Matt Zurcher, HomeAdvisor’s SVP of Customer Care. In addition, “The Farnsworth Group report found that 52 percent of homeowners hire professional via website making the service provided by HomeAdvisor more important than ever before.”

Bad Day/Bad Rap

Ok, so how do you handle negative reviews, an online troller who has been having a bad day, or just an incorrect listing?

“The inherent problem I have with the various review sites is the fact that anyone with an axe to grind can post false negative reviews and the affected contractor cannot have the false review removed unless the original reviewer voluntarily removes the post,” said Dave Yates, owner, F.W. Behler.

“There have been negative reviews posted by consumers living several states away for whom the contractor never worked! A number of years ago, we received notice from an online review site of a positive review. A link was provided and, naturally, I read the review. I then checked our listing and discovered, to my surprise, that we were listed for PHVAC and also as a maxillofacial surgeon! In addition, we also rented baby buggies,” said Yates.

I’m happy to report that we had a very positive review from a patient who had the oral surgery,” joked Yates.

If a negative review comes your way, “our best advice is to read it, and then go get a cup of coffee or take a walk and think about what you just read. Give yourself time to rationally consider the situation and what your response should be. Never respond in anger or without this contemplation,” said Reed.

“If you feel the review is unfair or incorrect, don’t hesitate to contact our Business Center to alert them. You’ll get good advice on next steps,” said Reed.

Angie’s List has found time and time again that its members reward companies that demonstrate eagerness to correct problems that arise. “Let’s face it, there are few projects that go perfectly from start to finish. Demonstrating that you’re both interested in detecting and happy to correct problems will go a long way to win forever customers from our membership base,” said Reed.

“HomeAdvisor safeguards against fake reviews through a review verification process. Reviews go through our ratings and reviews department before they are posted to assure quality and legitimacy. If there is a question about a review a HomeAdvisor rep will call the person submitting the review to verify information,” said Zurcher.

“We’ve found that service professionals with three or more reviews are three times as likely to win jobs, making quality work and customer service paramount to success. We encourage contractors to respond to all negative consumer feedback and to look at it as both a learning experience and a chance to turn the consumer’s experience around,” continued Zurcher.

Getting started

All service professionals in the HomeAdvisor’s prescreened network must pass a rigorous criminal and financial background check prior to being accepted into the exclusive network. Then a HomeAdvisor rep helps set up a mobile friendly web page to determine what projects and which zip codes the pro can be matched to. The rep will also discuss what marketing tools the pro needs for their business.

The HomeAdvisor pro will then have access to HomeAdvisor’s network of project-ready homeowners. Service professionals can be connected to homeowners through HomeAdvisor’s on-demand tools Instant Connect and Instant Booking. Instant Connect helps homeowners instantly connect and speak with a pro in under a minute. Instant Booking lets homeowners schedule an appointment into the pro’s calendar, which updates in real time. Pros can also receive new appointments by homeowners submitting a project through HomeAdvisor’s Smart Home apps including apps for Amazon Echo and Apple Watch, both of which are powered by HomeAdvisor’s Instant Connect technology.

For Angie’s List, Registering your business with the company is the first step. It’s free-of-charge and creates a personalized URL for the company that their customers can visit at any time to leave a review on their first-hand experience. It also enables companies to: develop a profile that outlines service offerings, licensing, contact information and the basic information members would need to make a hiring decision and easily submit reviews on the companies; monitor and respond to reviews; access the Message Center to communicate with members; access programs that help encourage review submission; receive the monthly Toolbox email, which offers fresh advice and information; and receive support from the Business Center team.

Companies that participate in advertising must pass a background check, attest they hold a valid license if applicable to their trade and agree to other requirements that set the companies apart as a leader in their field. Those that successfully accomplish these requirements are certified by Angie’s List and designated as “certified” in member searches. Certified companies are displayed on the first page of Angie’s List search results.

Bottom line

According to information provided by, with 88 percent of consumers trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations, online reviews have the power to dramatically impact a company’s bottom line. Further, services like Yelp, Google Places and Angie’s List play a huge role in a business’ ability to be found by potential customers. With 85 percent of consumers using sites like Yelp to find local businesses, the days of being “first in the phonebook” are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Yet, online contractor review sites may not be for every contractor, however, as word-of-mouth referrals still remain a viable source for business. Yet, these online business review sites actually can be a virtual word-of-mouth referral, if used properly.

HomeAdvisor provides a great opportunity for contractors to extend their word-of-mouth reputation. “HomeAdvisor found that 90 percent of homeowners will recommend a pro with which they’ve had a good experience to at least two other people. In addition, 99 percent of homeowners will hire a pro they’ve used before if it was a good experience,” said Zurcher.

The key to a successful business remains the consistent delivery of good service, but delivering the best service without allowing it to be seen by your customers is a sure way to limiting your growth. “Unlike the days when people talked in person to each other, they’re taking those conversations online and they’re making their hiring decisions based on what they see and read there,” said Reed.

“Over the years, Angie’s List has been described as ‘word of mouth on steroids.’  And that’s about as accurate as anything else we’ve heard or used ourselves,” said Reed.

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