Online reviews are key to building a solid marketing strategy for your plumbing business. In fact, according to a 2018 survey by BrightLocal, 85 percent of people said they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Potential customers are researching you online long before they call you for service, so how can you make sure what they see online is reflective of your company’s service and values?
Dealing with online reviews can be intimidating. Inevitably, many of your reviews will be negative if you aren’t working proactively to get positive ones. But the negative reviews offer you the opportunity to build trust with potential customers as much as, if not more than, the positive reviews. Here are some tips for growing and managing your online reviews.
Embrace online reviews
Welcoming reviews is the first step toward building reviews. Embrace online reviews across multiple platforms, including Google Business, Yelp, HomeAdvisor, and Angie’s List. Display reviews prominently on your website, along with links to your pages on the sites listed above.
When you embrace online reviews, it shows potential customers that you are not afraid of feedback, that you stand behind your work, and you are willing to make things right. It shows current clients that you care about their input and want to make their experience the best it can be. Ultimately, these actions build trust and loyalty, bringing you new business and making it more likely that you will retain current clients.
Ask and make it easy
People are more likely to go to the trouble of writing an online review when they have had an unsatisfactory experience. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, dissatisfied customers will tell between 9 and 15 people about their experience. Why? Because anger is a great motivator, and a bad experience makes a more dramatic story than a good experience.
Quality and great customer experience should top your list for combatting bad reviews. In an article for Inc., Andrew Thomas wrote: “If a single bad review can undo the value of 40 good customer experiences, then the best solution is to focus on customer satisfaction. If it isn't already, customer happiness should be just as important to your business as the product or service itself…. When you focus on boosting customer happiness, it helps prevent the negative experiences that lead to bad reviews. And, according to the math, avoiding bad reviews is even more important than getting good reviews.”
But it’s also important to encourage and ask for reviews from satisfied customers. Start by making it easy. Send targeted emails or texts asking clients to review you online and provide helpful links. Make sure your techs are asking for positive reviews when they receive praise from a homeowner. It is acceptable to send clients thank-you notes or small gifts that include a gentle “ask” for feedback about their experience with you. However, don’t offer incentives for good reviews or try to cheat the system.
Respond and make it right
It is important to monitor your online reviews and respond to all of them, the good and the bad. While negative reviews can take your star rating down a notch, you can see them in a positive light, too. How you respond to negative reviews says as much about your company as positive reviews do, perhaps more.
Interviewed for an article in The New York Times, Dr. Duncan Simester, a marketing professor at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management, said consumers might see negative reviews as more informative and valuable, or as clues as to what can go wrong. So, it is likely that potential clients are paying more attention to negative reviews than they are to positive reviews. Rest assured, your customer service skills will be scrutinized.
Show your online audience that they are safe with you even if things go wrong. Thank the negative reviewer for their feedback and thoughtfully address their concerns. Stand behind your work and make it right, publicly.
Above all, don’t try to hide negative reviews or bury them in an avalanche of fake five-star reviews. These tactics are dishonest and easy to spot, and they will cost you in credibility and clients.
Find your cheerleaders
Testimonials, both written and in video format, are great additions to your website. How do you find people willing to speak for your company? Obviously, when a customer has a great experience, you should ask them for a testimonial. But growing client engagement overall will also help you identify your brand’s cheerleaders and get them speaking on your behalf.
Social media is a great tool for building customer engagement. Those who regularly like and comment on your posts are great candidates for testimonials. You can run prize drawings or contests on Facebook and Instagram to attract more of your satisfied customers to those pages.
Once you have found your cheerleaders, ask them for testimonials, and make it easy for them to do so via an online form or email.
You can implement your own strategy for encouraging and responding to online reviews in-house. A public relations agency experienced with the home service industry can help, too. From creating social media campaigns to helping you craft responses to online reviews, partnering with public relations professionals can take your review efforts from good to great. Whatever your plan is, being proactive about online reviews will bring new clients to you and help you keep the clients you already have.