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For home service businesses, your reputation is only as good as your last review. Reviews are a basic form of public relations for many local home service companies because they involve direct customer responses. Unfortunately, it’s more common for customers who have had a bad experience to go online and write a poor review than for satisfied customers to offer a good word or recommendation.
When 98 percent of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, it becomes imperative that you pay attention to the reviews you are receiving on your website and other sites such as Yelp, Google and the Better Business Bureau (https://bit.ly/38qPb7t).
While you can’t control your reviews, you need to respond to them professionally and timely. Set up a Google Alert for your business name, do Google searches for your business regularly and look at as many review sites as possible to monitor reviews.
Not only is it important for customers to know that their comments have not fallen into some black hole, but it also improves your reputation to respond to both complaints and accolades. This shows consumers you care about their feedback, good or bad.
While it may be true that many home service business owners aren’t overly fond of review sites, consumers use them to base their spending decisions. You’ve put a lot of your blood, sweat and tears into your business, and reading a poor review can sometimes elicit an emotional response.
If you don’t feel you can read and respond to reviews professionally, you should consider hiring a third party — such as a professional public relations agency — to handle this “dirty work” on your behalf.
However, if you do want to take on the role of answering these reviews, there are some rules you should follow. You don’t want to take what could become a positive form of public relations and turn it into a negative by sounding overly defensive or confrontational.
1. Don’t be tempted to write false reviews about your competitors. There is never a good reason to make up bad reviews about your competitors, and it will always backfire. Ethical business leaders do not do this even if your competition does it to you. Taking the high road is rewarded because consumers will see through obvious ploys by your competitors to damage you.
2. Read every review and respond promptly. Put yourself in your customers’ minds. If you had written a great review for a company and no one responded for two months, you might sour on that company, even if the service was exemplary. At the same time, a customer with a bad experience wants to be heard and provided with a solution in a timely manner.
3. Keep it simple, silly. As a business owner, your company is your pride and joy; you may be tempted to take bad reviews personally. Don’t. The key to dealing with bad reviews is to remain calm, respond promptly, admit fault when necessary, apologize to the customer and offer to remedy the situation.
4. Remember that your responses are public. Your replies will be seen by anyone who cares to see them; poor responses can lead to a bad reputation. No one wins when the conversation devolves into a childish spat. The saying that the internet is forever is an adage for a reason.
5. Don’t use reviews to sell services or products. A customer who feels wronged will never appreciate a response that is nothing more than a sales pitch. Pretend you are speaking to a friend and stick to the subject. If the comment is good, respond with a simple “thank you.” With bad comments, always offer to make it right.
6. Make your response personal. Canned responses are a turnoff to customers, particularly those who feel they have been wronged. Remember that a real person wrote the review, and they deserve a response from a real person. It promotes goodwill with the customer, but it’s also seen in a positive light by people who are simply reading the review.
Getting positive reviews
Now that you know some tips about responding to reviews, particularly negative ones, the next step you should consider is getting more customers to write positive reviews. Having several positive reviews about your business promotes your good service or product and helps offset any negative reviews you may receive.
The first place to start is to ask.
When training your service technicians, make it worth their while to ask satisfied customers to go online and give a positive review. Many technicians already ask customers to recommend your company as part of their service wrap-up verbally. Today, asking for an online review is practically the same thing.
You can print cards that technicians can give to customers when they hand over the invoice. These cards can give a web address and instructions on posting a response, which customers find helpful.
It may take some practice asking for positive reviews at first, but once you and your techs get the hang of it, you can start receiving some great online reviews — and these are public relations bonanzas.
Bad reviews will happen; it doesn’t matter if they’re a true customer complaint or a nefarious comment by a competitor. So, make sure you have a plan in place. If you’re prepared to respond positively, the damage that could be done is lessened by your diligence.
Reviews are often replaced quickly by new ones. If you’re asking for positive reviews and staying on top of negative reviews, this turnover can keep negative reviews from sticking out like a sore thumb.
Staying professional and responding quickly will show customers you care about their concerns, translating into repeat business.