Word of mouth has always had the power to boost or sink the reputation of your business. In the age of social media, reputation management has grown even more complex. All it takes is one hiccup in delivering service to a customer, and a few keystrokes later they’ve given your business a black eye. Online reviews can have you seeing stars — after your reputation has been clobbered.
The reputation of your business is its most valuable asset. When looking for residential plumbing services, wary homeowners are looking for businesses that can be trusted to deliver on their promises quickly and efficiently. They’re turning to online reviews to help guide their decision of who to call — you or your competitors.
Engaging with customers who leave reviews and encouraging positive reviews can also pay dividends by improving your company’s search engine ranking. It can be part of a larger social media strategy designed to increase the visibility of your business.
Breaking down the numbers
Online reviews matter to potential customers. According to a 2016 consumer survey by BrightLocal, online reviews play an important role in a customer’s decision to contact a business:
• 90 percent of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business;
• 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation;
• 74 percent of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.
This means that if you don’t pay attention to online reviews of your business, you’re opening yourself up to a world of trouble. What you don’t know can hurt you and your bottom line. Monitoring reviews requires an investment of time and consistent effort to make it work, but your business will benefit by generating social capital and good will.
How to know when a review has been posted
Smartphones and mobile devices allow customers to post reviews of your company almost in real time. That means every impression your business makes, good or ill, can be reflected in online commentary publicly and immediately.
In order to respond to an online review, you have to know it has been posted. This requires regular monitoring of what’s being said about your business. Monitoring can be done daily, weekly or monthly, depending on the volume of reviews. If you keep track of your online reputation, you can proactively respond to comments and use the feedback to improve your services and products.
Reviews can be posted on a variety of sites: Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Yelp, HomeAdvisor, the Better Business Bureau, and many others. You need to understand how the ratings and reviews work on all the individual platforms. Monitoring these sites can be time-intensive, and it might make more financial sense to consider partnering with an experienced public relations agency for review management services.
How and when to respond
The question becomes, “When should you respond to an online review?” The answer is pretty simple: Always. No matter if it is positive or negative, swiftly and professionally responding to a review can increase customer engagement and leave more favorable impressions of your company. Thank customers for positive reviews. Use the opportunity that negative reviews represent to turn unhappy customers into satisfied ones. If you make a situation right, people will notice, and it will enhance your reputation.
Letting a negative review just sit on a site without a response can give potential customers the impression that your business just doesn’t care and would rather ignore problems then fix them.
From the standpoint of brand consistency, task one person with responding to all reviews or put policies in place to ensure that all responses have a consistent tone and feel; however, a complementary approach is to allow your service technicians to respond to positive reviews with personal messages.
Whatever you do, don’t respond to negative reviews in a temper. A nasty back and forth exchange with an unsatisfied customer will not show your company in a positive light. There is no winning in that situation. Be polite and respectful and ask the customer to contact you directly if possible.
Countering or eliminating bad reviews
Potential customers pay attention to the content and quality of online reviews, but they understand that no business is perfect. Any service technician can have an off day or make an honest mistake. A single negative review isn’t the end of the world. It’s when they’re left unaddressed, and the complaints begin to multiply, that potential customers will get skittish about picking up the phone to call your company.
Responding to negative reviews gives you a chance to offer a resolution to an upset customer and make things right. If the problem was your responsibility, offering an apology and a solution can make a good impression on anyone else who reads the review. That’s something that can, and will, spread by word of mouth. Having a reputation as a company that will do right by its customers is invaluable publicity.
Bumping bad reviews down on the search page
Sometimes, a customer who leaves a bad review is not willing to change their mind, no matter the steps you take to resolve the problem. The good news is that, according to surveys, 73 percent of consumers view online reviews left more than three months ago as irrelevant. This gives your company the chance to take control of the narrative by encouraging positive reviews.
About seven out of ten customers are willing to leave reviews for businesses if asked. So, if your company is committed to doing good work, you can enlist your satisfied customers as brand ambassadors. All it takes is asking politely.
Use every customer touch point as an opportunity to ask customers to provide reviews. At the end of a service call, your technicians could remind customers that online reviews allow them to express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with your work. You also can contact customers afterward to follow up and remind them that online reviews provide feedback that can be useful to other potential customers.
Remember to thank customers who leave positive reviews. Engagement matters on social media. One word of warning, though, never consider paying customers to leave positive reviews. It’s not only unethical, but there could be legal consequences. In addition, the practice could be detected by sophisticated search engine algorithms that are designed to weed out the use of such tactics, damaging your rankings.
Partnering with an experienced public relations professional
If all this sounds overwhelming, take heart. You don’t have to tackle online review management on your own. A professional PR and marketing agency specializing in the home service industry can provide the support and guidance necessary to develop and implement a strong social media strategy. Not only can you depend on a professional communications partner to manage reviews, but it can use marketing best practices to deliver solid results in increasing and converting online leads to real business opportunities for your company.