Online reviews are a huge influence on consumers when they are seeking to hire a trustworthy service business. It is a very personal matter when you think about it; people are inviting you to come to their home, sometimes even if they are at work, and make their sanctuary beautiful, functional, safer or more comfortable. So, it stands to reason that most people will do research before they decide on a company to bring into their personal space. In addition, as the new word-of-mouth marketing, reviews can be great (or not so great) for businesses.
Ninety-four percent of consumers say that they have not used a business because of bad reviews, and 80 percent of customers say they don’t trust businesses with ratings less than 4-stars.
There are a ton of resources out there to guide you on how to handle negative reviews, but the ideal and more proactive approach would be to avoid them altogether and to aim for positive reviews. Ninety-four percent of consumers say that they have not used a business because of bad reviews, and 80 percent of customers say they don’t trust businesses with ratings less than 4-stars. That is a lot of pressure on business owners! Getting a 4-star rating or higher takes work, like applying exceptionally good business practices, being transparent, building relationships, and being available to your customers by responding to issues in a timely manner. Generating good reviews should be a priority and a strategic effort just like any other business practice. Here are 5 tips to get started:
1. Set Clear Expectations and Be Transparent with Customers
Be realistic with your customers from the start, and avoid making promises that you cannot deliver on. The most obvious example of making empty promises is false advertising. Many businesses want to exaggerate what their services are capable of, and what separates them from the competition. But if you’re not actually capable of backing up and achieving your claims, then don’t say you are – otherwise, you are setting your business up for failure.
A less obvious example is being honest about job constraints. Customers may have unrealistic goals for the job you are hired to do, and while you may want to please your customer by doing whatever it takes, your responsibility as a professional is to educate them. That is why they hired you.
For example, I bought a house last year that has no grass, because it was not taken care of for a long time. I really wanted to have a nice yard for my first summer in the new home. I did some research on lawn and landscape companies in my new town and found one that had 5-star reviews and was highly recommended to me on social media. They seemed like the best company for the job. After just one phone call the lawn and landscape professional informed me that the best time to grow new grass in the northeast was later in the fall, right before it gets cold with enough time for the grass to take root without being taken over by weeds. He was honest with me and told me that if I did it now there was a good chance I would have to pay and do it all over again next year.
Initially, I was upset and wanted to call another company that probably would have simply taken my money and done the job. But, ultimately I realized that this man had told me the truth and was transparent, knowing that he could lose a potential job. That was a respectable quality in a business. So, I scheduled for the fall. While he took a chance on losing the job, if he did take my money and all of my grass died, I may have gone online and written a bad review, causing him to lose more money in the long run, or having to redo the job. Now, I can see at least one reason why their reviews were 5-star.
Some other examples of being transparent and setting expectations for your customers include: the time it takes to finish a job, availability during the busy season, prices/costs/estimates, etc. It is in a business’s nature to agree that the customer is always right and to do whatever it takes to get the job done. But keeping it real will pay off when customers know exactly what to expect.
2. Build Relationships With Your Customers
When a customer knows you personally, they are less likely to go online and speak poorly about your business; this does not mean that you have to be best friends or know your customers from childhood. However, you should take the time to talk with your customers and get to know them a little more; not just for good reviews, but for building customer loyalty as well.
If there is one thing I know from previously being in the service industry, it is that people love to talk about themselves and their interests. Build a rapport with your customers on common interests: ask about their summer travel plans, children and grandchildren, that Harley sitting in their driveway, or anything else you notice about their personality and hobbies. Keep a log in their file on some topics you spoke about, so you can remember to bring it up the next time you see them. For example, if your customer is going on a vacation to Europe ask them how it was next time you visit their home for a job. Little things go a long way, and most people appreciate small gestures that show you actually care about getting to know your customers, and not just doing business with them.
3. Collect Feedback Right After a Job is Finished
Send customers an email or a text with a link, right after the job is completed asking how the service was. This tactic can serve multiple purposes. First, if the customer loved the service they will likely write a good review while it is fresh in their mind. Second, if a customer is not satisfied you have the opportunity to contact them and resolve the issue immediately. This can avoid the problem being put in the spotlight, as well as contribute to your customer retention rate. As customers ourselves, we can relate to and appreciate when a business immediately reacts and aspires to right a wrong they may not have even realized occurred. Most people understand that mistakes happen, and we are all human. The ones that understand will refrain from blacklisting your name as long as you genuinely tried to resolve the issue, and provided great customer service. Finally, collecting feedback right away can give you insight into how your employees are representing your company in the field.
4. Empower Your Employees to Make the Right Call
Mistakes happen, so have a contingency plan. If something happens and a customer expresses their unhappiness right away, or an employee knows they accidentally did something that is going to cause the customer to be unhappy, give them the power to make the right call and fix it on the spot. This is a much better process than having your employee come back to the office, report the incident, wait for a solution, and finally reach out to the customer hours or days later. Let them make the call of offering the next service for free, or taking a percentage off the bill to make up for the incident. This way the customer isn’t sitting and waiting for resolve while getting angrier and increasing the likelihood of them taking their rage out online. Of course, you likely have some loyal employees you trust to make reasonable judgments on their own, but there may be some newer employees that are still learning. This can work for your whole team if you have a handful of predetermined, possible solutions that the employees feel comfortable offering, as well as degrees of incidents and their corresponding consolations.
5. Be Available
Naturally, there will be situations when every step was taken to build a meaningful, honest, business relationship and the customer will still be unhappy. Some people will contact you before they write the review out of courtesy, while others will “contact you” by getting your attention via writing a review.
Whichever the situation, make sure you are available the second they reach out, or at the very least less than 4-hours after. Ideally, they will contact you privately first, either via phone call, email, or social inbox. Do not let these messages slide – even if it is after business hours or on a weekend. They should be a top priority and treated delicately since the customers who are doing this are being courteous, and as such should be rewarded with good customer service. If you are responsive to an issue and end up resolving it, making the customer happier than they would have been had the problem not even occurred, they will likely write a good review explaining your business’s attentive nature. If you need to handle a review that has already gone public, don’t fret! Follow the steps outlined in our post on social media content and engagement strategies.
Getting 4- or 5-star reviews takes work and strategic direction. Businesses that excel at this know that having a game plan and making sure all employees are on-board is crucial to achieving that goal.
Now, you may follow all of these steps and customers may not write reviews for some inexplicable reason. That’s alright, but always keep in mind the old word-of-mouth marketing saying, “When a customer has a good experience they will tell two people. When a customer has a bad experience they will tell 10 people.” This age-old adage applies to reviews as well, because remember: reviews are the new word-of-mouth marketing. When a customer has a bad experience they will likely be more inclined to write a review. When a customer has a good experience they might say “Wow, I should write a good review,” but may not rush to do so. When you are confident that your customers are happy, don’t be afraid to ask them to write a review and support your business. They will probably be more-than-willing to support a business they trust.
Getting 4- or 5-star reviews takes work and strategic direction. Businesses that excel at this know that having a game plan and making sure all employees are on-board is crucial to achieving that goal, especially since reviews can quite literally make or break a business in the service industry. So, why not do the work and leverage online reviews as a part of your competitive advantage?