Good news travels fast. Bad news? Even faster.
The same goes for online reviews. With review sites like Google+ and Yelp, potential customers have access to an unfiltered list of customers’ past experiences with your business.
In our last post, we covered the importance of social proof when it comes to a customer’s buying journey.
Generating positive reviews for your business is critical to building and maintaining your reputation, particularly in a field where your techs are face to face with your customers every day. Trust is a bigger factor for in-home services than for many other industries, and highlighting your positive interactions can go a long way with skeptical buyers.
If you’re thinking that online reviews are for the birds, consider the following:
- 92% of consumers regularly read online reviews before making a purchase
- 40% of consumers form an opinion after reading 1-3 reviews
- Star rating is the most important factor consumers use to judge a business
With so many of your potential customers seeking the social proof that unbiased reviews can bring, you’re doing yourself and your business a disservice by leaving it to chance.
Whether your business has already acquired a number of positive reviews or you’re starting from the ground up, your off-season is the best time to develop a review generation strategy for your local service business.
Who Should You Ask?
In an ideal world, your happiest and most loyal customers would be freely offering up kind reviews for your business to friends, family, and the internet. In reality, most consumers won’t go out of their way to review their lawn care or pest control company unless something goes wrong.
When your team asks customers in person, they likely use their judgment in deciding which customers to ask and which ones to skip. Are you taking that approach with your email communication?
Pre-screening customers with an internal survey before following up for a public review gives you the chance to collect useful feedback from customers - a 1-star rating is an opportunity to fix a customer relationship before it’s too late, and a 5-star rating is a chance to ask satisfied customers to take the next step.
Our ReviewBoost feature was designed with that in mind – making it easy to collect customer feedback and immediately offering your happiest customers the option to take the next step and post their reviews in public.
When Should You Ask?
A good review is a good review, but timing your review generation efforts strategically can maximize the impact they have on your business.
Some business owners fall into the trap of saving a big review push for the end of the year or the end of their season. Psychologically, your customers are more likely to feel overwhelmed and less likely to act when they’re asked to review your performance over the course of the full year. Waiting can also result in lower review scores, allowing customers to average out all the times you blew them away with any times that your customer service might have fallen short.
There’s also an SEO drawback to rushing into review generation all at once. Search engines assign greater value to companies that bring in a regular volume of positive reviews. Twenty new reviews in a single day can be deemed spammy by Google if your business usually only brings in one or two reviews per month.
Instead, consider setting up a schedule that asks customers for feedback quarterly, preferably within a week or two of their most recent service. This reaches customers while their memory is still fresh and allows you to ask about a single experience, reducing the likelihood that an old mishap will come back to haunt you.
Don’t forget to mind your seasonality. Homeowners may not be as inclined to share a kind word about your lawn care services in mid-August, when a summer of harsh sunshine and mowing have rendered their lawn a little dry and crispy.
What Will Motivate Customers to Review You?
There’s no better way to get reviews than by asking in person; in fact, at least 50% of customers say they will leave a review for a business if they are asked to.
Studies have also shown that a customer is more likely to leave a review if:
- They are asked by someone they’ve formed a personal connection with
- They are given clear instructions on where or how to leave a review
- There is a reward on the line
Rewarding customers for their review can go a long way in sweetening the deal, but as a rule, companies are not allowed to incentivize positive reviews; meaning the way that you ask is critical. Violating the review policies set forth by Google or Yelp can result in penalties that could seriously impact your search rankings.
Whether you’re asking face to face or via email, it’s important not to offer or imply any sort of reward in exchange for a good review. Your “$5 off next service” or “entry to win a free aeration treatment” are fine, as long as they aren’t conditional.
One way around this is to turn it on its head and reward your service technicians instead! Despite the theory people often act in their own self-interest, most humans are also extremely motivated to do something that will help someone else when we are asked.
Having a technician end a treatment with, “If you had a good experience, please consider leaving us a Google+ review. If you include my name, the company will give me a $10 tip,” can be surprisingly effective.
Not only does this encourage your technicians to ask customers for reviews, but it gives your customers a free way to tip their technician for doing a good job!
Where Will Your Reviews Count The Most?
Simply asking your customers to leave a review is not enough. Are you pointing your reviewers to the channels where they’ll make the biggest impact?
According to research by BrightLocal, on average 20% of consumers only look at one review site before making a decision. 60% look at two or three different review sites before making a decision. 63% of consumers use a search engine like Google or Bing to find online reviews, rather than directly looking on a review site, meaning search visibility plays a role as well.
In other words, there are a number of options, and there’s no one-size-fits all formula.
Because Google remains the most widely used search engine, and because Google+ reviews are eligible to show on the search engine results page, cutting out a step for the customer and making it easy for them to start forming an opinion, we typically recommend this as the first line when it comes to review generation.
Other review platforms with high searchability that consumers regularly look to for reviews are Yelp and Facebook. Platforms like Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau are also important to small businesses within service-based industries.
To prioritize where you should spend your review generation efforts, take a look at:
- Your current review profile on each site. How many reviews do you have total? How many recent reviews? Were these all reviews you asked for, or did some of them happen organically? Are there recent negative reviews?
- Your competitors’ review profiles. Are you vastly outnumbered on a specific platform?
- Your referral traffic. Before you invest a lot of energy pursuing reviews on a platform, make sure it’s worth your time. Google Analytics can tell you a lot about where your website traffic is coming from; and while it can be difficult to tie down ROI because these visits may not immediately lead to conversion, it can give you a good idea of which platforms your visitors are already looking at.
Close The Loop
Do you recognize customers who have risen to the occasion?
Show your five-star customers that you appreciate their kind review by responding.
Show your three- and four-star customers that you’re taking their feedback seriously and look forward to improving next time by responding.
And show your one- and two-star customers that you’re accountable by… you guessed it - responding!
Rest assured, a bad review won’t sink you. Even two or three bad reviews won’t sink you. In fact, studies have shown that customers are even more distrustful of a business if it only has positive reviews.
A bad review is inevitable for most businesses; and when an unhappy customer chooses to publicly air their grievances, it gives the rest of your customers a front row view of how your company addresses conflict and feedback.
We always advise our clients to do their conflict resolution offline. Call your customer, listen to their complaints, apologize, and offer a solution. In some instances, a customer will realize the error of their ways or take your apology to heart and change their review.
Even if you can’t salvage the relationship with this unhappy customer, your public response is what current customers may refer back to, and it’s something that prospective customers will see – so make it count!
Take Advantage of Your Off Season
We know, we know - as a business owner, your off season isn’t really “off.” You’re squeezing the last dollar out of the warm weather, cycling out your seasonal employees, and reviewing your sales strategy for the year ahead. But all of that work will be for naught if your customers aren’t spreading the good word about your good work.
Use this time to take stock of that work and make sure it’s worthy of the reviews you’re after. You can’t just buy the attention of your audience. You have to earn it. Are your techs focusing on the big picture when they provide service to your customers? Are they trained or refreshed on industry and company standards? Make sure your house is in order, then use the guidelines above to build out your strategy.
Managing your online reputation is important for your business’s online presence and your ability to convert new customers. Taking advantage of your off-season to develop a strategy to regularly request reviews from happy customers can have a huge impact on your reputation and your business. What’s more, that feedback is critical to improving your services, internal processes, and overall customer experience. Regularly asking your customers how you can better serve them is the fastest way to a happier customer base - and a better reputation.