A recent consumer study by Neilson indicates that 70% of consumers rely on online reviews to make brand decisions, a percentage that has increased over the past 15 years. You might not think that a bad online review will affect your business, but consider the enormous impact that Jeff Jarvis’ negative review had on Dell when Jarvis’ blog post about his problems with Dell’s customer service went viral in 2005. One bad review sparked a media frenzy that severely damaged the company’s brand. If it can happen to a company like Dell, it can happen to you.
Although no contracting company is above making occasional mistakes, sometimes a company can get an unwarranted bad reputation due to online customer complaints. Think about it as the opposite of word-of-mouth advertising. People are less likely to use your services if they hear about a bad experience from a friend or co-worker. Instead of telling a few about a bad experience, an online customer review published on a well-known site, such as Yelp or Angie’s List, is read by thousands of people in your service area. This can have a much larger impact on your overall image as a trusted business.
What Is Online Reputation Management?
Online reputation management is a multi-tiered, proactive approach to making sure your brand maintains a positive image online. Everyone can get a bad review once in a while, but the key is to make sure customers see more than that one bad review when they review your company online. Here are the major components of online reputation management.
Sending Positive Messages
About Your Company
Having a strong, active and professionally prepared online presence demonstrates you are company that cares about its reputation and works hard to communicate with its marketplace. Here are a few ways to do this across multiple platforms:
• Create a website that is optimized for search results. Having a professionally designed website that is optimized by an SEO (search engine optimization) specialist will greatly improve your search results. When customers search for HVACR services in your area, your website will come up in the top search result pages if you have a site that is optimized according to the main services you provide and your location.
• Start a blog. Once you’ve created a website designed to get search results, start a blog that you update often. This gives you a platform to share positive customer testimonials, projects that you have completed, before and after shots, and HVACR tips and useful information for consumers.
• Start a YouTube channel. A YouTube channel is a great place to post video testimonials so that customers can hear positive statements about your brand from real people. Make sure you post videos that look professional and are well-produced.
• Use social media. Use up all the “free” online property in your name by creating accounts with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google +, and other social media sites. These are free, and when someone searches for your company name, all of these sites will come up in the results. Reach out to your customers and ask them to post comments on all of your social media profiles.
Search engines favor sites with updated content, so naturally the sites where people are actively posting info about your business will be on the first page. Using social media in this manner is a great way to control the message about your company and create a more positive and accurate image.
• Ask consumers to post reviews about you online. There are a variety of sites and online directories that consumers trust and go to for online reviews about the services they are looking for. Encourage customers to include their email addresses for newsletters and promotions. Then send out occasional requests for online testimonials from customers who are willing to share an experience in which they’ve received exceptional service. Include links to online review sites to make it easier for them. The major ones include: Google+ Local, Yahoo Local, Yelp, City Search, Angie’s List, Yellow Pages, and Merchant Circle. There are many more that you can find online easily, but these are great places to start.
Get Reviews From Customers On-the-Job
Another way to get customers to share positive experiences online is to get your technicians involved. If a technician is leaving a home, and the homeowner is thanking him for a job well done, provide customer service training that includes how to be proactive about getting a testimonial. For instance, the technician could have a prepared tag line about how your business relies so much on referrals and that the customer’s testimonial will help other potential customers know that they can trust your company to provide quality service.
The technician could then ask the customer to provide a review for your company on one of the review sites mentioned in the list above. Because these sites require an account log-in, you could even go one step further and have the technician assist the customer in logging in to the appropriate directory, or even create an account if necessary. Doing this will help to assure that the testimonial is authentic and comes from the unique IP address of the actual customer. Reward your employees in some way to thank them for going the extra mile, which reinforces this behavior.
Keep in mind that fake reviews can hurt your business. Consumers are smart and can tell when a review has been fabricated. Many review sites, such as Google+ Local and Yelp, have review filters that detect and eliminate testimonials that are not genuine. Make sure that all your online reviews are from actual customers who have had experience with your company’s services.
Respond to Negative Online Reviews
Google your company name frequently to see what comes up and respond to any bad reviews. You can also set up Google alerts so you get a notice every time someone posts something about your company name. The “Me on the Web” feature of your Google Dashboard can help you keep an eye on what’s out there about your company and respond to customer complaints.
Don’t ignore the negative reviews. Find out what went wrong and then respond to a review in a tone that shows care for the customers. Don’t let others create a reputation for you. Even if you can’t resolve the issue, responding in a positive manner shows consumers that you are making a good faith effort to make amends.
Ultimately, the goal is to get as many positive messages on the web results as possible. Getting more testimonials will push down any negative results that come up in the top results. It is important to get all the negative reviews off of the first page of Google or Bing results, because about 85% of people who use the major search engines don’t read past the first page.
In summary, the best ways to create a positive brand image is through a well-designed online reputation management program. Here’s the basic strategy:
• Get a Positive Message Out About Your Company
• Ask Customers to Provide Testimonials
• Respond to Complaints and Negative Online Reviews
Simply making a strategic effort to control the image of your company can create positive results for your business. Don’t let negative reviews cost you potential clients. Take control of your brand now!
Nadia Romeo is president of iMarket Solutions, which specializes in professionally designed and search-engine-optimized HVAC and plumbing contractor websites. Learn more about online marketing at www.imarketsolutions.com.
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