Written by Chris Lambrinides
CHAPTER 9 - REVIEWS
Leverage reviews to accelerate your growth. Learn how to control the conversation, how to get more reviews and where to use them.
Like you, I purchase quite a few items online, sight unseen. I buy a lot of audiobooks, apps, and other household items from Amazon and other places. Instinctively, I read the reviews first and check them all out to see what people have to say.
If a product doesn’t have at least a couple of reviews, I have to say, I am a little hesitant to buy. I have come to expect them, and your prospective customers have, as well.
When it comes time to buy, consumers are now less swayed by advertisements. Reviews and peer comments have more influence than ever. People are more likely to make a purchase if they see friends expressing satisfaction.
When making a purchase, a potential customer subconsciously references three things:
- Prior beliefs or knowledge. Customers recall experiences or previous interactions with the company or companies like it. When purchasing a service like ours, customers don’t have much to go on, unless, of course, they have used a similar company in the past.
- Information from marketers, which consists of things learned from advertisements and marketing messages. Hopefully, this came from you, and you have done a proper job of pitching your company to the customers.
- Online reviews. This dimension is a recent development, but its popularity is growing fast. And it’s especially relevant with services like ours: window cleaning, pressure washing, home services. It’s also relevant for infrequent purchases with high ticket prices. People don’t know whom to choose, so they turn to online reviews.
Bake It In
This is so important that it should transcend your marketing calendar. If you make it part of your everyday process, you are way more likely to rack up reviews. If you want more, you have to put planned, regular actions in place. Making it part of your follow-up process is a great place to start.
Think about how you can get more reviews published to your home base and other review sites. First, you should be getting reviews pushed to your site. Later, we will talk about how you can use thank you cards and follow-up cards to collect reviews. In one year, I was able to drive five hundred high-quality, five- star reviews to my site. This was all done by doing a great job and sending out a “Thank You Review Card.”
Always do the best job imaginable. Make sure everything comes out perfect, and go the extra mile. Wow customers in some way.
Make it painless for them to leave reviews. Do you have a system set up to capture reviews and positive comments on every job site? Make it easy for the customer to leave you feedback in all forms, including verbally, on paper, and online.
Start with requests for verbal feedback. Follow up with a written request with a survey card. Then, put the best ones online.
Control the Conversation
Consider it proactive online reputation management. I love almost everything about online reviews. But one element to them doesn’t sit well with me: customers sometimes use them as a weapon when they don’t get their way.
The problem occurs when the customer is unreasonable or when the company’s expectations don’t align with the consumer’s.
I believe this has led to a whole new crop of customers or scam artists. They call around and have services down at their house with no intention of paying. They claim dissatisfaction and threaten a poor online review to get a free service. I know that sounds alarmist, but I’ve experienced it, and they are out there.
The best thing you can do to combat this and minimize the effect is to stack the deck. Have plenty of online reviews to skew the numbers in your favor.
It is crucial for you to control the conversation and have lots of positive reviews lined up. That phony one-star review won’t seem so bad if one hundred five-star reviews are surrounding it. Control the online conversation whenever possible by having these positive reviews in place.
Here are a couple of ways you can request feedback and reviews from your customers and clients:
- On-site conversation: The job is complete. You ask them how everything looks, and they lay a great comment on you. Boom, the door is open. “Can I quote you on that?”
- On the follow-up call: Same technique as on-site conversation.
- Postcard: Your follow-up job-satisfaction card has a survey on it. Have a place for extra comments. I promise you it will help cultivate some gems.
- E-mail: You can use an e-mail follow-up instead of a postcard. I wouldn’t recommend it because you’ll get way fewer responses. But you could do it this way, and it will likely generate some good comments.
- Online form: Same as e-mail but more of a predesigned form. You can make a professional one with Google Forms free of charge. It will list all the responses for you in a spreadsheet. This is a decent solution.
- A service: Review-collection and review-aggregation services are cropping up all over the place. I’ve seen these do a variety of different things, from review solicitation and collection to syndication to various social media platforms.
Make sure your reviews have customers’ names and towns. Without them, the reviews seem fake as all get-out.
Keep them all in one place. A spreadsheet makes sense, especially a shared one with a collection form attached to it. You want to be able to draw on them at any time. Tie a review to the customer by name, e-mail, address, phone number, and whatever other data you have on them. This, of course, is your private database, so keep whatever identifying information you can.
Always get permission to use them.
One quick warning: If you come across a positive review for your company or service on another website, don’t touch it. That review is property of that site, even though the review is about you. That’s kind of weird, but it’s true. If you copy and paste it, you are infringing on the intellectual property of the person who wrote it. Don’t copy it, and make it a point to play with only the ones for which you have full permission to do so.
Broadcasting and Sharing—Your Website
Your prospective customers have come to expect reviews. Have them on your site, or risk people moving on to a competitor’s site that does have them. WordPress has many free widgets that you can use to assist with this. They make it simple to collect and embed reviews and testimonials on your site. Search “Plugins” on wordpress.org for an exhaustive list.
Check out one called “Testimonials Widget.” I have been using it for years. It allows you to publish all your collected reviews on the relevant pages of your website. It rotates them around and categorizes them by different tags or services. It even lets you embed them in any pages, headers, or side columns that you choose. The tagging-and-categorization feature is powerful. It allows you to show the right review on the right page. Plus, you’re the one who is controlling what reviews make it to your website. You can put up only the ones that deliver the message you want to deliver.
Let’s say you have a page on your site about gutter cleaning. It would make sense to show reviews related only to gutter cleaning services on that page. Do this same process with every ser- vice you offer. Pair up the content of any page with the right type of collected review. It’s powerful and, of course, completely free.
Broadcasting and Sharing—Social Media
The next and final step with this process is to create a customer avatar—four of them, actually. It sounds silly, but don’t skip this; it’s It’s great to have plenty of reviews on your website, but take it a step further and pump them into the public domain. Once you have a steady stream of new reviews coming in, start using them to your advantage. These make for great blog content and even better social media fodder. You can send these out on a regular basis to your social media feeds, and, of course, those should link back to your site.
People go to Yelp to complain. Stack the quality reviews here while you can. Restaurants are the primary users of Yelp, but it’s also popular for home-service companies.
I had a fake negative Yelp review that I estimate cost me $50,000 in damage over a year. It was completely fake and in one of our best areas. I attempted everything under the sun to get it removed. I called Yelp, I wrote Yelp, and I piled dozens of great reviews on top of it.
Eventually, I gave in to the extortion and paid the customer to take it down. If this hadn’t been my first review there and I’d had an already-established base of reviews there, it would have had almost no impact on me. But it was my first, and it hurt.
Yelp has recently come under fire for being a pay-to-play model. But if you pay to advertise, you have better control over pushing down negative reviews.
Google My Business
Your Google Business Page is the best place to promote reviews, in my opinion. They show up in search results, and they have the ability to affect where your site shows up in the rankings. If I could pick only one place to strive for more reviews, this is where it would be.
Popular across most of the United States with housewives and homemakers, this is a higher-end review-site platform. I say that because there is a paid membership needed to post and review. The reviews tend to be higher quality and better thought out. You usually won’t find the wild, fly-by-night complaints that you will on the other sites.
Please note they also offer an enhanced-listing paid-advertising option. I have used this with some success. We stopped using it because of a diminishing return on investment.
Yep, Facebook does reviews. If you look at the left-hand side of your page, it’s called “Facebook Reviews.” Anyone with a Facebook account can go there, leave you a review, and grade you on a scale of one to five stars.
I have experimented with a couple of services that help you take control of the review process. One of them was OK, and I still have it set up. I don’t use it much because it’s not great on mobile devices, and I haven’t been totally sold on it. I had used the other for about a year, and then they went out of business. (I’m glad I kept a backup of the reviews.)
I recently came across a new one that I have a great feeling about. I have been using it for the past couple of months, and it does everything I need it to and more.
It’s called NiceJob; you should check it out. This is a cool piece of software. First, it connects to all your social media profiles, including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Then, it connects to all your review pages on various services across the Internet. It links to Google+, Facebook, City Search, Yelp, Yellow Pages, and a few more.
It lets you add reviews while you’re on the job, publish those reviews to your website and social networks, and send beautiful invites to your customers. You can even add photos right from the job, and NiceWork will use those photos to help motivate your customers to leave a review. Check it out for yourself; it might be just the tool you’ve been looking for to help automate the whole process.