Top 5 ways to manage customer reviews for local service businesses

Why are customer reviews important

As a business owner you may have heard about the term SEO ("Search Engine Optimization") or SERPs ("Search Egnine Results Page) being increasingly important. There are two ways that reviews are important in the equation of SEO, SERPS and other buzzwords that fancy digital marketers try to confuse and overcharge contractors for. Ulimately, you can think of it the same way as a physical store. There are things that you can do to make your store standout as customers walk past. Whether it is repainting your storefront or adding some extra decorations, reviews can act much the same for your digital storefront.

Reviews help customers first notice your business because they will help increase your SEO ranking making you show up more often than other websites or search results. Additionally, customers are more likely to select and trust your business if you have a large number of online reviews. Google even highlights that reviews help with search rankings and google algorithms in their documentation when the review is left on Google My Business Listings - Source: Google.

In fact there are some studies through a local consumer review survey that suggest 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses and only 48% of customers would consider using a business with fewer than a 4 star rating.

Where should I ask for online reviews for my business

There are many places that you can collect online reviews and you should choose the strategy that best matches where you want to get most of your customers from. You can think of reviews as a form of personal recommendations that are most helpful if the online customer reviews are listed on the places that your customers find you. You want your customer feedback to directly impact the purchase decisions of those looking at your services online and trying to decide with what business to choose. This will help convert potential cusotmers by shwoing them social proof that can't be replicated wiith discounts or other forms of promotion.

Let's start with the most organic option: growing your own online presence:

Google My Business Listing: this is our number one recommendation for collecting online reviews because it will impact your search ranking as well as show up organically when people search for your website. It is especially important to have a website if you have a Google My Business Listing profile as customers will often read reviews and then click to your website to learn more. If you are in need of a website be careful not to overpay for an individual designer or agency, but instead can check out services like ProSite by ProPhone.

Facebook Reviews: reviews on Facebook are great if you have an active social media presence, but will not show up organically when customers search for your website. For this reason, collecting a few reviews on Facebook can help for any customers that come across your page, but then you can concentrate your efforts on your Google listing.

Yelp Reviews: platforms like Yelp allow for free as well as paid profiles. They can be a great source for customers but only if actively managed. It is critical to not let a Yelp page exist with 0 reviews as customers will skip over it, but unless you are using Yelp for paid advertisements do not rely on Yelp alone given that businesses that pay for Yelp advertising will show up first to customers searching.

Personal Website Reviews: testimonials on a personal website are important but often the least trusted by customers because it is hard to determine if they are verified reviews. For this reason it is critical to have at least 2 customer testimonials on your website, but focus effort on driving reviews to other platforms and then duplicate these reviews on your website.

Paid Review Websites (e.g., TrustPilot) and other online review sites: these sites are fantastic for ensuring that your reviews are genuine and trusted by your customers as they do a more thorough check on the review. These platforms are best for larger businesses vs. local businesses given the cost associated. Beyond these review sites you can look into being listed with the Better Business Bureau or bbb to further build your trust online.

Second option: growing your lead generation website presence:

Angi (previously known as angies list), Home Advisor (sorry to mention this name), and Thumbtack are just some of th examples of online marketplaces that you can list your business to pay for leads either through advertising costs or directly for leads. If you choose to pursue this strategy it is critical to get at least 5 reviews on these platforms. The number of positive reviews will help you to increase the win rate of job leads that you get, helping to avoid paying for online leads that don't convert.

Top 5 tips for managing customer reviews online

#1: Select the strategy for collection that best meets your marketing plan! As described above, if you are relying more on growing your business through word of mouth, local search and your own online presence then it is best to stick to Google reviews, Facebook, Yelp and your own website for collecting reviews. If you are pursuing a paid lead marketing plan, then ensure that you are collecting reviews on the lead generation platform you signed up for.

#2: Verbally mention to your customers that you value honest feedback but be sure to follow the guidelines for the review platform that you are using. For Google My Business listing you should not offer any rewards or ask if you customer was satisfied before asking for a review. The full terms for Google My Business listings. At the end of a job it is important to ask if the customer is satisfied and that you look to collect honest feedback so you can grow and continuously improve your business. Train your employees and crews to mention to customers that an honest review would be appreciated and the process for how the customer can leave a review. Example of what to train your employees to say:

  • "I’m glad to hear that you were happy with the service. If you wanted to leave that in a Google review, it would mean a lot for our business and help others learn more about our services.”
  • “Thanks for the feedback you shared. It would be really appreciated if you shared that feedback online for other customers to see. To do so, you can go to our Google Business Listing (or Facebook page, etc.)”
  • “I’m really happy we could help you. If you'd be willing to share some feedback online, we have a Google Business Listing for reviews. That would help us a ton.”

#3: Email or text clients that you have worked with in the past before you had online reviews set up. A kind email or text to an old client can help to remind the client not only for a review but also show them that you take your business seriously and value them as a top customer. Often times when customers are asked to leave a review it is a sign of loyalty and trust rather than anything negative or time consuming. Note, it is important that you do not spam your customers for online business reviews but rather personalize this outreach. You can use tools that make reputation management easier than manually keeping up with past clients such as uppswell.com

#4: Make it easy for your customer to leave local business reviews for your company! Don't expect that your customer knows where to leave an online review. When mentioning that you value honest feedback tell your customer how they can leave a review. For Google My Business Listings your customer will need to search for your business, pull up your Google Business Profile, scroll down to the reviews portion and click on the button to leave a review. You can also share the link for your Google Business Listing with customers directly. See an example for this below:

#5 Respond sincerely to all reviews! Even if a customer leaves a negative review online you can salvage it by posting a sincere response to the customer but it is best to turn the conversation offline. An example response can be "Thank you for your feedback, [Insert Customer Name]. This is the business owner, [Insert Business Owner Name], and I am very sorry to hear this. We strive to ensure all of our customers are happy with our services. I will follow up with you directly to help make this right and ensure that we are doing all we can to help you." The hardest part about this is even if it isn't your fault you should write a personal apology and help to remedy the situation. This will prove to other customers that you have strong customer service and an incentive for potential customers to give you a shot even with negative reviews online. For reviews that are innacurate (e.g., left by someone that is not your customer) contact the support team for the platform and report the review. For positive reviews it is also important to respond. You can post a simple thank you or more detailed and personal message but it will help build even more loyalty with an already happy customer.