– By John Ryan, NFBA Director of Market Development –
Think of that time you bought your new flat-screen TV or power tool or car. Chances are, you talked to friends and family, did research and even consulted online reviews to learn what other people thought of that same product. Do you think that your customers are doing the same thing when they are looking for a contractor or building product?
According to the Construction Marketing Association, customers are reading online reviews from other customers, and they are increasingly relying on this information to make buying decisions. In fact, 69 percent of respondents in a recent CMA survey do research online before buying, and 64 percent read consumer or user reviews. The majority of these people indicate that they changed purchasing decisions on the basis of online reviews: 80 percent did so because of negative online reviews, and 87 percent did so because of positive reviews.
Your online reputation is more important than ever. In today’s digital world, consumers have the ability to voice their opinions about your products and services in a number of channels. The Better Business Bureau has long been a resource for consumers, providing a database of companies and any complaints against them. But in recent years other user review sites have gained popularity.
Angie’s List, for instance, is a subscription-based community where members and service providers connect. The 20-year-old service boasts 3 million households that actively provide feedback about their experiences with businesses—auto mechanics, contractors, physicians and more. Houzz, an online platform that connects consumers with contractors, claims to reach 40 million active homeowners, 74 percent of whom plan to build, remodel or redecorate within the next two years.
Other online communities abound, including Yelp, which averages more than 85 million unique visitors each month to its mobile app. Google, Yahoo and Bing also aggregate many customer reviews.
Following are some tips for managing your online reputation:
- Ingrain exceptional service in your company’s culture. From the person who answers the phone and the crew members working on projects to the sales and management teams, a culture that emphasizes providing customers courteous, efficient and effective help protects your company’s reputation. This may seem like a no-brainer, but outstanding customer service needs to be a focus for all your staff and in all your processes.
- Ask for feedback from your customers. If you are confident that your customers are thrilled with the products and services your company provides, ask them to provide feedback. You can send an e-mail with links to your company’s online profiles after a project is completed.
- Read the reviews of your company regularly. Bookmark your pages on Angie’s List, Yelp, Google and other sites, and make it part of your routine to see what people are saying about your business. If your company is active in social media, be sure to review comments and feedback frequently. You can also set up alerts using Google or other search engines that will let you know when your company is being mentioned.
- Address negative reviews promptly. Nobody is perfect, and sometimes jobs don’t meet a customer’s expectations. If you receive a negative review, it’s critical that you respond promptly, address the concerns of that customer and propose a solution. This response shows other potential customers that you care about customer satisfaction.
As the old saying goes, it can take months to find a customer, but only seconds to lose one. If your company is delivering high-quality services and a positive customer experience, online reviews can be an excellent way to expand your business.