Word of mouth has always been important for local businesses. But today, word of mouth advertising happens over review sites and social networks. It’s not just restaurants and doctors that need to worry about the damage caused by negative reviews, but contractors too. Businesses who try to avoid reviews do so at their own risk.
A 2016 study from BrightLocal revealed that 84% of consumers trusted online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Eighteen percent said they had read reviews for tradesmen – up 7% from 2014. Through research conducted over several years Bright Local believes that consumers have more grown accustomed to reading reviews, and have expanded their search for reviews beyond restaurants (60%), to medical/healthcare (31%), and other types of businesses.
The number of places consumers can find reviews have grown considerably. Included are search engines and social media sites such as Google, Bing, Yahoo and Facebook; general review sites such Yelp and Better Business Bureau and TrustPilot, as well as dedicated home services websites such as Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor and Thumbtack.
What’s the ideal number of reviews? A 2015 Northwestern/PowerReviews Research study found it depends on the length of the reviews themselves. When reviews are shorter, more reviews matter. When reviews are longer,the number of reviews has a less significant impact.
The Northwestern study also found when the star rating surpasses 3, so does likelihood of purchase. Similarly, only 14% of respondents in the BrightLocal study would consider using a business with a one or two-star rating.
Don’t expect reviews to flow in on their own. You need a strategy. You also need to be sure you know the rules when it comes to soliciting reviews. While Google encourages businesses to request reviews, Yelp strictly forbids it. And don’t be surprised if overly positive reviews are excluded by Yelp. It is at their discretion to exclude them.
Start by claiming your business page on sites such as Google+local, Yelp, and other sites where it is free to be listed. Other sites such as Home Advisor and Thumbtack while free to consumers, are lead generation sites for their contractor members. Businesses have no control over getting on Angie’s List and Consumer Checkbook. A contractor would need to be rated by a subscriber before a company is placed on Angie’s List. Consumers Checkbook requires a minimum number of subscribers who rate the business.
Let customers know the importance of reviews to your business. It will increase the chances of a customer providing a review. Make it as easy as possible for the customer to leave a review. Include a card with your final invoice that indicates all the places where customers can leave a review. You can also provide links from a page on your website and direct people there. Timing is key to getting a good quality review. Right after the job is complete, customers will be able to provide the most detailed reviews, as everything will be fresh in their memory.
Monitoring reviews should be a part of your overall strategy. Encourage customers to leave detailed reviews. Potential buyers read the reviews for a number of factors including the scope of the work, accuracy of the quote and if you maintained a clean job site.
Business owners need to think about reviews as an opportunity, not a liability. With reviews for your business online, word of mouth can spread faster, and to more people than ever before. By taking care of your customers and following the review policies for each site, we think the good outweighs the bad.