Whether you’re in pest control, lawn, or HVAC, when you run a home services business, the way people talk about your company matters. You build your success on your company’s standing in the community — the quality of the work that you do, the integrity of your people, and your relationships with customers.
Your neighbors are as much your marketers as any other advertising tool. A business’ reputation matters in any industry, but when you make your living in people’s homes and neighborhoods, it’s imperative. Here’s what you need to know about how reputation works in today’s on-demand economy and how you can use word-of-mouth marketing to your advantage.
Risks to a Good Reputation
Reputation is fragile. It’s based on how the public perceives your company and in today’s world with Google and Yelp reviews and social media, public opinion is a notoriously fickle thing. The unexpected can happen to even the most conscientious of companies and put their reputation on the line. Common examples include:
Painful, frustrating stories stick, and according to a 2019 survey, 82% of consumers read reviews for online businesses. That includes more than half of 18- to 54-year-olds who “always” read reviews. If an unhappy customer or even an internet “troll” says something negative about you, those potential customers may take it at face value.
Some people turn to social media, not to your company, when they feel like they’ve had a bad experience. That goes for dissatisfied customers and disgruntled employees alike. Before you know it, their negative words can be out there for all to see.
You might hire carefully, but you can’t always be there to monitor your people. If an employee has a disagreement with a customer or engages in unethical conduct off-hours, their actions could reflect badly on your company.
Mistakes happen, but if something goes wrong with the services you provide and it isn’t addressed, that information can spread around the community.
You can’t always control what’s said about your company, but you can take measures to prevent it from damaging your reputation. By being respectful and responsive to comments about your business, both online and in-person, you can maintain a good relationship with your community.
How to Improve Your Reputation (and Keep It Great)
Reputation management needs to be both proactive and reactive. Be ready to handle incidents if they happen, but focus on building a positive presence in your community. Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Maintain a Solid Online Presence
Before you do anything else, Google your company. Focus on the first page of the search results. 75% of searchers won’t go any further to find what they’re looking for.
Your goal is to fill that first page with positive, current results. Start here:
- Have a website and keep it current with company news and information
- Claim your listing on Google My Business and keep it updated
- Using a tool like Moz.com, find the listings of your business address online, and make sure they’re accurate
- Make sure you have an active and up-to-date Facebook page
2. Address Negative Reviews Quickly
Don’t be afraid of negative reviews. In fact, too many positive reviews are suspicious. No company is perfect, and customers know it. Negative reviews show that you’re comfortable with customer honesty and your business reputation won’t necessarily suffer for it.
What’s more important is how you respond to those negative reviews. Research shows that engaging with negative reviews can keep a customer on a site five times as long. These customers even buy at an 85% higher rate.
Follow these steps to smooth things over with dissatisfied customers, while also showing future searchers that you care about the customer experience:
- Acknowledge the issue and apologize when appropriate
- Reiterate your commitment to service
- Tell the customer that you intend to make things right
- Take the issue offline. Contact the customer through a private channel and find a way to resolve the issue
- Check in and make sure the customer is happy with the resolution
- Ask the customer to update or remove the negative review
Always stay humble and focus on the customer’s satisfaction. Their experience with the resolution process will determine what they say about you going forward.
3. Encourage Happy Customers to Review and Refer
Of course, positive reviews are important too. Consider these statistics:
- Customers need to read about 10 online reviews before they trust a business
- Moving from a three-star to five-star rating can get you 25% more clicks on Google Local Pack
- Every one-star increase in a company’s Yelp rating generates a 5% to 9% increase in revenue
Customers who are happy with your services won’t always think to rate you on their own so don’t be shy about bringing it up. Add a review request on your customer receipts. Create a follow-up email that includes a link to a review page on your website.
You can also use these opportunities to ask for referrals. Remind people that they can tell others about your services. If possible, add an incentive like a discount on future services, a rebate, or even a coupon for the services of a partner business in your area.
4. Require Customer Service Training
Your reputation in the community depends a lot on customers’ experience with your staff. Make sure that every one customer-facing employees has gone through a training program. These training programs should touch on the most important customer service skills including:
- Knowing the company’s products and services thoroughly
- Using positive language with customers
- Adapting to customers’ needs and preferences
- Staying calm and focused on a solution, no matter what
Think about the reputation you want to have for customer service. What else do you want your team to know?
5. Get Involved in Your Community
People notice when you show up. When you’re involved with your neighbors as a community business, it increases people’s trust. Look for ways to participate. For example:
- Sponsor a local event
- Contribute goods or services to a charity
- Attend a city or town meeting
- Host a school field trip (virtual or in-person)
What else could you contribute to your neighborhood? How can you strengthen ties?
Whether you’re doing pest control marketing or any other kind of home service publicity, reputation management is all about building trust. It’s an ongoing process of committing to customer satisfaction, welcoming and responding to feedback, and constantly improving your service.
Does it take effort? Yes. Are the relationships you build in the community worth the trouble? Absolutely.