What's your online reputation?
We've all had the occasional job that's gone sideways. The faucet that was supposed to take ten days from the distributor instead takes a month to arrive. The dry rot under the old shower pan that actually spread a great deal farther than anyone estimated. The usually trustworthy employee who suddenly goes M.I.A--delaying the job, therefore whipping your customer into a frenzy.
Bad luck was bad enough before social media came along, now running afoul of circumstances beyond our control can costs us business. An online reputation is a difficult thing to manage, in part because eachs ocial mediaplatform works differently. Keep reading, because we're going to go into each platform and discus IF you should request online reviews, HOW you approach clients for a review, and WHAT to do if you get a bad review.
DISQUS/GUILD QUALITY/ETC: Many contractors subscribe to some sort of post-consumer-purchase eSites. These providers contact your customers and search out reviews. Or, these platforms provide a way for clients--happy or angry--to post their feelings online. If you purchase a Cadet heater at Home Depot or Lowes that you really like--it's pretty simple to post about it. If you do get a negative review in this arena you must respond. Try to solve the problem. The last thing you want to do is go full "ostrich-in-the-sand". Don't think the subject will go away. Don't give other folks a chance to chime in. Add you own response apologizing for the problem and asking for them to contact you so you can make things right. That will impress other readers.
ANGIE'S LIST: Despite it's continual spiraling stock, Angie's List is still a valuable resource for a lot of customers. Is it worth the money to advertise your business on Angie's List? There are too many variables to answer that question, but if you "pay to play" the advice is the same for bad reviews. Don't ignore them. Get online, be polite, and ask to solve the customer's issues. Never make accusations. Always use the tone of reconciliation. Even though you may want to reach through that electronic superhighway and strangle this jerk of a client...play nice online. And if you have a good review use good manners and say "thank you".
YELP: It's just the opposite with Yelp. Even Yelp recommends that you never go shopping for reviews. Someday someone will explain the metric that Yelp uses to post or not post positive and negative reviews and likely that will trigger Armageddon. Folks have strong opinions about Yelp. While I have used it to find restaurants, I would never use Yelp alone to find a contractor. I have no idea if a bad review is real or an angry ex-girlfriend or some half-crazed troll. And you don't want to get in a screaming match with crazies on Yelp. Everyone Looses.
HOUZZ.COM: This social platform is on the move. Honestly it's best for Design/Build/Remodel contractors who have visual "Before and Afters" to post. There are some great home design and improvement posts as well. Houzz.com has minimum standards for photo quality, and they vet every photo. You are advised to request reviews on Houzz, and the platform is so concerned about bogus reviews that the review process is quite technical. But it's worth it. I would always explain to a client the importance of good online reviews. Houzz.com is like have 20 of the latest current design magazines at your fingertips. If you're a plumber in Waukesh County, is Houzz for you? No. But if you're a Remodeling Contractor in Atlanta you'd be silly not to hop on Houzz.com.
GOOGLE: The best way to see if anyone's posted good or bad reviews about your business in to start with Google. And the cheapest, easiest way to start seeding good reviews is to ask your satisfied customers to write a nifty Google review. It's fast, easy, and free. One cool way to solicit reviews is to offer to sign your clients up for a chance to win a $100 VISA card for submitting positive reviews.
YOUR WEBSITE: Don't have a website? Then you're not just missing the boat, but you're missing the entire armada. Considering the vast resources of website building tools and content management companies available nowadays you're kind of running out of excuses. And if you have a website you have your own manageable base to put positive reviews--"love quotes"--if you will. Even local Community Colleges offer online courses instructing you how to get started. And there are contractor-specific companies that can help you manage your online reputation.
Ultimately your online reputation should mirror your personal reputation. If you do good work, communicate well with your customers, and offer them value you will have a good reputation. If you do shoddy work, don't show up on time, or blow off deadlines you're going to have a bad reputation. In this day and age, your reputation travels far and wide. Quickly.