Negative reviews happen to everyone. It’s simply a fact of life, especially when considering how wired society is these days to air its opinions. So it’s not unusual to discover one morning that a customer has left an online review where they slammed everything you do. From your products to the color of your trucks and the way the sun was shining that day, they hated it all.
If you’d like to skip to what matters most to you, click the title below:
Your first instinct is probably to come back at the reviewer with guns blazing. One hand, that will probably make you feel better but you need to remember that you’re representing your company. In the eyes of prospective customers, your reputation will take a hit, not because of the negative review but thanks to the way you handled it.
How the owners, marketing managers, or other employees at a plumbing or HVAC company handle bad customer reviews can make the company look even worse. Or it can demonstrate the company’s stellar customer service – it’s all up to them!
To help you navigate this delicate situation, we talked with Shannon Wilkinson, founder, and CEO of Reputation Communications. She’s the author of How to Look Better Online and an expert on how your field service business can turn negative reviews into raving fans. Try these tips and negative reviews can become good news for your plumbing or HVAC business.
1. Prepare for negative reviews
Every field service company will get negative online reviews at some point. Competitors and disgruntled employees may leave unverified bad reviews, some customers just like to vent no matter how hard you try to please them…
And sometimes, well, you make a mistake and a customer calls you on it. “Statistics show that frustrated or unhappy customers are far more likely to publish reviews than satisfied customers,” says Wilkinson.
The solution is to set up a feedback system. Ask your customers to leave reviews on the sites that are relevant to your business, with the aim of encouraging your happy customers to put a good word in. Wilkinson notes as an example that restaurants that solicit feedback tend to attract a more balanced collection of reviews
For example, you might send a personal or automated email after every job asking the customer to review your company. Some businesses also offer an incentive for reviews, such as a percentage of the customer’s next service, but be sure to check the review sites first.
This practice goes against some sites’ policies. You can never promise a reward only in exchange for a positive review.
2. Check every review website you’re listed on (including Facebook and Google!)
Make it a habit to regularly check your company’s reviews on Facebook, Google, and review sites like Yelp. Don’t forget that negative feedback can also hide on other social media platforms, personal blogs, and employee review sites like Glassdoor. Check out our article on 3rd party review websites if you’d like to see a comprehensive list.
If you can’t handle all this tracking solo, look for review management software that will alert you to new reviews. Google offers a lot of free help in this area as well. Set up a Google Alerts account so you will know first when someone mentions your business online. Then list your company on Google My Business to easily track and respond to Google reviews.
3. Focus on positive reviews
Don’t worry about scorchingly bad reviews. “People are becoming very good about filtering out those reviews that are either too effusive or too biased” Wilkinson says. “Biased’” reviews are those where the reviewer is overly critical without providing actual details as to why the service they received was bad.
For reviews that are negative but not biased, keep in mind that these reviews are valuable sources of feedback from your customers. They give you the opportunity not only to improve your services if needed but also to impress the complaining customer (and everyone who reads their review) with your response.
4. Ignore the troublemakers and the spammers
Spotted one of those biased reviews of your field service company online? Don’t sink to the reviewer’s level. Long, ranting responses to bad reviews often go viral and lead to even more negative publicity.
Instead of responding in kind, use the situation as an opportunity to do some relationship marketing. Apologize that the reviewer had a bad experience. Then note that the situation isn’t representative of your customers’ overall experience with your company. And move on. That’s all there is to it.
5. Do your best to right a wrong
Now we come to the bad reviews that are actually legit. Maybe that plumbing project wasn’t completed on time or one of your field service technicians was surly to a customer. The HVAC system you repaired really did break a week later. Again, everyone has bad days.
Apologize and do what you can to fix the situation. For example, you might offer a partial refund on the service. Try sending a technician out to fix the problem for free. Invite the customer to call or email you if it’s appropriate. Reach out to them if the situation is dire—but be sure to respond to the review as well so readers see that you’re on the case.
6. Give love when you get love
Plumbing and HVAC businesses that respond only to negative reviews give readers the impression that they care more about bellyachers than their loyal fans. Customers who leave positive reviews deserve a little love, too! Be sure to post your appreciation with a personalized “thank you”.
The key to answering a negative review is empathy. If you read through these insights from a variety of marketing experts, you’ll notice that’s the common denominator for many of their tips. Show your unhappy customer that you understand their position and acknowledge their issue. More often than not, customers are willing to work with you.
After all, they’re after the same results: a pipe fixed or a boiler installed. Start out with an apology, explain what you plan to do in order to fix the issue or make up for the situation. This way, prospective customers will get a chance to see your reaction. Then move the conversation offline. No need to air out ALL the drama! An example that a plumbing company could use would be:
Follow these tips if you ever face a nasty review. If you want to see how a ready-made answer looks like, click below to download our free negative review answer template!
I'm here to bring you next-level strategies to the field service industry. When I'm not working on the best tips to grow your business, I'm on the lookout for sci-fi novels and cookie recipes.