Attention Consumer Service Providers: Have you checked your digital reputation lately?
We’ve serviced, met and spoken with hundreds of owners, presidents and CEOs of regional service firms, from plumbing and heating, to HVAC, architecture, landscaping, remodeling, electrical, you name it. And we’ll regularly ask the question: “What differentiates you from the competition?” The fast and immediate response, more often than not, is one word: “Reputation.”
When it comes to regional service providers in any business category, reputation is huge. A good reputation leads to a growing population of customers that are ready, willing, and happy to refer your business, offer a positive testimonial, or act as a reference source. In the pre-internet age, this was commonly referred to as “word-of-mouth.” But the game has changed. Dramatically. Customers will still verbally tell you and others about their experience of working with your firm. But they will just as readily communicate their experience online in regional search portals, online review sites, and through social media channels. Positive reviews are great and will go a long way to help you increase the value of your online reputation. Negative reviews, if left unchecked, can have a significant, damaging effect.
That’s why it’s so important to regularly check your online reputation. On at least a monthly basis, you, or someone in your organization, should do a search for your company’s name with the words “complaint,” “review,” “ripoff” or “scam.” This is a good way to determine what people are saying about your firm, and an opportunity for you to take action, if necessary.
What to do if you see a negative review:
If you happen to see a negative review, keep your emotions in check, and don’t panic. If after some investigation, it turns out that your firm is, in fact, in the wrong, follow what we call the P.L.A.T.E.technique for properly responding:
- Promptly address the issue, even if only to say, “We are looking into the matter right now, and will address it promptly.”
- Listen, and really try to understand the situation from the customer’s perspective. Don’t get mad; view the criticism as an opportunity to improve.
- Apologize. If your company was legitimately in the wrong, tell them you are sorry. We’re all human, and therefore capable of making mistakes.
- Thank the person for their feedback. We all like to be acknowledged.
- Explain what you will do to rectify their situation, and ensure that such problems don’t happen again in the future.
If the complaint turns out to be frivolous, issue a response by stating the facts in clear, unemotional terms. Explain that your company did everything humanly possible to appease the disgruntled customer. Turn the situation into an opportunity to explain your policy for maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction and service excellence. Today, viewers realize that every company occasionally stumbles. But how you get back up, and what you say and do in the face of criticism – whether justified or frivolous – is what they will take away in the end.