How to Manage Online Reviews

A landscaping company can take advantage of virtually every customer touch point to politely ask for an online review. In the end, it comes down to quality and professionalism.

Tips to help pump up the positive while neutralizing the negative

It is becoming increasingly important for local service companies to have a proactive strategy for managing online reviews. Plenty of positive reviews can help get the phone to ring. Too many negative ones can scare off potential new customers.

Keep in mind that even the greatest of landscaping companies might get a bad review from time to time. The key is making sure the good ones overshadow it. Don’t assume, however, that your happy clients will rush out and post reviews about you. Your customers likely need some gentle reminding.

A landscaping company can take advantage of virtually every customer touch point to politely ask for a review. For example:

  • Email and text marketing
  • Invoices
  • Email signatures
  • Social media posts
  • Reviews page on the company website
  • Customer surveys

You can also ask for reviews when speaking with customers over the phone or in person, especially when a customer just complimented you. But again, be humble and polite.

First off, reiterate how privileged you are to service the customer’s property. Then you can casually ask if they’d mind hopping online to offer a review sometime. Some contractors even go an extra step by texting or emailing a link to their online business listing. This spares the customer the extra work of searching for your company online.

A successful Walker Mowers dealership has found that tying reviews into a promotion can help drive participation. The good news is that once you get the ball rolling, it can gain momentum quickly.

“We started to see the importance of having positive online reviews a few years ago,” says Kait Joyce, treasurer of Stewart’s Power Equipment in Holbrook, Massachusetts. 

“We had a piece of handheld equipment, I think a chainsaw, that was aging in inventory. We decided to give it away in a drawing. We had signs at our counter telling our customers that if they posted a review of us, they’d be entered into the drawing. We told them that it didn’t have to be a glowing review, either. We just wanted them to go online and share their experience of doing business with us.”

Joyce was confident that the reviews would be good ones, though, because she was confident in the dealership staff. She was right. In just a few months, Stewart’s Power Equipment had a pile of positive reviews, and now they continue to trickle in with no promotion at all.

FOCUS ON THE RIGHT PLACES

There are so many online review platforms these days. Websites like Angie’s List,Home Advisor, Houzz, and Thumbtack are geared specifically toward home service providers. But if you’re looking to make the biggest impact for your effort, it’s a good idea to focus on Google My Business, Facebook, and Yelp, in that order. Yes, Yelp is in the mix. It’s a misconception that Yelp is only important for restaurants. Home services account for a significant percentage of Yelp’s revenues. Thus, Yelp should not be arbitrarily dismissed.

That said, Google My Business is where you should get started. Why? Your Google business listing comes up first when people search for your company online. Joyce has her Google account set up so she receives an email as soon as someone posts a review on Stewart’s Power Equipment.

Tom O’Brien, owner of Oxford Lawn Services in Wildwood, Florida, also places his focus on Google My Business. He, too, gets a notification sent to his phone when a new review is posted. “I’ve found that it’s very important to set it up so you receive notifications—and make sure you have your notifications turned on on your phone so you know when you receive one,” O’Brien says.

Landscape companies should also recognize that some online review platforms are not what they used to be. Like anything in marketing, results should be measured to avoid wasting time and money on platforms that are not helping.

Scott’s Lawn Care in Maple Plain, Minnesota, has around 50 positive reviews on Angie’s List (now referred to as Angi). But most of them were written many years ago. Furthermore, the pace of solid sales leads from Angie’s List has slowed dramatically.

Tom O’Brien of Oxford Lawn Services in Wildwood, Florida, sets up his Google My Business account to send notifications to his phone whenever a new review is posted.

“Up until a couple of years ago, Angie’s List drove a lot of business our way,” says Scott Hartmann, owner of Scott’s Lawn Care. “We track all of our sales leads. In terms of closing ratio, Angie’s List was always a close second to word of mouth. But the volume of leads has really dwindled. So, we’re not putting much time into Angie’s List anymore.”

Nowadays, Hartmann is keeping an eye on some of these emerging neighborhood chat-type forums like Porch and Nextdoor. Social media is also playing a bigger role in lead generation. It’s all about emphasizing the areas that are most effective. When it comes to reviews and landscaping companies, Google My Business, Facebook, and Yelp are solid bets.

RESPONDING TO NEGATIVE REVIEWS

Regardless of which review platforms you focus on, a negative review or two is likely to slip into the mix from time to time. While some might cast wild generalities over non-specific situations, they are not to be dismissed.

“It’s important to monitor and respond to online reviews—both good and bad— in order to connect with your customers and give context to their comments,” says Matthew Olson, president of Signalfire, an award-winning creative marketing agency that caters to small and medium-sized businesses. “You will undoubtedly come across instances where reviewers launch a full-on assault on your business’s integrity. The comments themselves are out of your control, but you can control your response.”

Olson, who spoke about digital marketing at the virtual iLandscape Show in Chicago this past spring, says landscape contractors should avoid reacting defensively. Instead, apply the “customer is always right” mentality and offer an honest apology.

“Bad reviews often result from customers who simply want their opinions to be heard,” Olson points out. “Show customers you care and present an option to mend fences.

”Once you’ve spoken with a bad reviewer and smoothed things over, Olson says you should politely ask them to take their bad review down. “But do not ask until you know the reviewer is happy again,” Olson says. “You have to earn that ask.”

Scott’s Lawn Care has been hit with a negative review or two, and sometimes it is not justified. Hartmann says you should keep an especially close eye on Facebook.

Stewart’s Power Equipment in Holbrook, Massachusetts, had success when tying reviews into a separate promotion. That helped get the ball rolling quickly, and now reviews come in at a steady clip with no promotion at all.

“We’ve had people give us horrible reviews, but they aren’t even our customers,” Hartmann relates. “Scott’s Lawn Care is a fairly common company name around the country. When that happens, we reach out and explain that they have the wrong Scott’s Lawn Care. Most of the time they remove it right away and apologize. We use a marketing company to help us manage these types of things. When a new review or comment is posted about us, they notify us within an hour. Then our internal team can decide on how to go about responding.”

Joyce says that negative reviews are pretty few and far between for Stewart’s Power Equipment. When there is a negative one, she jumps right on it.

“I look up the customer’s account to see what business we’ve done with them,” Joyce relates. “I reiterate that in my response to show we are taking an active interest in their situation. Then I ask the customer what we can do to make things better. One of the few times this happened, we actually ended up turning a 1-star review into a 5-star.”

“You have to respond to every negative review,” O’Brien reiterates. “You also have to learn how to accept them. As hard as it can be sometimes, you should always apologize. Never bash the person. Just own whatever they said, assuring them that you will work harder next time to make things better. This will help soften the blow, so to speak.”

O’Brien says he also takes the time to respond to positive reviews. It’s as simple as just saying thank you. Make it personal, too, by mentioning the customer’s name.

Online reviews are about allowing the customer to play a role in building your online reputation. There is nothing to fear, as long as you have a strategy for pumping up the positive while neutralizing the negative. At the end of the day, everything ties back to the quality of service you provide and the professionalism you display toward customers.

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