All Industries, Marketing

How to Get More 5-Star Reviews, and Respond to Negative Ones

Diana Lamirand
December 8th, 2020
10 Min Read

Maintaining a stellar online reputation for today’s modern service provider takes time, energy, and oversight to actively seek online reviews, respond to both positive reviews and negative reviews, and play the ratings game on multiple review sites to win more customers.

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With 97 percent of consumers conducting online research about a local business before hiring, even a 1-star rating difference between you and a local competitor can result in either winning new customers or losing business.

“Review management is a huge part of our marketing here, because it’s more than just a pat on the back from your customers,” says Brittany Brewer, Marketing and Customer Service Manager at Bradbury Brothers Cooling, Plumbing & Electrical in Magnolia, Texas. 

“It’s giving potential customers feedback from the people who they associate themselves with when they’re looking for a company to use,” she adds. “It’s super, super important.”

The key to good review management starts with a diligent follow-up process to ask for customer reviews, followed by crafting a thoughtful response to good reviews and bad reviews, and then acting quickly to resolve neutral or negative reviews and turn them into positive ones.

That’s how Brewer manages customer reviews at Bradbury Brothers, which maintains a 4.8 star rating overall on Google with 1,459 reviews, and a 4.8 star rating on Facebook based on 202 reviews.

In a recent webinar, Brewer joined ServiceTitan Marketing Pro Specialists Sarah Ghirardo and Heather Donaldson to discuss best online review management strategies, including:

  • How to request and track 5-star reviews across multiple platforms

  • Best practices for responding to all types of reviews, and resolving negative ones

  • How Marketing Pro Reputation makes asking for and managing customer reviews easy and streamlined.

Let’s explore the key takeaways.

How to ask for customer reviews

Bradbury Brothers follows a simple, three-step process to ask for customer reviews.

  1. Technicians ask the customer to leave a review upon job completion.

  2. ServiceTitan’s Reputation Management software automatically sends a text to customers asking for a review, once the tech clicks “complete” on their mobile tablet.

  3. CSRs conduct “happy checks” in follow-up calls to customers, then ask happy customers to leave an online review.

To reinforce the company’s mission and values, Bradbury techs gauge the customer experience on the job site by asking, “Were you 100% satisfied with your visit from me today?” 

If the customer says no, the techs know there’s more work to be done. If they say yes, the techs ask if they would mind leaving a review to garner better customer feedback. 

Pro Tips: 

Train your techs to get more reviews by telling customers, “I do get a small bonus if you put my name in the review, so it’s like leaving me a tip at no cost.”

Leave a small postcard with customers to explain step-by-step how to leave a Google review or Facebook review for awesome service, since many older customers don’t know how.

Brewer's digital marketing approach clearly works—with nearly 1,500 5-star reviews on Google, many of which she often shares with the whole Bradbury team as an incentivizing measure to spur healthy competition.

"If we get a really good review that shows we’re really doing something right, I’m going to send it to everybody," Brewer says. "It’s a positive part of our culture. We love getting this customer feedback."

Business owners who direct their techs to ask for customer reviews often achieve greater success, says ServiceTitan Strategic Project Manager Heather Donaldson.

"Your homeowner already has a relationship with that technician," she explains. "They're going to want to help them out."

Make getting customer feedback a priority, says ServiceTitan Senior Manager of Marketing Operations Sarah Ghirardo, by ingraining the importance of online reviews into your company's culture—from recruiting and training to job performance and customer communications.

"It's a continued conversation throughout every single element," Ghirardo says.

Bradbury Brothers also gives techs a bonus for every online review they receive, offering $10 for each positive Google review or Facebook mention. 

It's common in the trades to give recognition for reviews, either in the form of a SPIFF or point system, Ghirardo says. 

Pro Tip: Build a bonus-pay system into your KPIs, and award techs a monthly SPIFF based on total reviews with positive feedback—rather than trying to manage an unwieldy and complicated point system as your company grows.

"If we get a really good review that shows we’re really doing something right, I’m going to send it to everybody. It’s a positive part of our culture. We love getting this customer feedback."

Brittany Brewer

Marketing & CSR Manager

How automation simplifies the customer-review follow up

Ghirardo, a former director of digital marketing for a large HVAC company in California, says she found relying on techs to ask for customer reviews unreliable as the company grew, because some techs would ask a lot and others only ask sometimes.

That's where automating the process through ServiceTitan came in handy.

"It was just an automatic review notification to the client, and it really pushed our reviews up," says Ghirardo, explaining how the techs still prepped the customers verbally to let them know a review request was coming. 

Combining a verbal request with automation takes the pressure off your techs to remember to ask for customer reviews, Donaldson adds. "It's just automatically going to happen."

At Bradbury, the CSRs set the expectation for online reviews at the beginning when booking a customer's job, and the techs ask for reviews once they complete a job. 

Then, customers receive automatic follow-up text surveys through ServiceTitan's Marketing Pro Reputation with simple inquiries about the technician's professionalism and overall service experience, and a review request.

Pro Tip: Automate the entire process with Marketing Pro, so customers know what to expect. A job booking triggers an email send, including details about the process, technician arrival time, phone number, and contact information.

The #1 newsletter for the trades.

"Automate to cover your bases, educate homeowners on your process, and keep things streamlined," Donaldson recommends.

Ghirardo also suggests including the direct links to customer reviews on social media in your emails to customers.

"It's another reminder," Ghirardo says. "You have to tell people what to do. They're not just going to innately know. Use Marketing Pro before the call, after the call, it's not a bad thing. It's just building your brand."

Brewer keeps track of customer reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, and other review sites using ServiceTitan's Reputation management features to consolidate them in one place, which requires only one log-in to her Marketing Pro account.

She also uses the software to set up alerts for negative reviews, "So, if one comes in, I can attack it right then and there," Brewer says. For positive reviews, "I just answer those every morning. It's a really good way to start your day."

Responding to a negative review: A real-case example 

Brewer recounted receiving a really negative 1-star review from a customer with the subject line, "Do Not Trust This Company." The complaint alleged a Bradbury plumber forgot to tighten things up after servicing a garbage disposal, resulting in a large leak, and also blamed a malfunctioning furnace on the company's HVAC-install team.

“This review made us sick to our stomachs, but there’s a happy ending to it,” Brewer says.

She sent the bad review to the company's service and install managers, who met with the customer, reached a resolution, and then asked the customer if she would be willing to change her review once she was 100-percent satisfied. The tactic worked, and the customer revised it to a 4-star rating.

"It's not perfect, but it's definitely better than the other one, which made us all lose sleep," Brewer says.

As a preemptive measure, Brewer immediately responds to negative reviews with an automated temporary response to let the customer know the company received it and is working to rectify it. 

"The negative review goes to the manager of the department. Then, I become like their nagging mother until it's fixed, because I don't want that temporary fix to stay up," Brewer says. "I want a better response to it, or I want them to convince the customer to change the review."

Negative reviews typically fall into three buckets:

  1. People with common objections to service fees or job cost.

  2. Truly dissatisfied customers with work that needs to be resolved.

  3. Customers who are not completely truthful and exaggerate issues.

Brewer explained her process for responding to dissatisfied customers, and she uses Marketing Pro templates to automate responses to customers with common objections. But, how does she handle customers who blatantly lie?

Always start with a “Thank you for your feedback,” Brewer says, and you can try explaining your thought process, but don't just say you're sorry for something that didn't happen. 

"Don’t be afraid to defend yourself," Brewer advises. "There’s a polite and classy way to do it, but you have to remember the most important audience here are your prospective customers. 

"You can politely and respectfully say, 'That’s not really what happened, but thank you for your time.' It’s case by case," she adds.

Everyone experiences things differently, Ghirardo says, so marketers need to remember that before responding to negative reviews.

"It’s not about reacting to the review. It’s about having a thoughtful approach and listening with the intent to understand," Ghirardo says.

Pro Tip: Respond immediately to bad reviews by getting customers on the phone—and offline—as soon as possible. Future customers depend on it.

Offering solutions offline keeps the conversation private and competitors from entering the fray. 

"That usually deters the haters that are out there," Ghirardo says.

Donaldson agrees. "Things don’t come across the same through text," she says. "I feel once people are talking to you verbally, they calm down immensely, than when they’re typing."

Top 3 actions to take when replying to customer reviews

For negative reviews:

  1. Act fast. 

  2. Speak truthfully.

  3. Remember your true audience.

 Automating with ServiceTitan allows Brewer to act fast and send a temporary response when she gets an email notification about a negative review. 

"The longer you wait, the more angry they’re going to get. And the less likely they’re going to trust you or pick up the phone if you try to call," she says.

It's OK to admit when your company messes up, Brewer says, as long as you explain the actions you're taking to make things right.

When responding to bad reviews, remember those future customers conducting online research about your company as you craft your reply.

For positive reviews:

  1. Remember your true audience.

  2. Show gratitude.

  3. Reiterate the good things.

Today's online reviews function much like word-of-mouth advertising, so keep future customers looking for personal recommendations in mind as you craft a response.

Brewer shows gratitude by creating a "Thank-you sandwich" response. She first thanks customers for reviewing the company, then includes details about the tech, service, or installation, and ends it by thanking the customer for choosing Bradbury Brothers.

Reiterate the good things your customer said about your company to show you're listening, as well as reinforce your company's mission and values.

Best practices for soliciting reviews

Fake reviews, or reviews companies pay for, are an absolute no-no on most review platforms, so never offer customers a gift or payment for reviewing your services. Instead, offer to enter the customer in a raffle contest to win a prize in exchange for a review.

Some companies offer raffle prizes only for good reviews, but Donaldson cautions against this practice because it can be considered a form of review filtering or review gating.

Pro Tip: What is Review Gating? It's blocking customers from leaving a negative review, or trying to intercept a negative review before it hits public review sites.

Donaldson advises clients against review gating or filtering too heavily, because it tends to decrease the total number of customer reviews a company receives, with little to no impact on reducing negative reviews.

"If you’re a really mad customer, nobody is going to stop you from leaving a review," she says.

To optimize best search engine (SEO) results, service companies must provide customers a way to leave a review in today's ecommerce world, Ghirardo says. 

"Larger companies like review gating because it’s easier to manage, but clients still get to them," Ghirardo says. "There’s no point in doing it. It’s your turn to build your brand, so figure out how you’re going to do it."

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