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How important are online reviews to your home services business? Extremely important, Travis Ringe says. Your online reputation depends on them, especially in today’s digital world.
In fact, one survey found that 82% of customers say they read online reviews for local companies.
Ringe, co-owner of ProSkill Services in the North Valley area near Phoenix, knows quite a bit about reviews and building a good business reputation. He started a one-truck plumbing company with his brother 10 years ago.
They’ve since grown it into a $14 million operation that offers full-service air conditioning, electrical, plumbing, water heater and water treatment home services.
What’s the company’s secret formula? There’s more to it than simply asking customers for a review, Ringe says. You have to think about what you’re asking of them.
They have already paid for your services, and now you’re asking for something else—their time and effort to tell others about your company.
“If you want to drive reviews,” Ringe says, “you have to deliver a full experience worthy of writing a review.”
In the past 12 months, 2,300 ProSkill Services customers left 5-star Google reviews for the company. Here’s how the Arizona brothers and their home services team deliver the goods to get the best customer reviews.
Make a good first impression
The first engagement with your company for most clients is with your customer service representatives. The CSRs typically answer the phones and respond to online chat or text messages.
“Are they empathetic, calm, kind and knowledgeable?” Ringe asks. “It’s really nice to talk to someone who knows what they’re talking about.”
How fast is the phone answered? Do callers get placed on hold?
“Customers don’t like to navigate a call tree, they don’t like to go to voicemail,” Ringe says. “I think many people (who encounter obstacles) just hang up.”
If the CSRs at ProSkill can’t pick up the phone within the first 3-5 rings, the company’s automated system transfers the call to an off-site attendant, so a live person answers the phone. The attendant takes a message and lets the customer know a dispatcher will call them right back.
“We have a great booking rate off of that and we don’t lose many jobs, whereas before we had a lot more dropped calls when we sent customers to call trees or put them on hold,” Ringe says.
Make it easy for customers to do business with you
Is it easy and convenient for a customer to book a home services appointment with your company? Can they schedule one through Facebook, Instagram, Google messaging, text, web chats or email?
“We have to give them really every avenue to book their jobs with us, because they're probably sitting at their desk at work and can't always take a phone call,” Ringe says.
It’s also important to make it easy for your customers to communicate on various platforms. For instance, ProSkill uses Podium Webchat software to transfer a customer’s online chat directly to text messaging, so they can keep the conversation going without requiring the customer to stay on the website.
Be careful, Ringe says, not to ask an online customer for a phone number before they’re ready to provide it. If they wanted to talk to you, they would have called first. Always use the form of communication the customer prefers.
Schedule appointments and prepare for busy seasons
Customers don’t want to wait, and they don’t want to hear how busy you are. Ringe says he used to book appointments two or three weeks out, and was losing customers because of it.
“One of my competitors turned the tables on me and said to the customer, ‘Well, if they're out two or three weeks, do they really know how to run a business? Is that the business you want in your home? Did they not know the summer was going to be hot and there was going to be high demand? Why didn't they plan for that?’ You’re providing bad service if you can’t get to a customer quickly enough,” he says.
In today’s Amazon-obsessed culture, customers almost expect same-day service. If it’s an emergency, they want you there within the hour.
“If you can get there within an hour and answer their emergency call, that’s almost a guaranteed 5-star review,” Ringe says.
Shorten your arrival time window
How long are your appointment windows? Don’t follow the cable guy’s lead by making a homeowner wait expectantly (and probably unhappily) for your arrival all day.
ProSkill maintains a smaller service area to keep its arrival time for appointments to within two hours. If the technician can’t arrive within the first hour of that two-hour window, a company rep proactively calls the customer to let them know.
“ServiceTitan automatically sends an appointment reminder, so make sure you're using that,” Ringe says. “I think everybody's had an experience where maybe you've scheduled a dentist or doctor appointment and as soon as you walk out the door, you immediately forget when it is.
“How nice is it to have that confirmation again? It's just one more step that increases the customer's experience. Customers thrive on communication, so we try to communicate the best we can.”
That clear communication, he says, shows customers you value their time.
Turn on tracking technology for your techs
Be proactive in your approach to customer service by letting customers track your technicians in real time, so they know exactly when their plumber or electrician will arrive.
“Customers absolutely love our live tracking with ServiceTitan. It constantly gets mentioned in our reviews,” says Ringe, who compares it to tracking your Uber or Lyft driver while waiting for a ride. “They know exactly where the technician is, en route to them.”
One word of caution? The tracking of your technicians begins as soon as the call is dispatched, so train them to drive straight to the appointment, instead of stopping for lunch or picking up a part. That happened at ProSkill, which prompted the customer to call the office and report the technician was headed the wrong way.
“Now, we tell our technicians to not dispatch until they’re actually en route to the job,” he says.
Image reflects attention to detail, so make sure the tech wears a professional uniform (shirt tucked in and wearing a belt) and arrives in a clean, easily identifiable company truck.
“We want to have the full effect, not just trying to put lipstick on a pig,” he says.
Ringe also advises contractors to set up their techs’ photos properly in the live tracking software, and check to make sure each tech looks professional and clean-cut.
“The new-school way of showing a badge is having a picture proactively sent to the customer that says, ‘This is who you’re expecting to show up at your door,’” Ringe says. “Again, we’re trying to set the expectation of what the quality of this service visit will be.”
Train your techs to go the ‘second mile’
How do your technicians greet and interact with customers? Have you offered training on body language and communication skills?
If a particular technician never gets mentioned in reviews, it’s probably time to sit down with them for coaching or training. Sometimes technicians lack self awareness and might not realize what they thought was good customer service is actually just so-so.
“One of the things I think really drives the most reviews, we always search for a way to do ‘second-mile’ service,” Ringe says. “It's looking for ways to go above and beyond the call. It could be as easy and cliché as bringing up the trash can or the newspaper.”
And as part of ProSkill’s HVAC membership, they even offer customers “ladder service.”
“Most of the homes in our area have 12-foot ceilings and we have a large population of retirees … retirees and 10-foot ladders don't typically mix very well,” he says. “We'll use our ladders to change smoke detector batteries, air filters, light bulbs, anything like that, and that's really gone a long way, driven a lot of really happy customers and reviews.”
After all that, still no review?
If your home services company is doing all of the above but still struggling to get customer reviews, it’s probably time to do something crazy. Like ask.
“If there's any secret sauce (to getting 5-star reviews), it's mastering the ask while in the field,” Ringe says.
For ProSkill, he calls it a form of review gating by the technician.
Ringe says it can be as simple as saying, "’Are you happy with how everything turned out? Does it meet your expectations?’ And really wait for the response,” Ringe says. “Once the customer gives a thumbs-up, the tech follows up by asking the customer for a review.
“It's a proactive approach to making sure our customers are happy and they're not going to leave us a negative review,” he says. “If they’re not happy, it gives us the opportunity to fix it.”
The highest customer response rates typically come from texting the review link to the customer, but ProSkill uses ServiceTitan’s built-in survey tool to customize a personal message and ask customers specifically to leave a Google review.
“Google really rules the roost and I want all my reviews on Google,” Ringe says. “We get between 5 and 15 Google reviews per day, on average.”
Negative reviews, however, are an inevitable part of doing business. Ringe turns off the notifications in ServiceTitan for a job gone wrong, so no surveys are sent to the customer. But, ProSkill doesn’t leave the customer hanging.
“We're going to pick up the phone as a manager or owner, proactively make a happy call to that customer and try to find a way to rectify the situation before it gets online,” he says. “Customers appreciate that, they appreciate knowing you care and you're monitoring that stuff.”
A good-bad customer review vs. a bad-bad review
A good-bad review might be one that raves about the technician and service, but grumbles over the price.
“I don't mind getting a bad review on pricing,” Ringe says, “especially if it mentions they're happy with everything else.
“I will take that review all day long. It's more a reflection on the customer. Any good consumer will see that review, and see the reviewer as the issue.”
That kind of review also tends to take price-sensitive customers who read it out of the equation, limiting the exposure to another bad review based on price.
A bad-bad customer review mentions subpar quality of work, a no-show, tardiness, a rude technician, etc. Reviews like that tend to scare off good consumers.
“Those are the reviews we're really trying to get rid of, and sometimes, those are the hardest ones to get rid of,” he says.
Is getting more 5-star reviews worth the hassle?
In October 2018, 4,251 people found ProSkills on Google through organic search, and the company received 138 calls and 248 visits to its website.
By May 2019, they totaled 2,500 Google reviews, about 350 visits to the website and more than double the amount of calls. “Of course, May in Arizona is going to be more of a demand season, so we expect to see a little higher call volume there,” Ringe says.
Three months later, the upward momentum continued with 400 visits to the website and 488 calls for service.
Even during the off-season in December, ProSkill generated 300 calls and 350 visits to the website, increasing its leads coming from Google customer reviews.
The numbers, Ringe says, speak for themselves.
“The return on investment is $5 per review, and with all of those reviews we have gotten … one month of valuing the calls pays for that,” Ringe says. “It’s certainly worth the effort.”
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