How Landscape Contractors and Equipment Dealers Can Leverage Online Ratings and Reviews

5 simple steps from HomeAdvisor to more effectively engage consumers in online marketplaces.

Thanks to mobile devices, your customers are receiving and sharing information related to their experiences with you and your business instantly, 24/7. They are consulting ratings and reviews to inform their choices and purchasing decisions, and they’re writing reviews that influence the decisions of other people too. Whether you like it or not, this situation is not going away any time soon.

Almost nine out of 10 consumers have looked to reviews in the last 12 months to help them make a decision about a business, concludes BrightLocal’s 2014 consumer review survey. If you aren’t engaging with customers online through local marketplace services, you may be missing key opportunities to win jobs. Fortunately, so long as you’re legitimately offering a great product and running a great business, you can make ratings and reviews work to your advantage—be they good, bad or somewhere in between—by following these five simple steps:

1. Protect your business from bogus reviews. Are your competitors placing false reviews on your site in hopes of turning customers? It’s bad business, but it happens. Promote your business on sites that verify user-generated content for authenticity to avoid illegitimate reviews and encourage the real deal.

2. Respond to your reviewers. Reviews offer a chance for ongoing, meaningful engagement with your customers—the stuff that great reputations are made of. Monitor and respond to your reviews, both positive and negative. If you’ve gotten glowing feedback, say thanks and express your appreciation. If you’ve made a mistake, admit it. If customers are making complaints that you don’t necessarily feel are warranted, acknowledge the grievance and encourage them to contact you directly to discuss the misunderstanding. Being responsive creates trust and demonstrates your commitment to good customer service. Show your customers that you take their feedback seriously, and be smart about how you handle it.

3. Treat reviews as supplemental market research. Take advantage of the qualitative data offered in Internet reviews and ratings. Businesses pay big bucks to conduct focus groups and surveys, and rating and review sites are mines for similar information. Monitor your ratings and reviews to identify patterns and adjust your marketing and business strategies. Do not, however, make critical business decisions based on ratings and reviews alone. Examination of ratings and reviews should supplement a robust evaluation and analysis program that includes proven scientific metrics.

4. Drive traffic to industry-relevant review sites. Focusing your efforts on sites directly related to your industry may yield the better results than posting your business profile across multiple sites that feature more general listings. Positive reviews on industry sites can provide tremendous value, and potential customers visiting industry-specific sites also tend to be past the “thinking about it” phase of the project process and are looking to decide which contractor will provide exactly what they want. Create a profile that customers can easily find and use best practices to get them there. Again, ensure that user ratings and reviews will be verified and then monitor for engagement opportunities.

5. Keep it classy. It goes without saying that every interaction with your customers should be professional and courteous, but what are best practices for getting reviews? The best way to get reviews is to make it as easy as possible for your customers to find your profiles and post to them. Include a link to review sites in email receipts and other end-of-transaction correspondence, call out reviews in occasional social media posts and e-mail promotions, and link a feedback button on your website, for example. Ultimately, letting your customers know that their feedback is important and showing them how to give it is the best way to cultivate a strong online presence—and responding quickly and courteously to all kinds of reviews is the best way to cultivate a great online reputation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Chris Terrill is CEO of HomeAdvisor, a local services home improvement marketplace providing homeowners the tools and resources for home repair, maintenance, and improvement projects. HomeAdvisor has helped over 30 million homeowners connect to company’s network of more than 85,000 professionals for home projects. Access to all of HomeAdvisor’s resources is free for homeowners, with no membership or fees required.