October 9, 2017
Businesses that provide a professional service (like lawn care) live and die by their reputation, and for good reason. Customers looking for a great service provider want to maintain something important to them–in this case, their home–so they need a company worth the investment.
Year after year, surveys consistently point to personal recommendations as the most trusted information source when researching a purchase. As such, companies invest heavily in encouraging existing customers to recommend their business to friends (think referral discounts).
A close second to personal recommendations? Online reviews. In an annual survey of more than 1,000 consumers, an SEO company found that 84 percent of respondents said they trust online reviews as much as recommendations from a friend. Even more staggering, 90 percent of respondents said they will likely form an opinion of the company within the first 10 reviews or less.
Why reviews and complaints matter for customers
The first and most obvious reason shoppers place so much stock in customer reviews is that a reviewer is describing their experience with a company as a third party–they’re not a paid spokesperson or salesman trying to earn a commission.
Perhaps even more helpful than a reviewer’s objectivity is their relatability as a customer. A person shopping for a reputable lawn care company can put themselves in the reviewer’s shoes and consider their peers’ experiences to see if a prospective company will meet their needs. Even if a review is negative, a prospective customer can still easily assess whether the company will be right for them based on what the reviewer complains about.
For instance, if a reviewer complains that a lawn care company failed to get rid of pests like skunks when their coverage only includes lawn-damaging insects, a shopper will not only disregard the review, they may add pest control as a reason to hire the company in question.
This “social proof” effect becomes even more powerful when it’s accessed via a reputable reviews site like ConsumerAffairs. Skeptical shoppers may assume that the reviews they see on an official company website have been curated to be exclusively positive. A third party site supports the credibility of both positive and negative reviews.
Why reviews and complaints matter for businesses
Any business needs to have a good grasp on who their customers are and what they care about. While the digital age has significantly improved companies’ abilities to interact with their customer base, data can be difficult to understand or translate into better customer service.
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However, gathering and reading customer reviews for common themes (positive or negative) is a great way to determine your customers’ top priorities. If they care enough about a recent experience with a company to describe it in a review, it meant a lot to them and left a strong impression.
Another valuable aspect of online reviews is the opportunity to respond to reviewers and cultivate a brand message of being receptive and attentive – wherever and whenever possible.
Not all third party review aggregators offer companies the option of posting replies, and it’s important to note that companies who take advantage of this feature need to commit to doing so in a fair and genuine way.
A good example of the right way to use review responses is TruGreen’s use of this feature on their ConsumerAffairs company profile. They pay attention to the most recent reviews that site visitors will see first (remember prospective customers form an opinion based on 10 reviews or less). They post replies that are polite, succinct and most importantly, individual to each reviewer’s feedback.
Showing that you’re listening and paying attention to your customers online (even outside your own website) is a powerful demonstration of your company’s commitment to delivering a great product or experience.
About the Author
Caitlin Schudalla works with the ConsumerAffairs News team.