Online reviews are one of the most important and difficult challenges that a service business has to contend with. There are actually only a few industries like restaurants and hotels that reliably get online reviews (whether they want them or not) while most other industries struggle to impress on their customers that online reviews are highly valuable even if you don’t have a Yelp! listing or serve lattes. That said, field service and construction are some of the most difficult to get reviews for because your service isn’t finite and usually has very little to do with sitting at a computer except for all the paperwork that happens back at the office.
All that said, online reviews are still incredibly important. They not only influence potential customers doing research on you and your competition before settling on a local service, they can also serve to boost your Google page ranking when users search for your company or keywords. The good news is that you don’t have to simply wait and hope that a few satisfied and considerate customers will remember to write you a review or two. You can ask for them. In fact, you can even get a little persistent as long as your methods are helpful, convenient, and easy to come back to later if the customer is busy.
You Get What You Ask For
Every now and then, a customer might think to write you a review on their own, but in field service these customers are exceptions, not the rule. The only industries that get reviews on a regular basis are those who work the reviewing process into the regular customer experience. For field service, reviews are far more likely to come from extreme cases or the occasional unusually communicative customer. And, unfortunately, bad experiences have a higher chance of making it to reviews than good ones.
Customers who are so pleased with your work that they want to share with the world and customers who have decided for some reason that they hate your guts are your two primary sources of impromptu reviews. Everyone who is satisfied but not overwhelmingly so will usually forget simply because good service is what they expected and therefore doesn’t inspire the need to share their experience with others. Unless, of course, you ask them to.
Don’t be shy about asking for reviews, and even explaining why it’s important. Just understand that there will be a few hurdles. Not everyone likes to review and you’re more likely to get those reviews you ask for if you also make it easy for your customers to review. In other words: first ask, then make it easy for customers to comply.
The Hurdles Between You and Online Reviews
The first thing to understand getting online reviews is what kind of hurdles can get in the way. When and how you ask for the review matters a great deal to how well your customer can respond. Writing a review requires both access and time.
First, a customer needs a mobile device or computer in order to leave an online review. This may seem like a no-brainer but for field services, there are many situations where your customer may not have a device on-hand. They might not even have internet access. When two people are standing outside a freshly completed home or shaking hands after a successful repair job, neither of you are at a computer or much in the mood to tap a paragraph into a smartphone. Remember that most restaurant reviews happen while customers are sitting at the table happily digesting, but this sedate phase doesn’t happen with fields services or construction.
This means you’re very unlikely to get a good review during the actual field service appointment. Not all your customers will be comfortable or even familiar with the online review procedure. They may have never rated and reviewed anything in their life so you can’t assume the presence of a smartphone means it will be easy to get a quick online review. There has to be a better way.
The Follow-Up Email
Follow-up emails are the field service industry’s best friend for superb customer service and help to build a long-term relationship with repeat customers rather than letting each service stand alone as a single transaction. They can be used to show that you care about the quality of your service, establish a post-service connection, and encourage customers to take a few actions after a service is complete. There are dozens of ways you can format and things you can do with a follow-up email depending on your service, style, formatting capabilities, and personal touch. However, for getting online reviews, this is the one tried and true method that works more frequently than any other.
This method is two-pronged to appeal to two different customer psychologies in one compact message. First, open a section of your followup email with something like…
“We value your feedback! If you were satisfied with our service, please leave a review on Google so future customers can learn from your experiences.”
Beneath this message, place a prominent image of five empty stars. The message will appeal to ‘readers’ who like to analyze each message and make a careful decision and the stars will appeal to ‘responders’ who like to quickly click through their online interactions and are conditioned to click on rating stars. Now link “leave a review on Google” and the entire stars image to your Google business review writing page.
Getting Survey Answers and Testimonials
The great thing about a follow up email is that you can potentially collect the whole slew of review types including testimonials to feature on your website and survey answers that will help you optimize your services for future customers. After your prominent request for stars, go on to tell your customers about how you’re always trying to improve your service and invite them to give you a little point-by-point feedback with a quick online survey, then give them the link. Then, in the survey, include a few open-ended questions that can serve as testimonials with, of course, a small informative message letting customers know that some of their answers may be publically shared.
The In-Office Review
While the follow up email is the most reliable way to get a review, in some situations there may be a perfect moment during post-service communication for you to gather the review some other way. If, for instance, clients tend to come visit you in your office after a service, as sometimes happens with construction or other in-depth services, you can ask customers to write a review while sitting at one of your service desks. This is a great way to both get a new online review and give the customer something to do while you take care of paperwork, check on their final payment processing, or some other small task they might have to wait on.
As for technique, try to avoid turning your screen and handing over the mouse and keyboard, as this is surprisingly uncomfortable for most customers. Even if you know you’re fine with sharing, using someone’s personal computer often feels line encroaching on their territory and personal space. Instead, keep an 8″ or larger tablet on hand with a fresh review page loaded up for exactly these occasions. This allows the customer to sit back and relax in their chair and tap out a review comfortably, while your superb service is still fresh in their minds. This method can also be used to collect quick survey answers and testimonials if used correctly.
That said, for reviews specifically (rather than surveys), you may also want to consider the value of walking away for a few minutes while the customer logs in and writes their review. A review is very personal and if they have a number of pros and cons to mention, a some people are avid reviewers, they may not be comfortable writing these in front of you. Along those lines, be prepared for a customer to politley decline or say that they’d prefer to review at home instead.
The Offline Guide
The final method is a great backup because it doesn’t assume that you’ll see a particular customer again or even that they own a computer or mobile device. It’s also the only way to conveniently request a review while standing together on a job site. To increase your chance of after-service reviews when your customer gets home or back to their office, print clear and simple instructions on how to leave an online review on a flyer or, better yet, a tidy little card that can be easily slipped into their wallet next to your personal or company business card.
Getting online reviews is a challenge for field service and construction businesses, but it’s not impossible. The easier and more convenient you make it, the more reviews you will get. For more helpful information about how to enhance your business digital marketing techniques, contact us today!