For the majority of green industry companies, a large percentage of there new customers come from referrals. So, in the world of word-of-mouth marketing, what can you do to secure quality referrals and reviews of your business?
During a panel discussion at Jobber’s virtual Professional Development Day, three business owners outlined ways companies can go about growing their client lists through reviews and referrals. The panel included Dan Guest, president of Guest Plumbing and Heating; Terence Chen, president of Impetus Plumbing and Heating; and Kurt Stenberg, owner of Cochrane Tree Care.
WHERE TO GET REVIEWS. All three business owners agree that the best place to collect reviews is Google.
“There are so many platforms now, and some are gaining some traction, but Google by far gives you your best bang for your buck,” Guest said.
Guest said it’s also the best platform for customers, as it’s the easiest for them to navigate.
Stenberg agrees, saying to collect the best reviews you have to think like the customer. This will make sure you’re presenting your best self in front of the people looking for you.
“The most common places for people to find you is online,” he said. “So, think about where are they looking, and what’s easiest for them. Keep up with what people are doing and get the reviews through there.”
And getting those reviews seen on Google is leading to more calls for all three companies.
“Being found first is important, so I would really work on my SEO and stuff and get my name high up on that list,” Stenberg said.
Guest added that the more people who see the reviews the more calls you’ll get.
“There’s been a lot of people calling and mentioning how many reviews we have, and they mention the quality of the reviews,” Guest said.
He added that another hidden benefit of having good, quality reviews is it allows potential customers to learn early on what services you provide.
“When a client takes a minute to go through the reviews they can really understand if we are the best business for their service,” Guest said. “It’s just like reading restaurant reviews. What kind of food do they serve? Is it quick? It shows what kind of business we are offering.”
In terms of how many reviews to go out and collect, Chen said to start with obtaining one, quality review. If that goes well, it should be easy to grow.
“Strive to get that first one, because when you get that you’re able to learn from that experience and how you’re able to replicate that again,” he said. “And then you’re able to start building up your repertoire.”
WHAT TO SAY TO CLIENTS. But in order to get those reviews, you have to ask customers for them.
Stenberg said it can start the minute you visit a customer and give a quote.
“I try to mentally prepare myself to do a little extra for the customer,” he said. “I want them to feel like they got a little bit of extra value, or a little extra work done. Not only is the job done well, but they feel like they got something better. It leads them into wanting to leave a good review.”
Stenberg said being personable and taking the time to talk with customers is another easy way to make them want to review you.
“We also will send an email to follow up on the service and ask them to leave a review,” he said. “But honestly, I don’t feel like that works very well. I don’t get a lot of traction with that because people don’t really read emails.”
Stenberg said asking in person is usually best.
“Be straight up and honest and tell them it makes a good impression for your company and helps you get business,” he said. “People are pretty good about it then.”
Guest said leave-behind cards are another way to ask for that five-star review.
“We’ve actually created a Google Review How-To card that we ask all of our technicians to leave if they think the customer would want to leave a review,” he says. “It gives them the five steps to do it. Not everyone knows how — especially if they’ve never done it before.”
Guest noted the technicians don’t give the cards out to every client.
“If they seemed busy or whatever you don’t want to ask them for more of their time,” he said. “But if you have a good opportunity — take it.
Guest said the technicians also feel more comfortable leaving the cards behind because then they don’t have to explain to the client how to leave the review.
HOW TO ENGAGE EMPLOYEES. The next step is getting employees motivated to secure those reviews.
Guest said incentive programs can be a great way to get everyone on board.
“We asked ‘What’s a review worth to us?’” he said. “So, we started incentivizing our staff members and making it a bit of a challenge each month. We give $5 per guy, they work in teams of two, so $10 per review that leaves their name.”
Guest said the extra money has made his staff seek out more reviews and is just a friendly competition now among the technicians.
“It’s been a lot of fun around the office,” he said.
Chen said he too uses an incentive program to encourage crews to ask for reviews.
“It makes sure they’re putting a lot of care into their work,” he said. “And the customers can feel that too.”
He compensates employees with $30 per review.
“I don’t do a lot of advertising, so what I do instead is have our techs do the advertising for us,” Chen said.
Stenberg said these incentives programs are also great for ensuring quality work is being done.
“The whole reason to get reviews is you want to get some feedback on how the work was,” he said. “So, it’s a bit of accountability that they’re actually doing a great job.”
WHY TO RESPOND. But what happens in terms of receiving a bad review?
Stenberg said he sets expectations with customers ahead of time and tells them to come to him with any and all problems.
“I ask them that if they aren’t completely satisfied, that they please let me know personally,” he said. “That way it can be a more personal interaction, and you’re less likely to get a four-star or less review. That personal connection helps.”
Guest said another important thing to remember is always respond, no matter what the review is.
“It gives you some character and realism,” he said. “We’ve actually turned a couple and reviews into positive reviews because we haven’t shied away from a little conflict. Really, it’s usually about just educating the client.”
Guest added that it’s unrealistic to think that every review will be glowing and five stars.
“You’re going to get some and reviews, but it’s all about how you deal with challenges and problems,” Guest said.
Chen said to use it as a learning experience when negative reviews arise.
“Be professional and take it on as a business matter instead of putting your emotions into it,” he said. “Take it as a way to improve your services. You can always reflect on what happened there and what mistakes were made.”
Chen said to confront it and work with that customer to turn it into a good review.
“Bad reviews are good allow you to turn them around and put out better customer service,” he said. “The biggest tip I could give is to always try and turn those stars around. If you have to refund a cost or something I would do that any day. I think the image of a company is really important.”
Stenberg points out that a lot of bad reviews could even be prevented by being selective with your customers.
“Choose your customers,” he said. “If you don’t feel good about it, then maybe you don’t take that job on.”
WORKING IN REFERRALS. In addition to reviews, direct referrals from loyal customers are another way to grow your client list.
Chen said he doesn’t have a formal referral rewards program, rather he focuses on engaging with his community.
“A lot of my interactions come from social media and connecting with my community,” he said.
Chen added that connecting with local competitors, whether that’s in person or via social media, is another way to get referrals and collaborate.
“Not everyone can take on that much work,” he said.
Guest said by keeping an ear to the ground and asking the right questions, you can figure out where your referrals are coming from.
“Our customer service coordinator takes all of our incoming calls and she’ll ask where the client came from,” he said.