By Garrett Smith
Customers are increasingly searching online to find their snow and ice management service provider. A snow business that isn’t taking control of how they appear online will find that source for leads wither and die.
From Angie’s List to Google+, more than 20 major ratings and reviews sites shine a spotlight on what others are saying about your company. And new ones pop up every day.
A 2013 survey by BrightLocal showed a whopping 79% of consumers place equal weight on both online reviews and personal recommendations, something many savvy snow marketers have sensed for years.
When it comes to the effects of mismanaging your company’s reputation, it can be like hitting a patch of black ice out on the open road; you never see the worst coming, but when it happens, it’s out of your control. Or worse, it’s road rage. Years of stellar service to your community can be ruined by one lousy, no good, trash-talkin’...(former) customer who stiffed you.
It’s not just about protecting your good name, either. Improving your rating and review scores online can dramatically increase your revenues.
For example, a one-star increase in Yelp rating leads to a 5% to 9% increase in revenue, according to a Harvard Business School study.
So how does a five-star snow removal company manage and monitor its reputation online? Implement a reputation management and monitoring strategy.
Here's a quick checklist of five things you can do to get yourself to five stars, if you’re not yet there:
- Consistently solicit reviews. After every invoice, personally ask the customer to leave a review on your website or profile. If you’re more advanced, use a review solicitation service to automatically email the request. The more often customers leave reviews, the less likely one poor one will hurt you.
- Give directions and examples. Even happy customers often don't leave reviews, and it's not always easy for those who want to do it. Give customers detailed instructions and example reviews to help guide them. This dramatically increases the likelihood they’ll leave a review.
- Monitor major profiles. Whether you check them weekly or monthly, manually or with the help of software, you need to set aside time to learn what's being said about your company. You can usually do this in less than an hour per month or week, depending on your service volumes.
- Have a plan for negative reviews. It's bound to happen, so have a plan — and be quick with a response to any online complaints you receive. Always look to acknowledge that the company cares and will look into the matter. Never duke it out in public with a customer. You both leave with black eyes.
- Don't forget to promote positive. Every time a customer leaves a positive review it is an opportunity for you to promote your good works through other channels, such as your own website, newsletters and social media.
Garrett Smith is founder of Pitch + Pivot, a sales and marketing agency. Last year he founded WNY Snow Removal, where he's responsible for the company's sales, marketing and business development efforts.