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The Importance of Customer Reviews
by Sheehan Thomson, Blipp Reviews
In 2004, two former PayPal employees started a business referral list that allowed their friends to directly swap business reviews. From this list, Yelp was born.
The concept of leaving a review online was slow-going at first. Businesses had a hard time getting customers to leave a review. Some even offered discounts or money but that practice was frowned upon and quickly put to an end by review sites like Yelp, that found a way to track how customers were leaving reviews and then hid those reviews they deemed to be biased. Because of the unethical way some businesses were obtaining reviews, consumers became suspicious. When someone can pay for more reviews, it doesn’t exactly instill confidence and trust in the process.
This was solved by making users have a login tied to their email address and their name so that there is a verification process. Earlier this year, Google removed all reviews in their system that had “Google User” as their name and that were not verified. Today, confidence in online reviews has been restored. As of this writing, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. This is a huge opportunity for businesses to attract potential customers and earn their business.
In 2012, Google’s review system finally took off. They had Google Local in 2004 but it didn’t launch as successfully as Yelp. They added Google Maps, then Google Places, Google+ Business, Google+ Local and today, Google My Business.
It took years to get it right but when you combine online search with maps and reviews, you have a powerful system. Potential customers can type in a location followed by what they want and businesses show up with reviews. They can then choose which business they want to contact and with whom to do business.
Today, there are dozens of review sites. Customers write hundreds of thousands of reviews each month and potential customers rely on these reviews to make informed decisions when choosing a product or service when they do a search online.
How Online Reviews Help
1. More and more people are going online to decide who to do business with: a whopping 97% of consumers used the Internet to find a local business in 2017. If you don’t have online review site listings or your reviews don’t impress your potential customers, you will NOT be getting their business.
2. People are searching online for more than just product and restaurant reviews: with the addition of industry-specific review sites (Houzz, Porch, HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, etc. for home services), people are going online to find a dentist, home inspector, car dealer, baker, carpet cleaner, plumber and much more. This is where the world is going. If you can’t be found online, then you’ll be left behind.
3. Home inspectors in your market are catching on and building up their reviews: do a Google search for home inspectors in your area. Who has the most reviews? How many do they have? If you have three and they have 179, you are losing business. Start building up your reviews TODAY. Create a plan on how you will ask, when you will ask and how the customer can easily find you online and leave a review.
Today, Google and Facebook dominate the growth of online reviews. Over the years, Yelp has received a lot of backlash for hiding legitimate reviews, so their popularity has diminished in a lot of cities but they are still in the top three for review sites. You will have to determine if Yelp is used in your city enough to justify your focus. Niche review sites like Zillow for real estate agents, TripAdvisor for travel, Angie’s List for home services, and dozens more allow for more targeted searches for potential customers. To use online reviews effectively for your business, it’s a good idea to direct reviews to the sites where potential customers may be looking for a home inspector.
Eventually, companies and software were created to assist business owners in getting reviews.|
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Five Ways to Increase Your Online Reviews
1. Ask for feedback at the right time: 68% of consumers left a business an online review when asked. When they are not asked, it is less than 3%. The best time to ask is when the consumer is most impressed with your product or service. Ask too early and they will be confused. Ask too late and the feeling of being treated well will have worn off.
2. Get the wording right. This does not work so well: “If you are satisfied, leave me an online review!” Better: “I’d really appreciate if you left me a review on my Google My Business page!” Best: “You will receive a text and email shortly that will ask for feedback about your experience with us today. I’d really appreciate it if you took 30 seconds and let me know how I did.”
3. Make it simple and easy: the more steps it takes or the harder it is for a customer to find you online, the less likely they are to leave a review. Don’t expect them to go to Google, search your business, find your business, find the review button and then write you a review! They will give up in the middle of the process or worse; they won’t even try. Don’t give them too many review site options to choose from but don’t give them just one either. They may not have a Gmail account but they most likely have Facebook. Keep it to two or three review site options to choose from.
4. Provide an excellent product or service: this may seem obvious but don’t expect to get glowing online reviews if your product is cheap and breaks or if you don’t provide a high level of customer service. Asking for feedback in this case will get you negative online reviews. Learn from customer feedback, improve your business, get training on customer service (words to use, how to act, etc.), and show respect and appreciation to those who keep your business running.
5. Use a review software service: software like Blipp Reviews, which specializes in the home inspector industry, can automate the first three steps above. They link up with scheduling software (like Inspection Support Network—ISN) to send customers a text and email with the right wording, at the right time and they make it simple and easy.
Your potential customers are looking online for services and they trust online reviews to make informed decisions. Creating a system for getting more online reviews is simple and there are review-software companies that are extremely affordable when compared to other traditional marketing methods. Setting up your review request system is easy and it yields results. Some inspection companies are getting 400+ inspections a year from organic Google search and map results. Take the time to set your system up and you could be reaping the benefits of having online reviews. The more this catches on for business owners the faster you will be left behind, if you don’t make a change yourself.
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About the Author
Sheehan Thomson is the Owner of OnSite Home Inspections, the highest-rated home inspection firm in the state of Utah with 350+ reviews on Google. He created Blipp Reviews in 2017 to help other home inspectors get more reviews and business online. His company will do over 1,400 inspections this year, with 450 of those coming from Google searches.
Note: The Summer 2018 issue of Working RE Inspector mailed to over 20,000 home inspectors nationwide. OREP Insureds enjoy guaranteed delivery of each print magazine and many more benefits.