How to Navigate the Murky Waters of Online Review Sites

Take a moment to think about your last big purchase. Did you turn to Yelp, Google or another online review site to check the “star” rating for the product or service provider? Did you scroll though reviews posted by previous buyers for feedback and firsthand experiences?

I know that I find myself visiting review sites all the time to aid in my purchasing decisions. Most recently, it was research for a new refrigerator. After 14 years, my refrigerator died, and during the holidays was not a great time for that! I scoured reviews posted online of a certain model that came highly recommended from a family friend. Always starting with friends—sound familiar? I put trust in those reviews and it gave me the peace of mind to make my final decision, which meant a converted sale for KitchenAid. Everybody won. But had the appliance had multiple negative reviews, it could have been a different story.

In today’s digital age, online reviews play a significant role in the buyer’s journey. They can often be the deciding factor that makes or breaks a sale. This is especially true in our service industry. The Professional Pest Management Alliance (PPMA) conducted research in September 2017 that found online review sites are among the top three sources that Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers turn to when looking for a professional pest control service. With so many potential customers turning their attention to online review sites, are you doing the same? Facebook, Google and other third-party review sites need to be a focal point in pest control marketing plans. Heed these top tips to help navigate the murky waters of online review sites and ensure they positively impact your bottom line.

Identify and actively monitor review sites

There are dozens of active consumer and business review websites, so it may seem overwhelming to monitor what your customers are saying about your business on all of them. PPMA’s recent consumer research found that Yelp, Google and Angie’s List are the top three most influential review sites for information about professional pest control services across generations. So, consider them a good place to start.

ReviewTrackers reported that 49 percent of small businesses have never updated their online listings. If you fall into this category, make sure you claim your business and update the page with your operating hours, phone number, address, website, service areas and all other important details that a potential customer might find useful. Then, continue to mine for reviews on a regular basis. You can also set up Google Alerts to monitor for online content that mentions any keywords you select, such as your company name. This free tool will send you an email when new results show up on Google.

Don’t ignore social media networks

Social media networks are often disregarded when thinking about online reviews. But, they shouldn’t be ignored. Social media has become one of the most effective direct lines of communication for customer service and support. People are constantly turning to Facebook and Twitter to interact with brands—whether they are asking questions, posting complaints or reporting satisfaction/expressing brand loyalty. According to the Q2 2016 Sprout Social Index, 67 percent of people have engaged a brand’s social media for customer service and 36 percent have used social media to shame a company for a poor experience.

In PPMA’s consumer research, Facebook was named the most influential social media source used by all generations for information about professional pest control services. Given that Facebook allows users to rate and review local businesses, it’s important for pest control companies to pay attention in this space.

Create a company policy for responding to reviews

One of the biggest mistakes that marketers make when it comes to online reviews is completely ignoring them. Consumers may view the lack of a response as a sign that the company doesn’t care about the experiences and opinions of its customers. Always respond to reviews—positive and negative. Develop a company policy for this and establish a timeframe for when you’ll reply. Consider training associates responsible for managing social media on the preferred approach.

It’s also important to keep response time top of mind. People expect a response to a review almost immediately. In fact, The Social Habit found that 32 percent of consumers expect a response on social media within 30 minutes and 42 percent expect a response within 60 minutes. So, responding to a review two weeks later is unacceptable. Set a goal to respond to all reviews within a 24-hour period. Timeliness isn’t just about being considerate to the reviewer. Responding promptly also allows you to gain control of the situation. Chances are if you don’t respond in a timely manner, they may continue to comment or share their grievances to a broader audience or on another social media platform.

Responding to negative or fake reviews

Even the most seasoned and well-managed businesses are susceptible to negative online reviews. The best thing to do is respond in an effort to turn the disgruntled customer into a satisfied one. Consider it a best practice to respond publicly to negative reviews, but resolve them privately through email or phone communication. Make sure to validate the consumer’s concern, show action and express a desire to resolve the issue. On Yelp or Google, post a reply in the comment section with your contact information so the conversation can be taken offline. On social media, send a direct message to the person responsible for the review and publicly comment on the post stating that you’ve reached out via direct message. This will show other consumers who read the review that you addressed the reviewer’s concern.

While nobody likes to receive negative reviews, they are certainly easier to address than fake ones. Unfortunately, more and more companies, including some in our industry, have recently been on the receiving end of fraudulent reviews. If you suspect that a competitor or professional reviewer posted an illegitimate review about your company, don’t let it stand for a long period of time. Act fast and try to get the review removed by flagging it on the platform. It’s important to keep in mind that each platform has a different process for reporting false reviews and not all of them are taken down. To flag a review on Yelp, for example, log in to your Yelp account, find the review in question, click on the flag icon in the bottom right of the review and select the reason you are reporting the post. Yelp gives users the option to include an explanation of why they think the review is fake, whereas Google does not. When all is said and done, if a moderator fails to remove the review, consider responding to it in a way that politely draws question to the false claims. You could say, “I think there is some confusion here. We don’t offer that service. Please give us a call to discuss this in more detail.” Remember, it’s always best to respond to a review than ignore it entirely!

Encourage customers to leave reviews

One way to combat negative reviews is to attract more positive reviews. However, many people don’t think about leaving a review unless they have something negative to say. Encourage your happy customers to give you a review on Yelp or Facebook following a service. Design a leave-behind for technicians to give to customers that includes your social media handles for customers to share their experience. Or, send a follow-up email to customers with a link to your Yelp page, stating that you value their opinions and would appreciate if they leave your company a review. Make sure to share positive reviews with fellow team members. You can even repurpose them as testimonials on your website or social media pages.

The bottom line

We’ve heard firsthand from pest control users that they value online reviews when finding companies. Use this to your advantage! Pay attention to what your customers are saying about you and always acknowledge their feedback. It’s also important to know the rules and your rights when it comes to mitigating spam or false negative reviews. If you do this, you will find that online reviews can help to positively shape your company’s online reputation and influence sales.

The 2017 Consumer Market research quoted in this article was conducted by the Professional Pest Management Alliance, the consumer outreach arm of NPMA. If you are not investing in PPMA, contact cmannes@pestworld.org to find out how you can get a copy of this valuable piece of research to help grow your business.

Cindy Mannes is the executive director of the Professional Pest Management Alliance. Visit www.npmapestworld.org/ppma for more information on how you can become involved.

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