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Customer reviews are not enough

Today we’re going to talk about how a company can have a lot of 4+ star customer reviews online but still be losing a ton of sales and referrals from those very same people.

And we’re going to use a real-world example to show exactly how that happens… which offers several other insights along the way.

Last week I had the entire interior of our home painted as we prepared it for sale.

The garage floor also got a new epoxy-coating by a separate company and the two jobs overlapped for one day.

The house painting took six days, and for us, it was like moving most of the house twice because nearly everything except the furniture had to be removed from each room on one side of the house while they painted and then shifted over to the other side when they were ready for that part of the house.

Every cell in our bodies is exhausted right now.

Before the job started, I interviewed six companies and had four come to the home to give us a site evaluation and price quote.

Only companies with lots of great online reviews were invited.

I was amazed at how many painting companies did not have a Google My Business listing in my online search.

I was also amazed to see how many didn’t have a website either.

In a digital world where people are so mesmerized by their devices they walk into fountains or even off of cliffs while hypnotized by them, these companies have only a Yelp listing.

I called some of those companies too and found most of them were available to do the job right away.

That was not the case for most companies that had a listing in Yelp and Google and a website. Most of them had a waitlist a few weeks to months out.

Google had 271 million people in the US use their search bar in 2020, according to Statista.

Yelp had 31 million unique devices use their search in 2020, according to Yelp’s own factsheet.

That’s nearly 9 times more people using Google than Yelp.

9 out of 10 used Google.

1 out of 10 used Yelp.

Do you think having a Google My Business listing and website might help your company? 

Okay, that’s just basic insight #1. Let’s get back on track with why having great reviews can still cost you a ton of business.

Back to my choosing a painting company…

It came down to two companies for me.

They were among four that came out to do a site evaluation and give me a quote.

These guys were very likable…

Both had a lot of experience and could talk their game.

Both companies promised to do the work we wanted to be done, especially when it came to some wall corners and a couple of window sills that needed mud repairs, sanding, texture, and painting.

There were some price negotiations, and in the end, I selected one company over the other.

They had about 60 more reviews…

They had a bigger crew…

Their price was a little bit better… 

The owner was willing to move on price a little more than the other guy.

When the date approached, they called to confirm.

The crew set up their staging area in the driveway and they went to work.

The foreman was a great guy; we got along well.

He and his team were super responsive to everything we asked for.

The whole team was respectful of our home and worked quietly or at least without blasting music and talking loudly to each other.

Instead, they went to work!

Three guys started the prep work at first and then they had five working by the end of the job.

They finished late afternoon this past Saturday. 

The owner showed up to help his crew clean up.

When they were done, he spoke with us and thanked us the trusting his team.

We thanked him for doing a great job. 

We gave him a check for the job and he signed the invoice paid.

He told us how happy clients are his best marketing tool and would be grateful if we took some photos and placed them online with a nice review.

The work looked great, and their team was very respectful of the property. They were all very personable. And the price was good. 

We agreed to write a review in the next few days.

They left and we began to move things back to where they were to get our home back.

That’s when we noticed a few things our previous solo inspections didn’t catch.

There was a bunch of wall debris and crumbled-up painter’s tape in one bathtub.

Some of the electrical outlet and switch cover plates had old paint, mostly from our previous painting. 

Some of those outlet covers were colored. Our walls were now Swiss Coffee white, but they had been sage green, earthen tan, and the kitchen had a bold blue behind the countertop.

We have some cover plates with edges in tainted blue, green, and tan paint scattered throughout the house.

What we couldn’t see before now stood out like a sore thumb.

Instead of pointing this out to us and offering to buy or install new ones for us, they just silently screwed them on.

It wasn’t part of their job or even their fault.

But they had the opportunity to inform and they missed it.

They had the opportunity to inform and show and offer to replace either for additional sales or for no-cost added value, and they missed it.

Opportunity knocked and they missed it.

They also allowed a small and inexpensive thing they had control over to influence their work’s perceived outcome.

At the end, the owner also had an opportunity to provide a better service by doing a final inspection with us before getting paid.

We did our own inspections throughout the last day and before we spoke with him at the end, but not a final one with the owner or foreman.

Another value-added service and opportunity lost, not taken.

Customer reviews

Later that evening, we went outside to sweep up anything left behind and found paint chips and drops scattered around the driveway and into planter areas. There were even a few golf-ball-sized chunks of white chalk in the grass and a giant faded white stain about three feet by two feet in the center of the driveway, with another one out in the street.

I took some photos and then used the garden hose to blast away what I could.

But the two big spots and some smaller ones remained, so I sent over images of what was still there and then called the owner a few minutes later.

He said it looked like those stains might be from the epoxy, but he would send a guy with a pressure washer on Monday.

Insight #2 – never blame anyone else for anything until you have solid proof and just cause.

Insight #3 – if a client calls and is unhappy with the cleanup job, take responsibility, apologize, and get a crew out asap.

Insight #4 – take before, and after photos of job sites, parking, and staging areas, so you have proof of condition before the work starts. 

That goes for homeowners and contractors alike.

Their foremen showed up first thing Monday morning at 7:50 am and power-washed the driveway clean.

He also cleaned the walkway where there were some paint drops, went the extra mile, and gently washed off the garage door and house’s front walls.

It looks like the stains are gone and all is good.

But is it?

The team did their job. In fact, they did good work, the price was good, and they were really nice guys.

And that’s where they get their four+ star reviews from.

They’re proactive in asking for reviews, which is good, and it’s why they have more than their competitors. 

But, they let a small, inexpensive, outside factor (outlet covers) influence the results of their work.

Then they committed the most common and worst home services sin of all. They left the job site without 100% perfect cleanup.

They made the two very tired homeowners clean up a mess that they should have cleaned.

This is the #1 problem in the home services business.

In next week’s podcast episode, I interviewed Brooks Pettus, the COO of House Call Pro, which was actually recorded last week during that painting process.

In that interview, Brooks made a very insightful comment, and he said something like, “at the end of the day, most customers don’t know how something works or how great a job you did, they just know it works, or it doesn’t. So what they’ll judge you the most by is if you got the job done, showed up on time, finished on time, how nice you were, how respectful of their property you were, and if you cleaned up real good before you left, so it looks like you were never there. In general, do you seem like a trustworthy person because they’re putting their home into your hands?” 

ALL of these things matter, not just how good you are at what you do.

It’s the little things that make you great!

Those little things say that you care about their home and will treat it like your own.

So, in the end, the garage floor epoxy guy asked me what I thought about those guys and if he should use or recommend that painting company to his customers.

I told him that I would not recommend them.

They could potentially hurt his reputation.

I also won’t be hiring this same company to refinish our kitchen cabinets.

So they just lost at least two jobs.

Even though I might leave an okay online review because they were so nice and did most everything else well, that really doesn’t tell the whole story, and the star rating doesn’t show that I would decline to recommend them or use them again.

A night of cleaning a bathroom and washing my driveway and entranceway was enough to make me look elsewhere.

So they’re still losing business even though they’re getting 4+ star ratings from customers.

They’re losing repeat business and referrals from customers who very much liked the people, but not the total performance. 

Some of the ratings reflect the people more than the performance.

But those little things are what matter most.

And cleanup is one of the most important of those little things that matter.

Remember, it’s the little things that make you great!

Greatness creates extreme happiness, repeat business, and referrals.

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Founder & CEO of Battle Plan Marketing, LLC. We customize marketing strategies and solutions for home service companies. Mark has over 30 years experience in sales and marketing, 20 years as a business owner or partner, and over a decade in digital marketing and website design. We offer analysis, strategy, project implementation and management, and marketing coaching. Mark is also host of the new Battle Plan Marketing® Podcast.
Mark Ambrose
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