If you operate a business, bad reviews are inevitable — even if they’re completely unwarranted. In fact, some surveys have shown that nearly 25% of customer reviews are “unfair on some aspects” of the business being rated, according to the Harvard Business Review. And while the research focused on “top-ranked hotels,” its findings will doubtlessly sound familiar to business owners in all types of industries — especially the home services industry, which faces two unique challenges.
The first challenge is that your business, unlike most others, brings you directly into your customers’ homes. Since homeowners are (understandably) protective of their investments, even a minor mistake — whether real or perceived — can trigger enormous frustration with your business, leading to bad reviews. For example, among negative reviews within the home service industry, a common complaint is that crew members damaged or disrespected the customer’s private property. Most companies, operating online or out of their own facilities, will never have to address these types of sensitive, emotionally-charged reviews — but your business does.
The second challenge is that your customer base is predominantly comprised of laypeople who lack technical knowledge around the service you provide, whether that’s roofing, plumbing, landscaping, or any other niche within the industry. This knowledge gap can set the stage for unrealistic expectations, which are followed by inevitable disappointment and, ultimately, bad reviews. For example, a customer might leave you a 1-star rating because they’re upset about the appearance of a wall you painted, or the performance of an appliance you repaired, without fully understanding the complex technical considerations that your team put into doing the work.
Thanks in part to these factors, unfair reviews are unavoidable — even for home service businesses that provide impeccable service. That’s the bad news. The good news is that your business doesn’t need to avoid bad reviews. On the contrary, you should embrace negative reviews as opportunities to both retain and attract customers, growing your business while cultivating a more positive brand reputation. How? By responding to all of your customers — including the ones you disagree with.
How Your Home Services Business Can Take Advantage of Negative Reviews and 1-Star Ratings
We get it: it’s hard to feel genuinely enthused about a 1-star or 2-star review, especially when its contents seem unfair, exagerrated, or outright untrue. However, while you may feel tempted to ignore or dismiss them, every single one of your negative reviews is a chance to do two important things.
1. Show potential customers that your business is committed to providing great service.
According to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey 2020 (which you can explore here), “When looking at consumers that read online reviews for local businesses, 96% also read businesses’ responses to their reviews – with 40% saying they ‘always’ read the responses.” In other words, virtually all consumers who check business reviews also check owner responses, at least part of the time. This implies that owner responses impact consumers’ buying decisions, meaning your responses could make — or break — a reader’s decision to try out your brand.
Your response is your time to shine by demonstrating value, quality, and service to consumers who are still undecided. If you ignore, dismiss, or challenge angry reviewers, you’re sending a message to other consumers that they can’t rely on your business if they run into problems with your services or workers. If, on the other hand, you respond with grace and empathy, you send the message that your business prioritizes customer service and satisfaction.
Which company would you rather trust to enter your home?
There’s also another good reason you should never ignore (or fight with) negative reviewers: astoundingly, they can work in your company’s favor. According to HBR, “When we surveyed consumers about unfair negative reviews, we found that unfair reviews did not change most people’s original perception of the firm (43.1%), and over a quarter of respondents felt more positively toward the reviewed firm.”
Harvard attributed this phenomenon to the “imbalance in justice” created by unfair reviews — an imbalance which, it suggested, “evokes heightened empathy” for the company being reviewed. Believe it or not, this effect can be powerful and pronounced enough to generate “positive outcomes” for the company, including “increased purchase and patronage.” HBR therefore concludes that, while such outcomes aren’t guaranteed, “unfair negative reviews can sometimes help reviewed companies just as much as positive reviews.” So, the next time you think you’re being slammed unfairly, take comfort and respond anyway: data shows that, if the negative comments are truly unmerited, your business could actually benefit in the long run.
2. Restore the original reviewer’s (extremely valuable) trust in your brand.
Retaining current customers is up to five times more cost-efficient than acquiring new ones. Even for businesses that enjoy comfortable profit margins and large consumer bases, customer relationships are still well worth preserving — something you can’t accomplish unless you engage and communicate with your reviewers. (After all, would you remain loyal to a business that wouldn’t acknowledge your concerns?)
Remember, you don’t need to solve the customer’s problem in your response: that’s what your customer service department is for (or, if the issue is truly severe, careful review by upper management). The function of your response is simply to make the customer feel valued and heard, so that you can regain trust and begin repairing negative perceptions of your brand.
In most cases, you can achieve this by responding in a fashion that expresses empathy (“We understand your frustration and truly apologize for the inconvenience”) while also providing a path toward resolution (“Please get in touch with us and a member of our team will be happy to take care of it for you”). If you resolve the situation effectively once the customer contacts you, they may even return to update their original review or rating, which acts as powerful proof that your business goes above and beyond to satisfy its customers.
Of course, the examples above are merely ideas for comments you could include in your response — not strict templates you must follow. In fact, best practice is to avoid recycling language, since boilerplate replies don’t exactly convey warmth or sincerity. To truly repair damaged customer relationships, you’ll need to vary and personalize your language in each response, depending on the content of the reviewer’s comments. For instance, you should always include the reviewer’s first name in your response, which should also feature specific references to details within the reviewer’s complaint. For example, if the customer claims that one of your subcontractors was rude, your response should emphasize the value your company places on professionalism and courteousness. You don’t have to accept responsibility for false or unfair accusations, but you do have to acknowledge your customer’s upset feelings.
For more tips on how to deal with 1-star or 2-star ratings, check out our guide to responding to negative reviews — or, sit back and let our team of trained responders take care of the writing for you.
Need Help Responding to Reviews? Ask for a Demo of Our Response Scribe Service
You have trees to remove, countertops to construct, and drywall to install. You need to be out there with your tools and your team, getting the job done on schedule — not sitting at a computer screen responding to reviews.
That’s where Shout About Us comes in. Our experienced team of dedicated response scribes provides custom review responses to improve your customers’ brand experience, while our beautifully designed, easy-to-use software makes it a snap to organize and filter thousands of reviews across multiple brands, locations, and star ratings. Whether you own and operate your own home services business, or you provide one with reputation management services, our scalable solutions are ideal for multi-location brands along with agencies and resellers in the home services space.
Emily Homrok is a freelance copywriter with more than five years of writing experience. She joined the Shout About Us team as a content strategist in 2020.