As the now-famous line goes, “Winter is coming.” For HVAC companies, that means more business — and with it, more customer reviews.
On one hand, that’s great news for your HVAC business. After all, more ratings translate to increased search visibility, with sources like ReviewTrackers and RevLocal reporting that businesses need a minimum of four to five reviews in order to appear in local Google search results. Meanwhile, a comprehensive survey by marketing company BrightLocal reveals that “the average consumer expects a business to have 40 reviews before trusting its star rating” — even if that rating is positive. The same survey, which was conducted in 2018, also found “a clear correlation…between higher local rankings and the number of Google reviews a business has,” noting that top-ranked companies averaged close to 50 reviews. Put simply, online reviews make it easier for potential customers to find — and place their trust in — your commercial or residential HVAC business.
Unfortunately, that’s only one half of the story. Just as positive reviews increase the likelihood that customers will see and hire your business, negative reviews have the opposite effect, with BrightLocal pointing out that just “53% of people would consider using a business with fewer than 4 stars.” As this data makes clear, it doesn’t take many bad ratings to drive potential customers away (and straight toward your competitors).
The good news is that bad write-ups don’t have to tank your profits this season. Believe it or not, even the angriest, most scathing review is a valuable opportunity for business — provided, that is, you know how to respond. With that in mind, we’ve compiled three practical tips for replying to bad reviews of your HVAC business, such as a 1-star rating on Google or Yelp.
How to Respond to a Bad Customer Review of Your HVAC Company or Heating Repair Service
Perhaps you operate a regional or national HVAC franchise, such as Rheem, Trane, or Johnson Control. Or perhaps you’re a third party, such as an agency or reseller, that’s responsible for managing a large HVAC company’s online reviews. Either way, you need to be prepared for the dreaded yet inevitable 1-star rating. Let the simple tips below be your guide.
Tip #1: Verify the Review
Just like any other type of business, your HVAC business can be susceptible to false reviews. For example, you might receive bad ratings from a “customer” who turns out to be a competitor. In other cases, a customer might accidentally leave a bad review out of confusion, such as mistaking your business for another company with a similar name.
Unfortunately, this occurs more often than you might think, as a recent NBC News investigation revealed. According to NBC, its investigators discovered “thousands of questionable reviews on Amazon, Yelp, Facebook and Google,” with some reviewers going so far as to post stock images in place of legitimate photographs. BrightLocal also cautions businesses against these dangers, noting in 2019, “82% of consumers have read a fake review in the last year.”
If you suspect that either one of these scenarios may be occurring, it’s wise to try and verify the review’s validity. Reviews.io, a service which “source[s] genuine reviews” for businesses, recommends the following tips to help spot a false review:
- If possible, try to match the reviewer name to an actual customer or client in your database.
- Be on the lookout for generic language, rampant typos, or spammy reviews that seem overly stuffed with keywords.
- Make sure the dates, addresses, project details, and other information actually align with the services your company provides. For example, does the review mention a town that’s outside your normal service area?
Tip #2: Respond Politely, ASAP
A terrible review of your HVAC business can be shocking, disheartening, and downright frustrating — especially when you thought you provided high-quality service to the upset customer. You might feel tempted to downplay the complaints, get defensive of your business, or — perhaps most damaging of all — even ignore the review altogether.
While these sorts of emotional reactions are understandable — after all, you’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears into this business, and you take pride in your work — none of them will benefit your business in the long run. On the contrary, a snarky (or nonexistent) response will merely ensure the reviewer never returns, while simultaneously turning off potential customers who see the response when checking your company’s ratings. At the end of the day, that’s multiple sources of revenue needlessly and permanently lost.
So, how should your business react instead? Here are three simple rules to keep in mind:
- Be responsive. Always, always, always respond — even if the reviewer is bashing your services or employees. For reasons we explained in detail in our previous blog post, failing to reply to online reviews is virtually guaranteed to harm your business.
- Be polite. Keep your response courteous, calm, and professional, even if you find the review upsetting. Remember: the way you reply is a highly public reflection of the way you run your business. Nobody wants to hire (or return to) a company that brushes off or lashes out at dissatisfied customers.
- Be timely. Try to respond as quickly as possible — ideally, within 24 hours of the original review date, which is the timeframe recommended by Local Search Association (LSA) Insider. As we’ve discussed on our blog in the past, most consumers expect a response within one day, or even within one hour. For instance, according to a Harvard study which analyzed more than 2,200 companies’ response times to online leads, “Firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead…as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later — and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.”
The faster you’re able to reply, the more satisfied the reviewer is likely to be with your response. That being said, you should never sacrifice personalization (or grammar) for speed, which means you need to be careful and thorough.
Tip #3: Own Up to Your Mistakes
This might be the toughest tip on our list to follow, but it’s arguably also the most essential. If a customer has left your HVAC business a negative review, the most effective strategy is to thank them for their feedback, acknowledge their disappointment, take responsibility for the issue, and ultimately, offer a path toward resolution.
While you should strive to incorporate these elements into each response, you don’t have to follow a rigid template. In fact, it’s actually beneficial to vary your responses and avoid falling back on formulaic structures or “boilerplate” language. Not only have surveys shown that most consumers prefer personalized responses — in addition, providing a personalized response gives you the opportunity to address the customer’s specific issue. For example, if a customer complains about a rude employee, it’s more effective to apologize for the lack of courtesy than to offer a “canned” or generic apology.
At this point, you might be wondering: “But what if there was no real issue? What if the customer is blowing things out of proportion, misunderstood the terms of our contract, or is completely misremembering our interaction?”
In a scenario like this, it’s important to acknowledge the customer’s feelings and perceptions — even if you disagree with them. Remember, the purpose of your response is to show the reviewer that you care about the quality of their customer experience. By displaying a sense of empathy and understanding, you may be able to persuade an unhappy customer to give your business another shot.
The bottom line? Yes, poor ratings have the potential to eat into your profits — but a deft response can defuse the situation, salvage the customer relationship, and even attract more business in the future. By following the simple yet effective tips we’ve shared in this article, you’ll be ready for any rating or review this winter.
Want to Write Faster, Better Responses to Your Online Reviews? Ask About a Response Scribe for Your HVAC Business
When the temperature drops, your heating business picks up — and so will your customer reviews. But with so many homes and apartments to service, you simply don’t have time to respond to each rating. With so much to do on your winter calendar, how can you ensure that each of your customers receives a timely and thoughtful response?
Shout About Us offers the solution. Serving multi-location HVAC brands in addition to agencies and resellers, Shout About Us provides expertly crafted responses tailored to your industry. Our experienced team of response scribes is ready to deliver personalized review responses with guaranteed 24-hour turnaround, no matter how many locations or franchises you manage. Contact us today for a demo, or ask about our flexible pricing packages.
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.