Pay attention to your online reviews
They say you can’t please everyone. However, it can still be shocking to learn that you haven’t pleased a customer when you read a bad review about your business on a public forum like Yelp or Facebook. There is something about the anonymity of the internet that allows people to say things they’d never say to your face.
But in the internet age, an online reputation is essential to the success of a business. These days, many potential customers like to do a bit of online research about the products and services they are considering. A negative review may be all they need to keep looking for somebody else.
Depending on the size of your company, managing your online reputation can become a full-time job. For that reason, you could opt to pay an online reputation management company such as ReputationDefender, RemoveYourName, Integrity Defenders and more. These firms offer packages to help you manage your online reputation by essentially doing two jobs: requesting that negative reviews be removed, and displacing negative content with something positive.
Most of those in the pool service industry, however, are capable of personally responding to negative feedback, but it is important to do so very carefully.
No one is perfect, and sometimes the negative feedback is deserved. We all make mistakes and owning up to an error professionally and publicly can show others you care and are engaged.
The important thing is to respond diplomatically, and at all costs avoid a screaming match. It can be tempting to get defensive and forget your manners. But it is important to respond, rather than ignoring the review all together, lest you squander an opportunity to build your reputation back.
Joel Greifzu, owner of Tuff Mudder Pools in Sarasota County, Florida, recommendstacklingthecommentdirectly.
“We have customers sign off on various important details when signing their contracts. When there is a dispute, we make sure to bring all of these details back to their attention. We go above and beyond to serve each customer always but refuse to be taken advantage of,” Greifzu said.
This is excellent advice, because so many complaints arise from some sort of unfulfilled expectation, so it is important to remind customers of exactly the work that was agreed upon in the first place.
For example, many service technicians have reported getting customer complaints after opening pools for the season. Shari McGrellis, of The Pool Lady, LLC, in New Castle County, Delaware, normally gets fantastic online reviews. However, she said that she had one customer who paid $200 for a pool opening, but later learned that the customer was dissatisfied because her pool wasn’t pristine like the “green to clean” pictures McGrellis posts online. She tried to explain her “green to clean” service was not what the customer paid for, and is in fact, a much more expensive service, but couldn’t get the customer to understand.
This is a common complaint for service professionals, so complaints like this can be constructive, and lead to policy changes.
Now, when McGrellis does pool openings, she comes armed with a contract that specifically states that the pool opening does not guarantee the pool will be clean, clear and useable after the initial opening visit.
In addressing negative customer reviews, it is important to read the review thoroughly, and be sure to research both the issue, as well as the reviewer.
Take the time to get to the bottom of the incident, so that you can respond with as much information as possible. Show that you take the situation seriously and if warranted, that the issue does not meet with your normal level of service.
But it is also a good idea to find out more about the person writing the review. How often do they post negative reviews? Sometimes, or all the time? How popular is the writer? A negative review from a person with a lot of clout may warrant a more considered response.
It is also a good idea to apologize, but be careful how the apology is worded. “I’m sorry” are two powerful words that can sooth a hot temper. But there’s a big difference between saying “I’m sorry we screwed up,” which may or may not be true, and “I’m sorry you feel that way,” which is almost always the case. After reviewing the incident, it should be easy to tell how to phrase the apology.
However, not all complaints are legitimate. It sometimes happens that customers become so enraged, they solicit their friends to post additional negative reviews.
This happened to Lewis Bec of California Horizon Pool & Spa in Los Angeles, California, who said he had a customer and her friends slam him over made-up issues.
“I addressed it very politely and told her on Yelp that I would be more than happy to come over and look into the issues she claimed. To her friends I made it clear that I had never worked with or for them in any capacity and that if the homeowner had any issues, I would be happy to resolve them,” Bec said.
At the end of the day, Bec’s response to the review resulted in attaining additional customers, who were so impressed with Bec’s professional response that they hired him.
This is why it is so important to develop a strategy on how to handle negative online reviews. Bec’s situation was a classic case of turning lemons into lemonade.
Sometimes what appears on the surface like bad publicity is actually an opportunity to create a better public image.