Review Acquisition Strategy Guide for HVAC Companies
What is the Importance of HVAC Reviews?
Whenever someone’s furnace stops working in the winter, or air conditioning system in the summer, that person will want it fixed—fast. Sometimes, people will already have an HVAC company they use, so they’ll just give them a call. Other times, though, they’ll want a recommendation for a local HVAC company—and, again. They’ll want it fast.
Nowadays, people use the internet to find recommendations for service providers. With
more than 75% of people owning a smartphone in the United States today, it’s fast and easy to scroll through HVAC reviews to find the best provider for the services they need. So, paying close attention to what people have to say in their reviews about your HVAC company, and creating a strategy to optimize the power of these online reviews is crucial.
Why Online Reviews Are So Important
The reality is that people rely significantly upon online reviews to choose service providers. According to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey for 2018;
- 86% of consumers read reviews of local businesses
- 57% of consumers stated they would only use businesses with 4 star (or higher) ratings
In an Inc.com post, they discuss research that shows how:
- 91% of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews
- 84 percent trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation
- 68 percent form an opinion after reading between one and six online reviews
So, the real question for HVAC companies that want to position themselves competitively in their communities isn’t “Should I focus on improving our review profile?” Instead, it should be, “Which HVAC review sites deserve my time and attention?”
Best Review Sites for HVAC Companies
Typically, the best review acquisition strategies include a mix of highly visible general review sites, as well as those that have a focus on home-related services. And, two of the most impactful general sites for HVAC reviews include Google My Business and Facebook. Here’s more.
Google/Google My Business — If you’re just starting to strategically grow your online reviews, and you prefer to start with a focus on just one site, then Google My Business is the logical choice. For quite a while, this has been the most heavily used search engine in the United States, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. So, you can get the highest online visibility with Google reviews. Plus, here’s another factor. On this search engine, 46% of users are looking for local companies, so having strong reviews here can be the deciding factor that makes a new customer pick up the phone and call your company, instead of a competitor.
Facebook — You might not immediately think of Facebook when discussing powerful review sites. But, the reality is that people often ask for service-provider recommendations on this vast social media site. And, when someone offers up your HVAC company as a recommendation, Facebook will attempt to link directly to your company’s business page and display its ratings. So, yes. Overall, Google may be the top dog, but you sure don’t want to ignore opportunities that exist on Facebook.
Yelp — It also makes good sense to consider Yelp. As of December 31, 2018, users have posted approximately 177 million reviews, with 16% of them focused on home-related and local services—including HVAC services.
Angie’s List — Another place that people search for local reviews in large numbers is Angie’s List. As of 2016, membership to this site became free, making it easy for potential customers to read reviews about your HVAC company, and to compare them to those of your competitors. BrightLocal.com shares how members submit more than 60,000 new reviews to Angie’s List every month to 10 to 12 million unique monthly visitors. And, somewhere between $10 and $15 billion in transactions has taken place between Angie’s List members and companies that provide home services.
So, how do you get good, even excellent, reviews? On the one hand, it’s pretty straightforward. You provide quality HVAC services, delivered with a customer-service mindset. The more you boost the quality, the more likely it will be that people will provide you with positive reviews, ones that will help to competitively position you as an excellent choice for people in your community.
Important as excellent service is, of course, this won’t magically generate reviews. For that, you need a review acquisition strategy.
Now, here are some key elements of a review acquisition campaign.
Consistently Making the Ask
If your company is already receiving random reviews, it can be tempting to hope that this is enough. Unfortunately, it’s not, with a scattershot approach typically leading to two different types of problems:
- That isn’t enough to competitively position your company.
- It’s the disgruntled or even angry customer who is more likely to leave a random review, which can tilt your review profile in the direction you definitely don’t want it to go.
To make online reviews work for you, rather than against you, you’ll need to create a process where you consistently ask your customers to post them. When you receive reviews, it’s important to respond to all of them, including the negative ones. And, yes. Everyone gets negative reviews sometimes because nobody can please everyone—at least not all of the time. So, what your HVAC company will need is a comprehensive strategy of responding to all reviews, rather than reacting to ones that are negative. By doing so, this helps to ensure that any of the downers will have a more limited impact on your business success.
Google rankings and online reviews
Going straight to the punch line, online reviews are a top ranking signal, one of the largest local, competitive difference makers.
Google has approximately 200 ranking signals in its algorithm and, although they won’t provide specifics, they do acknowledge that review counts and ratings are factored into the local ranking algorithm, and that admit how they work to algorithmically demote sites with poor reviews and customer experience problems.
Plus, testing has been done and, through the use of correlative analysis, it’s clear that online reviews are extremely important in local rankings. So, to be competitive in your community, regularly get reviews, doing all you can to ensure they’re positive reviews.
Top Review Generating Platforms
By this point, you might be wondering how it’s possible to offer fast service to customers when their HVAC systems need maintained, repaired, and replaced AND promptly responding to online reviews, both positive and negative. How can there possibly be enough time in a day?
Fair enough question—and the answer is that review generating platforms can be a significant asset for your HVAC company.
These platforms can streamline your review management and help to facilitate your company’s ability to:
- request and generate reviews
- respond to comments
- consolidate reviews into a dashboard that allows you to see how you’re doing across different sites
Multiple choices are available for reputation and review services, and it’s important to choose one that fits your specific needs and budget. Here are four sites to explore and consider.
Podium — This platform helps companies to streamline their online review management, with reviews and client interactions consolidated into a single dashboard so your HVAC team can manage patient relationships and increase reviews across multiple sites. For example, you can use this platform (through text messaging) to ask your customers to post reviews about your company; when they do, you can respond. You have access to a daily interactions report, which you can use to evaluate your strategies and strengthen how you’re requesting and acquiring reviews, and managing your responses to them. Note that Podium is one of the pricier options, with the cost based upon how many locations your HVAC company has.
ReviewTrackers — ReviewTrackers, a cloud-based reputation management tool, is another choice to consider. You can monitor multiple review sites from this platform, including Google and Facebook. When new reviews are posted, you’ll be notified, and then you can rapidly respond. Daily activity snapshots will allow you to see how well your review acquisition and management campaign is working, and you’ll also receive data about trending topics and keywords. ReviewTrackers plans start at $54 monthly.
BirdEye — BirdEye is an all-in-one reputation and review management system, one that allows you to efficiently control all of your business listings. As with the other platform choices, you can request that your customers post reviews, monitor newly-posted reviews, and respond to them in real time; options for requesting reviews include through email or text/SMS. Additional features of this platform include rank tracking and social media sharing. If this seems like it could be a good choice for your HVAC company, you can contact them to request a quote.
Grade.us — This is one of the better known and trusted review acquisition and management tools and, with this platform, you can contact your customers through text or email to ask them to post a review. Grade.us allows you to respond directly to online reviews without leaving its dashboard, with this platform integrated directly with Google and Facebook. You can set up automated reporting to monitor your progress. You can also embed reviews posted on other sites directly on your HVAC website, and more. Pricing starts at $90/month (or $75/month if paid annually).
HVAC Reviews: How to Respond
Platforms described above can help your company to request and respond to reviews, which begs the question of how you should respond. And, because the main goal of the review acquisition portion of your strategy is to boost the number of reviews being posted, you may find yourself needing to respond to a wide variety of reviews. Although this may feel tedious, it’s crucial to promptly respond if you want to optimize value received from online reviews.
Respond to ALL Reviews — Positive and Negative
It may seem counterintuitive to respond to both positive and negative reviews alike, but a Harvard Business Review study found that, when businesses do so, their ratings and number of reviews increase:
“Overall, these analyses suggested that improved ratings can be directly linked to management responses. And, perhaps surprisingly, we also found that when managers respond to positive reviews, it has the same benefits as when they respond to negative reviews.”
The Harvard Business Review, granted, shared a study that didn’t focus on HVAC companies. Instead, it focused on online reviews of hotels. But, there is no reason why the lessons learned from this study wouldn’t be equally as applicable to the HVAC industry.
Assign the right person to respond to reviews
A key decision you’ll need to make is who, at the company, is the best choice to respond to reviews. Because prompt responses to them is crucial, it doesn’t seem likely that technicians sent on HVAC calls would be the best choice. And, you also don’t want to assign this task to an intern or someone just learning the industry’s ropes.
Why? Because review management is such an important part of cultivating new customers, you’ll want to assign this responsibility to a trusted employee at your company. And, as you modify job descriptions to make this happen, it’s important that reviews aren’t seen as a quick add-on, something that he or she could do when nothing else is going on. Review responses just can’t be considered an afterthought if you want to successfully manage them.
So, strategically assign this job to someone with the necessary knowledge to respond to reviews, with the authority to speak on behalf of the company. Prioritize your way to review management success.
Handle negative reviews professionally
Let’s get this out of the way first. Nobody likes to get a negative review. Nobody. And yet, it happens to virtually every company (and, if it doesn’t, we’d hazard a guess that they aren’t getting positive reviews, either.)
When it happens to you, it’s important to stay calm. Although timely responses are important, in this situation, it’s more important to take the time you need to create a professional response. It may help if you think about your response this way: Although you’re specifically responding to someone who has posted a negative review, you’re also publicly responding in a way that will demonstrate to anyone who reads this review how professional your company can be. And, this review—and your answer—will be read today, tomorrow, and in the days, months, and years to come.
Yes, think before responding. Think about a conversation you’ve had with a friend, or maybe your significant other. You’re getting frustrated and are tempted to respond emotionally. But, if you’ve ever given into that temptation, then you know how a a defensive response can escalate an already-tense situation.
The same is true when you receive a negative review. It’s tempting to debate with the poster, especially if a comment is clearly unfair. But, a professional response will be much more productive, so take a few deep breaths and follow through. Sometimes, a tense situation can be calmed down. And, even if the writer of the negative review isn’t satisfied, other readers can see your mature response.
Facts first! You’ll want your response to be factually accurate, so gather all pertinent facts about the situation that upset the reviewer first.
Acknowledge issues. Armed with the facts, you can now respond. Maybe the reviewer felt that your company wasn’t listening; often those who leave negative reviews feel that way, whether those feelings are understandable or not. So, keeping that in mind, acknowledge the reviewer; that may, all by itself, help to calm the situation down. Here’s what else can often help. Provide relevant information in an empathetic, customer-service-first way. And, even if it doesn’t solve the problem, it will position your HVAC company as professional. Remember that, regardless of how you feel about what was said, acting like a prosecutor grilling a defendant won’t help.
Be succinct. Stick to a three- to four-sentence response that focuses on the main points. There’s generally no need to go beyond that, and it’s seldom helpful to make comments or ask questions that will lengthen this conversation.
Whenever possible, move the conversation offline. You can provide the contact number or email of the person at your company who manages reviews and ask the reviewer to contact him or her. This would give your company the chance to turn a potentially-charged public conversation into one you can have in private.
Here’s what NOT to do:
- Don’t ask anyone to change or remove a review.
- Don’t offer incentives for anyone to do so.
When, instead, you simply have the person in charge of management review talk to the reviewer, one on one, this can sometimes cause the customer to upgrade the review. We’ve seen that happen!
Some people simply can’t be satisfied. You know what we mean, right? This person may be bored or may only be happy when given a chance to be unhappy. You can’t please trolls. Nobody can, so don’t even try. If you recognize how this type of person has left a negative review about your HVAC company, professionally acknowledge the review and move on.
Improving overall ratings
Increase how many 4- and 5-star reviews you have. It’s all about math. If you want to significantly boost your overall star ratings, you need to boost the quantity of individual reviews with high ratings. So, the more quality ratings you can collect, the faster you can improve your review profile. This can especially be the case if you’ve only recently launched your strategic review acquisition and management plan.
Regularly ask for a post-service review. To maximize your online reviews, make it a regular part of your service call routine. To streamline the process, you can create a simple postcard that you could hand your customer as you finish up at the home or business, one containing helpful instructions on how to leave a review. You can put those same instructions on your HVAC website, although you should note that Yelp does not permit solicited reviews.
Service, service, service. Providing excellent service and customer service—or, better yet, exceptional service—is one of the best ways to ensure positive reviews, overall. As a welcome bonus, it can also help to reduce the likelihood of receiving negative ones.
So, here’s how it goes:
- People often leave online reviews, and these numbers will probably continue to grow.
- People looking for service providers, including HVAC companies in your community, will read these reviews.
- The quality of your online reviews are what can put you above the crowd of competition.
- The more quickly and thoroughly your business creates and implements a review acquisition strategy, the more easily this can happen.
You may have considered reviews a hassle before. But, if you successfully harness them, you can turn them into one of your HVAC company’s biggest assets.