So………….. online reviews.
*ominous music plays in background*
Online reviews are the go-to nowadays for trying to determine the quality of a company. You want to look up a good roofing company… you go to Google/Yellow Pages/etc. You might even go to the Better Business Bureau, which is a private company, by the way. Non-government. Bet you didn’t know THAT one:
Actual line from that link: “In case you did know all that, my apologies. You get a gold star!”. They just went up in my book on that alone.
The names that come to mind when it comes to this are: Angie’s List, Yelp, Google, and Yellow Pages… primarily Google and Yelp. I’d like to provide a screenshot of what you see when you Google “garvey roofing monrovia ca”
You’ll see (if you really lean forward and squint… sorry, I tried to make it bigger) in the immediate visible page here there are four of the orange starred ratings that sites show. Two of them are 5 stars (with only 2 ratings, though- YellowPages and Thumbtack) one of them is a 4.7 (Google, on the right side there, with 18 reviews) and then there’s Yelp…. with 2 stars and 6 reviews.
I saw this when it became part of my job to manage our online visibility. This is what they refer to in the discipline of Statistics as an “outlier”. Basically: unusual.
I inquired as to why this was to Tom- I’ll just sum it up in one word: Paid Advertising. Or… two words… whatever. Notice, also, that the Yelp listing is the highest on the list here. And their advertising staff, whom have contacted me several times, push that as a good reason to “consider an all-inclusive membership” or whatever. The word “incentive” comes to mind.
Another thing I understand with online ratings is that if someone feels compelled to post one, it’s usually going to be negative. I know this because, one, this is how I was myself and two, others have agreed with me on this. I can’t provide quantifiable, hard evidence for this… just roll with me here.
Think about it: you go to Starbucks, or the movies, a cafe/restaurant, mechanic… whatever, and the experience there would rate around a 6.5 on the 1-10 Customer Satisfaction Scale. Basically: Good but not Great, if not just Neutral. In other words, you wanted/needed something from a business, they provided it, you paid for it, and it went just as expected and was not particularly memorable.
But then you go somewhere new, and it sucked. Terrible. Nightmares ensued. Every time you drive by the place, you break out in a cold sweat.
One could say it would be reasonable to assume that people might feel compelled to (sidenote: we call that “vague” writing right there… I am ashamed) go out of their way to put up a bad review out of concern for future customers to avoid said Bad Place. And, yes, out of spite.
Now, unless your experience somewhere was absolutely mind-blowing awesome great 5 stars I’d go there again epic orchestral music… you’re probably not going to think much of it. And I get that… I’d bet real money ($5 to be exact) that that’s pretty normal.
This is why, since I’ve started working here, I’ve gone out of my way to actually go around and post positive online reviews about places I’ve been where the experience Wasn’t Bad. Anywhere that comes to mind. I have been pushing for others to do the same, because I now understand the importance of it.
All that being said, I have to give some credit to Yelp in one regard. One thing they do (and now that I think about it, it wouldn’t surprise me if other sites did this as well, but I know for a fact that Yelp does this) is filter out reviews made by accounts that have only made one review on one place… once. Those are referred to as “throwaway accounts.” People working for a company make an account linked to an e-mail address just for the purposes of either making glowing reviews for their own company or terrible ones for their competition. It doesn’t shock me that this happens- it makes sense in a seedy sorta way- and I’m glad to see that Yelp caught on to that.
*looks back up at the screenshot*
One the flip-side of that, be suspicious if a place has 459 reviews, all of them 4-5 stars… from one site.
When it comes to places that have no reviews, I ask: How many reviews have you posted online? If the answer selected is: “None to a Few” I’d argue that’s pretty normal. Just keep that in mind. Furthermore, if you see a company that has a LOT of bad reviews and a few good ones consistently on multiple rating sites… it’s safe to say that that is probably an accurate assessment.
I’ll humbly admit that we have bad reviews. And not all are unwarranted. We’re not perfect, we’ve messed up- it happens. Thing is, we know it, take it into account, and don’t do the same thing again. We don’t censor bad reviews. And unless you’re the one who made the bad review in the first place, they can’t be deleted by other users anyways… that would make the whole thing pointless, really.
One of our bad reviews on Yelp is… long. I inquired as to this. Tom told me the story: this guy hovered around when Tom was doing the job, and the guy spotted a small mistake that Tom made. An easily correctable one… one that Tom would have found out later anyways.
After that, as if he then had permission, the customer would berate and question everything Tom did after that. “This article on the internet” and “the guy at Home Depot” suddenly became more reliable sources for roofing information than someone who’d, at that point, been doing roofing for almost 30 years. This customer became hostile and then started demanding discounts. The contract was followed exactly, everything agreed upon in writing was done… but still that bad review appeared. Most of it is either an exaggeration or an outright fabrication. I at least have to give credit to his verbose creativity.
Sadly, there are a lot people out there who are like this. Anyone who has ever been employed in a position where Dealing With Customers is part of the job will know what I am talking about. Thing is, people like this are also, overall, very rare. Most people are pretty cool. But the bad ones make up for everyone else and tend to cause waves, I imagine, in contrast to the norm, the norm being a 6.5 on the 1-10 Dealing With Customers scale. That’s right- it goes both ways.
It’s also true that Tom turned down paid advertising from Yelp, and within a few days, his starred rating there went from a 5 to a 1. What they were asking for was him to pay for his listing. Part of that gets your listing higher on the results list when people search for, in our case, roofers in the local area of Monrovia, CA, USA. Then they called him back a few days later basically asking the same thing. He asked them not to call again. Yet they have been calling us consistently ever since. Again, there’s no way to prove this, on paper, in any way. There isn’t an e-mail chain or recorded dialogue. Yet it is the truth, so help me.
Let me get some back-up on this:
There’s… many more too.
Since then our rating has gone from a 1-Star to a 2-Star. Hey, it’s progress! I guess.
One thing to keep in mind in all this: companies that provide online ratings are privately owned. They are not federally regulated, and they shouldn’t be. People just need to keep in mind the reliance they have on sites like this. These companies are very aware of this reliance, and in the name of quarterly fiscal profit, do things that could possibly be considered exploitative towards other businesses. This really isn’t anything new. Most people, I imagine, acknowledge that this kind of thing happens, maybe roll their eyes a bit… but that’s it really.
And this is turning into a rant.
In closing, I encourage all 6 of you reading this to post good online reviews for places you have had good experiences with. It won’t take too much time and is very beneficial to business owners, especially the smaller ones who are holding on by their fingernails.