Today’s consumers are frequently busy and time poor. They don’t always have the luxury of time to thoroughly research new suppliers for products or services. Where once they might have talked to friends and neighbours for a recommendation, they now turn to online reviews and review sites to help them make a quick decision. All organisations with a field service operation need to take heed and refine their approach to their reputation management and customer feedback processes.
This may seem obvious for retailers and suppliers of products and services directly into people’s home, but it also matters for housing association and local authority landlords, and any field service management business contracted by them. These organisations can’t afford to take tenants’ goodwill for granted. The UK government’s Charter for Social Housing Residents White Paper includes the requirement for social landlords to develop clear and comparable tenant satisfaction measures. Its proposed Tenant Satisfaction Measures (TSMs) will help residents when they want to provide feedback on their landlord, providing a source of assurance that their housing provider is compliant with consumer standards.
Human nature dictates that people are more likely to focus on negatives than positives. Customers who feel they have received poor service or haven’t got value for money are much more likely to post a poor review than a satisfied customer would leave a good one. In an increasingly polarised review environment, reputation is crucial, and while it takes time to build a good reputation, some poor customers feedback and reviews can quickly downgrade that reputation.
In 2020, Business Leader magazine discussed a report that found poor reviews were costing UK businesses £125,000 each, per year. One in five of the business owners surveyed said that a single 1-star negative post could “severely damage their business”. Organisations cannot afford to ignore the bad reviews that pose a risk to their reputation.
Reputations can also hinge on well-communicated values, such as a commitment to greener operating practices, support and voluntary action for local communities, or an employment policy that is striving towards total equity, diversity and inclusion. Values matter to customers, and indeed to employees, investors and other stakeholders and it is essential that they are authentic and transparent. Customers are savvy to unsubstantiated claims around values and can be unforgiving when it comes to organisations that don’t live up to their self-stated standards.
Reviews hold value
There are a number of sites online where people can share their experiences of a service or product supplier, including Trustpilot, Nice Local, Google reviews, Feefo, reviews.co.uk, reviewcentre.com, Tripadvisor, Facebook and Mumsnet. As independent platforms, they encourage people to share honest, sometimes very detailed reviews that can help others to make informed decisions about which products and services to buy.
According to research conducted by ReviewTrackers, 94% of consumers said a negative review convinced them to avoid a business. That’s a powerful motivation to make sure reviews are as positive and begs the question, what do you do if you get a number of terrible reviews? They have to be met head on and dealt with in a positive way, with improved customer service as the ultimate goal. ReviewTrackers say that only 36.7% of customers say they got a response from the company for their review, while 45% are more likely to use a local business if the owner is seen to respond to negative reviews. While customer relationship management (CRM) software can automate responses including thanking someone for their comments and inviting them back to allow your organisation to do better, the personal touch really makes a difference. Customer care teams need to be trained to respond quickly and effectively, using the data from direct customer feedback, reviews sites and online ratings to identify areas for improvement. Whether this requires wide-scale change or just tweaking existing processes to eliminate certain problems, using data can help businesses win the war for better reviews and ratings.
Ratings are acquired by averaging the responses from multiple reviewers. In order to gain good averages, a business needs to attract a high volume of reviews. Data produced by ReviewTrackers reveals that customers don’t trust companies with lower than 4-star ratings, so it’s essential to average at least 4 stars to attract business. It really is a numbers-game, and the first step is to encourage as many people as possible to leave reviews.
Do this by:
- Asking directly for a review in Trustpilot, Google etc.
- Make sure there is a review link on your website, in an easy to find location.
- Always follow-up with an email asking for more reviews.
- For Google rankings, local businesses should make sure business information is kept up to date.
- On social media sites like Facebook, respond to every review with personalised follow-up.
It’s all about the numbers
The number of reviews is also important to potential customers as it demonstrates a pattern in the level of service provided. A small number of 5-star ratings may well reflect consistent outstanding service, but customers sometimes look for volume to demonstrate consistency, even if it isn’t all top-rated. Some less-than-perfect reviews can contribute to the overall authenticity of feedback and the details within reviews can be very revealing too. For example, potential new customers might be much more concerned about the quality of your operative’s work, than how quickly they can book the appointment. By reading the reviews they can see if your business is a good fit for their own requirements and expectations.
A large number of reviews may also point to longevity and reliability. This matters as people are seeking trusted suppliers, particularly when there is a requirement for on-going customer support and future additional integrated services. In B2B decision making, such as the purchase of field service management solutions, case studies can be invaluable. They offer insights into how a solution, and its provider, has already helped other organisations with similar challenges and pain points, to transform efficiency and productivity in ways that help increase customer satisfaction.
Invest in employees
One final point is not to underestimate the power of human connection. All mobile workers must be trained in exemplary customer service delivery, which requires investment in recruiting the right people, and in their on-going training and development. Aside from expertise in their trade, they need the relevant soft skills, backed with appropriate technology to allow them to do their best work. Organisations can support employees by investing in real-time job management software and give them mobile apps that help them arrive at the right place, at the right time, giving them the confidence of a good start that lets them carry out their work in a customer’s home. It’s crucial for the reputation of any business that its representatives display courtesy, a friendly smile and consistently perform their tasks as efficiently, neatly, and safely as possible. The attitude and professionalism shown by an operative can transform the customer’s experience from average to outstanding, driving more positive reviews, higher star ratings and overall improved business reputation.
- Advanced recently published a whitepaper, Lessons Learned During the P Word that looks at new and proactive ways that providers can deliver better customer service using digital solutions. These help to improve engagement, higher customer retention rates, improved customer feedback and overall enhanced organisational reputation, to achieve business objectives and competitive edge.