A Quick Guide to Online Reviews

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What kind of reviews does your repair shop get?

If you said, “Um…reviews?” then friends, this article is for you.

You need reviews.

Let’s look at the numbers. About 90 percent of consumers consult online reviews before choosing a business, and 92 percent of shoppers report favoring local businesses with a 4-star rating or higher.

So, online reviews can increase your shop’s visibility on the web and in the real world. They can also give you a chance to connect with existing customers and help attract new ones. That means you can put customer review to work for you – it could even be the missing piece to your marketing strategy.

We chatted with the always awesome Stacy Conner, co-owner (and marketing whiz!) of Equipment Experts. Stacy had some excellent insights about why shops need to cultivate online reviews and a few ways they can do just that.

Using Reviews to Attract More Customers

Online reviews are a reflection of your shop’s reputation. Lots of good reviews makes you look good to those who need your services. Lots of bad reviews, well, those don’t look good at all.

When someone is looking over your reviews, Stacy reminds us, they’re looking to validate their interest in you. They have already landed on either your website or your social media page because your services line up with what they’re looking for. If others are happy with you, this means your potential customer is on the right track.

“Okay,” they’re saying, “Skywalker Repairs has a hundred 5-star reviews. Their customers really like them.” If your shop is getting high marks from what are effectively your customers’ peers, they know that people just like them – who have similar needs – found what they needed from your techs.

Research has found that a rating improvement of just one star on Yelp can result in an increase in sales of up to 9 percent. That means if you have few to zero reviews now, a handful of positive reviews can boost your customer base. Even with some negative reviews in the mix (and we’ll talk about those in a bit), injecting some more positive reviews will increase your rating and garner an increase in customers.

Building Trust: 72 percent of consumers say they tend to trust local businesses with positive reviews.

Improve Your Rep: Good reviews and high search engine rankings make people see you as an authority in heavy duty-repair.

Opens Communication Lines: Good or bad, reviews provide a setting for interacting with customers.

Wait, Fullbay, you may be saying, interacting through reviews?

Yup. So much of what you do in business and life comes down to communication. That truth can get lost in our busy world, so let’s explore it a bit more.

Reviews = Communication

How do you get that coveted 5-star review?

Provide good service, right? Absolutely. If people are happy with their repairs, they’ll be more inclined to leave a good review.

But the other required ingredient is…wait for it…communication.

Stacy absolutely drilled that home for us. “All people want is truth, honesty, and trustworthiness.” Even if you have to give them bad news, give them the bad news. “Here is the problem, and here is your potential solution.” This allows the customer to make the final decision regarding a service or repair. You’ve given them their options; the final decision is in their hands. They become a partner, not just someone you’re taking care of.

That’s why communication is so critical. Yes, you’re providing a service, but the equipment you work on is part of your customer’s livelihood. They want to know what’s going on. Many shops (and, come to think of it, many businesses) will just say, “Oh, I’ve got this” and attempt to breeze through it. Be upfront with your customers. Let them make the decision. By communicating clearly with them, you’re keeping them informed and connected to everything that goes on.

Customers who are pleased with how you communicate – even if you’re telling them bad news – are far more likely to leave good reviews.

How to Ask Customers for Reviews

Although the majority of consumers rely on reviews when looking for goods and services, their first thought isn’t always to go back online and leave a review of their own.

So how do you get them? You ask! Assuming you have even a sporadic number of customers, you’ll have multiple opportunities to ask for a review each day.

Ask in person: As a general rule of thumb, if a customer seems happy when they leave, ask them in passing to leave a review. If they’re thrilled – “You really saved my neck today!” – then definitely ask them. Anyone who might be customer-facing should know how to ask; you can even write up a short speech for your staff to deliver if they’re ringing someone up or walking them out. Something like, “I’m so glad we were able to help you! Hey, it would really help us out if you could leave a review on our site or your social media of choice!” By the way, “in person” can include asking for an online review during a phone conversation, too.

Put it on a business card: Print the review sites that list your heavy duty repair shop on your business cards along with a brief request for a review. Something like, “Thanks for your business! You can post a review on Yelp, Google, or Facebook.”

Ask via email: If you’re already email marketing, including a review request at the end of every email you send out is a simple way to get more customer reviews. The beauty of the email ask is that you can embed a link to the different review sites into the body of the email, making it as easy as possible for anyone to sing your shop’s praises.

Request them on your site: Most websites have a “testimonials” page where people can read about happy customers’ experiences. Using the email trick, you can embed links on the testimonial page with an invitation for customers to leave a review on the site of their choice: “We want to hear about your experience at our shop!” Registration with review websites typically comes with permission to use that site’s logo in your marketing. Have your webmaster add the logos to your testimonial page along with the links to easily direct customers to the right place to leave a review.

Common Review Websites

There are many review sites on the web, and it seems the number is growing every day. Some, like TripAdvisor and OpenTable, focus on specific types of businesses. However, there are plenty of sites that post reviews for any type of business and the biggest, most influential ones happen to fall into that category.

Before we go any further, we (and Stacy) had a caveat: if you’re handling primarily B2B work, Yelp might not be much use to you. It’s extremely popular, so of course we’ll mention it, but unless you’re handling, say, performance diesel, your average customer may not be looking at Yelp.

So, here’s the deal with review sites: Customers can leave reviews on any of these sites even if your business isn’t registered with them. But if you want to interact with customers and respond to feedback – as we mentioned before, that’s a big part of communication – you need to “claim” a site as your own. The various review sites each have their own way to do this; you can see Google’s requirements here.

On days you only have five minutes for dealing with reviews, concentrate on the ones with the most clout: Yelp and Google. If you can only set aside one minute, then focus on Google.

Make sure you understand each site’s guidelines, as some have rules on how you can ask for reviews. For instance, it’s never okay to pay for reviews or even offer discounts or any kind of reward. There are general rules that apply to customers and business owners, too. One example is the universal ban on vulgar language. If an irate customer leaves an over-the-top review filled with offensive words, you can usually flag it and have it removed.

Get That Search Engine Traffic

Good online reviews can help shops rank higher on search engines. Long story short, that means when someone is searching for “heavy-duty repair” in your area, your well-reviewed shop will pop up above your less-well-reviewed neighbor.

Whoa, Fullbay, you might be saying, why is that?

Well, tailoring your SEO can help Google identify your shop and share it with the world. But the truth is that good reviews improve your overall Google ranking. As BrightLocal says, “Think of reviews as crowd-sourced recommendations—a four or five-star review tells a search engine that they can confidently show that business in a premium, high-visibility location.”

Should I Interact With Reviewers?

Yes! This is a chance to chat with your customers. Good reviews are an opportunity to thank customers, invite them back, and remind them of specials or promotions. A basic, “Thanks for coming! We’re so happy that you’re happy” is always appreciated, but jazz it up a little. “We can’t wait to see you again” can remind a customer that service is due.

Companies that interact with customers through online review sites get more reviews in general. That’s why you can and should respond to all of them. What’s more, you’ll get even more reviews and improved ratings if you respond to comments quicker.

Bad reviews give you a chance to step up and be accountable. Respond to bad reviews quickly—even faster than the good ones. Acknowledge the problem and offer a solution. The customer isn’t always right, but avoid being accusatory. You should be professional and polite, even if they aren’t. Your proactive, constructive response to a negative review will shine a positive light on your shop that will tend to make prospective customers overlook bad feedback.

If this feels overwhelming, just remember that reviews are basically another way to communicate with your customers. But they’re also a way to show potential customers how you’d communicate with them.

How Do I Deal With Bad Reviews?

It happens to everyone: the dreaded bad review.

When a stinker lands on a prominent review site, the first thing you should do is take a deep breath. Then remember the following: this is a customer who is trying to communicate with you. They are upset. Possibly angry. It may be within your power to make it better.

Potential customers often read shop responses to bad reviews with great interest. They want to know how a repair shop handles public criticism. It’s hard to believe, particularly when the review first hits, but dealing with criticism can be your shop’s time to shine.

You can go in with a canned response, of course. You see these all over: “Thanks for your review. We’re sorry we couldn’t help you more!” or something to that extent, followed by an invitation to contact you to make things right. This is better than nothing, but what really appeals to customers is a dissection of the situation.

Is this former customer using false or misleading information? There’s a reason why they say to keep the receipts. “Sometimes,” Stacy says, “you need to present your side to the general reader.” If someone is making false claims about work you did, you’ll want to get in there and politely correct them. Something like, “Here is what actually happened; here is a copy of the receipt.”

Did your shop screw up? Then admit it and look for a way to make things right.

Above all, be gracious. We understand the urge to get combative sometimes – especially if a review is particularly nasty. But getting rude with people will only make you lose business. Always keep your cool! You earn more with honey than vinegar.

Putting Reviews to Work for You

Utilizing online reviews is like injecting a secret word-of-mouth boosting power into your marketing strategy. It helps put your shop on the radar, increases your visibility everywhere, opens lines of communication with customers, and gives you the chance to show off your proficiency as a heavy duty repair expert.

When you get a good review, show it off. Not all your customers and potential customers will be browsing the same websites or using the same social media. Take snippets of it and share it on your various platforms. There’s room for entire reviews or specific quotes in:

  • Newsletters
  • Service reminder emails
  • Social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and so on)
  • YouTube – as a pre-roller before a how-to video, or even in your video description

Online reviews can influence potential customers to give your shop a shot, bringing in new business. In the end, that’s a lot of value from one simple, affordable marketing technique.

A Final Thought on Reviews

As we discussed above, a lot of bad reviews have their beginnings in botched communication. It can be as simple as someone misunderstanding a vehicle’s issue or an expensive part not being listed on the invoice. To maximize good communication with clients, minimize the potential problems that can arise from miscommunication.

Fullbay helps you be absolutely clear with your customers by providing everything up front in the service order. Your customers will see their original problem, what you’ve diagnosed, how you intend to fix it, what parts you’ll need, and how much the whole thing will cost – and you won’t start until they authorize it.

Online reviews and the way they contribute to your ranking isn’t going away anytime soon. Good communication leads to happy customers, happy customers leave good reviews, and good reviews lead to more digital and real-life traffic for your shop. Give Fullbay’s free demo a try and make sure you’re using every tool at your disposal!

Suz Baldwin

About Suz Baldwin

Suz Baldwin got her start in the automotive industry, writing and editing for several motorcycle and classic car magazines straight out of college. In the years that followed, she’s written all sorts of copy for brands big and small while consuming enough coffee to paralyze a dinosaur.

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