Gary Baker is VP of Marketing for Linear LLC, a provider of wired and wireless products for security, access control, health & wellness and residential. To request more info about Linear, visit www.securityinfowatch.com/10215766.
In the age of Google reviews, Angie's List and Yelp, security dealers need to be as vigilant defending their brands as they are defending the homes and businesses of their customers. Trust is valued more in the security industry than virtually anywhere else, and negative online reviews can be damning since the majority of people start their research online.
According to Comscore Research, when it comes to quality of service, consumers are willing to pay up to 99 percent more for an “Excellent” rating than a “Good” rating, depending on the product category. Now imagine if your business falls at the bottom with a one-star “Poor” rating based on one review — that’s bad news.
These simple metrics are often the first touch point a customer has with your company, and along with personal recommendations, among the most trusted. So how do repair the damage?
Addressing Negative Reviews
In some ways, it is unfortunate that one negative review shared across several websites can alter the reputation of a company so greatly, but those are the times we live in. At a minimum, you should be aware of what is out there.
The first thing to do is claim all relevant profiles, starting with the major search engines. The sign-up process is generally the same for all — set up an account, confirm yourself as owner, add company data to the profile and set up alerts to highlight new reviews and comments when they appear. The most important places to register are Google Places, Yahoo Local and Yelp, but that can be expanded to BBB online, Citysearch, Angie’s List, Facebook (which now features reviews) and a host of other sites.
If you are purely interested in addressing or monitoring for negative reviews, there are some things to consider when dealing with unhappy customers. Most review sites have a space for businesses to reply to negative reviews, so use them; however, don’t ever go on the offensive. Address complaints individually with facts and take ownership if you really are in the wrong, but make sure it’s presented as an isolated incident.
I can remember one review on Yelp where a dealer was completely cordial and factual in addressing each of a customer’s complaints until the very end of his response, where he called her crazy, pathetic and a few other choice words. The ensuing stream of comments and responses dragged his business further into the mud and made things much worse.
As much as it might pain you, go out of your way to please. Someone who has had a bad experience is much more likely to tell the world than a happy customer is to sing your praises. So make every effort to turn it into a positive by demonstrating above-and-beyond customer service. Resolve the problem if possible, but learn when to step away if there is no potential for a positive outcome. The fact is, an angry customer’s complaining can reach a lot more people than it previously could, so a quick resolution, even if it is just getting them to quiet down, is always the best endgame.
Generating Positive Reviews
Of course, the best way to stifle a negative review is to generate positive reviews, which can be done in a number of different ways. The easiest way is to simply ask — send a personal letter or email shortly after the job has been finished with links to your review sites and a polite request for a review, as long as you know the customer had a good experience. You can also post links on the homepage of your website and via social media feeds if you have a Facebook page or other business accounts. Start with your best customers and work your way out. If your customer is a business, leave a positive review for their business first and they will usually reciprocate.
Beyond building credibility, having an abundance of positive online reviews has search engine optimization (SEO) benefits as well. The Google algorithm pays attention to number of reviews and ranks businesses with the most reviews and best ratings higher than those with none. If blindly choosing, people will always contact a business with more stars and reviews.
Reviews also include valuable target keywords that you want aligned with your business. It is basically the most credible advertising you can have and it provides positive, unique content you can link to from web and social sites. For people who do their research online (almost everyone), positive reviews are a customer service tool because they answer questions and remove doubts about your products/services before a call is made or email sent.
Using Case Studies
Another tactic dealers can use to build credibility and trust are case studies — which essentially profiles the work you have already done and highlights a specific problem or unique challenge you helped a customer overcome. Case studies are generally published through a third party, like a local newspaper or trade magazine, and are viewed as highly credible because they involve the practical application of a product or service, not just marketing claims made by a spokesperson or advertisement. They also help humanize a business by putting a face on your company, highlighting good work done by real employees for real customers, and because they are often told in story form with visuals.
Finding the right job to use as a case study is critical, and commercial installations generally work better than residential. Maybe a local school installed a new access control and security system to better keep track of student and visitor traffic. Or a pizza place put in new surveillance equipment after a robbery. Or a church installed a copper theft alarm after an HVAC system was stripped. All of these present opportunities for you and a customer to highlight an issue and get some brand and expert recognition in the process.
Case studies highlight your expertise to the local community and create awareness about a security threat or trend, positioning you as a thought leader. They can also reinforce the customer-vendor relationship and improve company morale. The same effects can be had with case studies in trade magazines, except it is recognition from peers as opposed to potential customers. If the angle is interesting enough, all you have to do is reach out to the appropriate editor of the media outlet you are pursuing with a brief pitch. From there, the worst they can say is, “No thanks.”
Gary Baker is VP of Marketing for Linear LLC, a provider of wired and wireless products for security, access control, health & wellness and residential. To request more info about Linear, please visit www.securityinfowatch.com/10215766.