When you work in an industry where most jobs come through referrals and word-of-mouth, reputation is key. As a home builder, your professional reputation can often mean the difference between gaining a repeat customer, or losing a job to a competitor. And when it comes to your company’s online presence, the logic remains the same.
A good thing to keep in mind is that the Internet is a two-way street between you and your clients; you offer your products and your services via your website, and in return, your customers can rate their experiences with you on several platforms. Successful professionals know that reviewing this feedback, responding to it when necessary, and ultimately shaping their business to better suit their customers’ needs is a proven way to maintain a stellar reputation.
At SUPPLY.com, we know how important an open and approachable online presence can be for a company, and we strive every day to strengthen communication channels between our customers and ourselves. We’ve compiled here the reasons why you should be managing your own online reputation, some great websites to explore for customer feedback, and most importantly, how you can use all of this information to maximize your business’s potential.
Why You Should Care
Customers are turning to the Internet more and more these days to hire for housing-related jobs, and more often than not, your online presence is your first impression. So it only makes sense that you should be as attentive and responsive to your customers’ needs over the Internet as you would in be in person.
We’re certainly not the first company to suggest communication as one of the cornerstones of customer service. Client Heartbeat, for example, is an online survey generator that helps businesses measure the overall satisfaction of their clients. In this 2014 article, the company goes into detail on why businesses, especially smaller ones, should make the effort to seek out and digest customer feedback anywhere they can find it; the benefits of such extra effort include product improvement, accurate data to inform company decisions, and a boost in customer retention.
You rely on your skills and your experience to get the job done, and online customer feedback is yet another tool you can add to your belt. Communicating with customers online strengthens your relationships with them, and it is these relationships that keep your customers happy, lead to referrals and new jobs, and give you a reputation as a company that cares.
Where You Should Be Looking
One advantage of getting your company online? Customer feedback is rarely hard to find. There are dozens of channels of communication across the web that you can use to boost your online reputation, and we’ve narrowed down a few of the major ones below (check out the infographic for a quick summary). While this list in no way should be the end of your search for customer feedback, it should be enough to get you started.
In their own words, Houzz is “a platform for home remodeling and design, bringing homeowners and home professionals together in a uniquely visual community.” Houzz caters to interior designers, contractors, and most other members of the housing industry, and sign-up is free. You have the option to build a profile as an individual or an entire company; once your profile is created, you can post your contact information, publish detailed accounts and pictures of any projects you are currently working on or have completed in the past, and follow the activities of other professionals in the industry. However, for the purposes of this article, you’re going to want to pay special attention to the customer-centric sections available on your Houzz account.
Located just a click away from your main profile page is the Reviews tab. In this section, past customers, current clients, and even your fellow colleagues can rate your service on a 5-star scale and provide comments to fully express their thoughts. These reviews are the perfect instrument for measuring what aspects of your business are valued by the people you work with, and what aspects need to be changed or even scrapped entirely. Wondering if you should put more focus into your online customer service? Check your Houzz reviews for feedback. Thinking about whether or not that last remodeling job went well? Check Houzz to see if the client has rated you. All reviews are visible to the public, so when potential customers come across your profile, they can get a pretty accurate idea of the level of service you offer.
Finally, in addition to providing reviews for your company, the site allows you to comment on those reviews. You can thank previous customers who gave you 5 stars, or you can field any complaints from those customers who were less than satisfied by your work; either way, you are establishing yourself as a company that genuinely cares about the people you work with, and wants to shape your business in a way that best suits your customers. At SUPPLY.com, we pride ourselves in our 5-star service, and we know that a large part of that rating was earned by our willingness to respond to any and all customers who take the time to reach out to us.
If a majority of your work falls into the contracting, building, or repairing categories, then TrustedPros can be a great resource for you. The site is directed primarily toward homeowners looking to hire local businesses for construction or remodeling jobs; businesses like your own can create either regular or premium profiles in order to be included among the search results.
Access to potential new clients is only one of the advantages that TrustedPros can offer you. Once your profile is created, any past clients you have worked with have the opportunity to write personalized reviews of your services. TrustedPros implements a detailed screening process to ensure that these reviews are legitimate, so that when you read them, you know it is information that you can trust.
These reviews, both good and bad, can benefit you in the long run. Good reviews can be displayed clearly on your profile and boost your chances as a potential hire for customers browsing the site. Bad reviews, while you certainly do not want too many, can at the very least help you to locate the areas of your business model that need the most improvement. And, much like Houzz, TrustedPros allows professionals to comment on customer reviews, giving them the chance to gain further information, or rectify problems if necessary.
A final TrustedPros tool that professionals may find useful is the site’s “Ask The Pros” section. This feature allows customers to post housing-related questions to the general community, and if you are a professional with an account, you can reply. A question-and-answer-style tool like this allows you to showcase your own knowledge of the housing industry, while at the same time forming a relationship between yourself and a customer who may have never encountered you otherwise, which in turn may lead to future business opportunities.
Much like TrustedPros, Thumbtack is a website that connects customers with small-business professionals in their community. The site caters to a wide range of industries, and housing certainly falls into that bucket; there are entire pages dedicated to interior design, house cleaning, and handyman services.
Having a Thumbtack account is an easy way to get on the radar of customers hoping for a reasonable quote on their housing projects, and of course, the site allows for customer reviews as well. When it comes to managing these reviews, Thumbtack does not beat around the bush in terms of the advice they give. In their own words, “nobody is perfect 100% of the time. In fact, research has shown that reviews that are not 100% positive are more credible.” Rather than hoping only for glowing recommendations to tack on to their profiles, professionals on Thumbtack are encouraged to form a more honest, interactive relationship with their clients.
This idea is made all the more plausible with Thumbtack’s chat tool, which allows customers to message professionals 1-on-1 through the site. If you are a home builder looking to move beyond the introduction phase and really get to know your customer’s wants and needs, then Thumbtack is definitely an option to consider.
Social media may be the simplest, and most effective, way for builders, designers, and other professionals to interact directly with the people they serve. Profiles on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are easy to set up, and once you have one, you can start getting your name out into the public spotlight and forming relationships with both current and potential customers.
Most social media sites allow some sort of communication to take place between businesses and customers, be it in the short form of a tweeted conversation, or the longer, more detailed option of a Facebook post. And even though Facebook now has a feature that allows customers to rate your business on a 5-star scale, communication over social media does not have to be focused around a review; it can be as simple as a customer posing a short question, which can then lead to a mutually beneficial dialogue.
In short, social media sites are some of the quickest and most personal ways to receive (and respond to) customer feedback over the Internet. They are by far the most popular option on this list for potential customers, and they are an absolute requirement for small businesses or professionals in the housing industry who want to make sure that their customers are heard.
Your Own Website
In the sites listed above, you may have noticed that open, helpful communication between the professional and the client is the key to success; your own company website should be no different. Website generators like WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace all have options to include comment sections, and the same is true for a blog, if your business has one. A customer can use these comment features to review your work and ask the type of questions that a housing industry professional like yourself is more than prepared to answer; and rather than having to compete with rival companies to see who can win the customer over, you retain complete control over how and when you respond.
It is this type of 1-on-1 relationship with your customer that can turn your website into such a strong resource for your business. Use your site to address your clients’ needs, and adjust your business model based on feedback that your receive, and you will find yourself retaining current customers and attracting new ones.
What You Can Do Now
Now that we’ve gone over why online customer interaction is so vital to your business, and where you can go to meet your customers halfway, you are ready to take the first steps toward establishing yourself as a strong communicator in the online channels listed above. You can start by going over the above list of customer review platforms, and figuring out which fit your business best.
Once that’s done, here’s a few tips to remember about interacting with customers online. Encouraging or incentivizing clients to review your job performance, responding quickly to any questions directed at you over the Internet, and handling complaints in a helpful, professional manner are all standards you should uphold when it comes to your online reputation. Jeffbullas.com is a blog that specializes in helping companies optimize their online marketing techniques; for some great additional information on how exactly you can be using your customer reviews, check out this recent article published on the site.
Finally, if you are eager to get started on boosting your online reputation and becoming a company your customers can count on, but you still aren’t sure exactly what that sort of thing looks like over the Internet, check out these real-world examples we have gathered of companies in the housing industry making the most of their customer interactions: