By Bryan Martin, Business Enhancement Specialist

Online reviews continue to increase in importance with consumers. The recent Nielsen Global Survey reports that 70 percent of consumers trust online consumer reviews, an increase of 15 percent in four years. And, according to the Local Consumer Review Survey 2012, 52 percent of consumers say that positive online reviews make them more likely to use that local business.

Today’s residential plumbing, HVAC marketing plan and electrical service customer wants a simple way to research a potential service provider and they are increasingly turning to review sites to do so. So, what does this mean to you? How do you manage your company’s online reputation?

First, it’s important to remember, like with any review function, if you are providing the best customer service, you should see this reflected in your reviews, even online reviews. If you have invested in technician training, call center training, and you have implemented business systems that allow your business to operate effectively, like our Nexstar® members, then that’s a good thing. However, if for one reason or another, you miss on a customer service opportunity, and a negative review appears online, how do you manage that?

I’m sure you know that responding to the review and attempting to follow up with the customer to amend any issues is your first step. Then you need to look at an online reputation management tool that will help you generate new reviews and on the right review sites. The goal is for your satisfied customers to post their positive reviews on popular review sites, such as Google Places, Yelp and Facebook to offset the occasional negative review.

This does not mean you should create or buy unauthentic positive online reviews.  Since online reviews can play a positive role in your company’s search engine ranking, the social media giants are cracking down on fake reviews and “review impersonation.” According to Google, this practice is sufficient cause for getting your company banned from their listings, thereby losing access to 60% of the online search market. Think about managing your online reputation as you are creating your marketing plan. Making a mistake in managing your online reputation or SEO could be extremely costly for your service business.

As online reviews become even more critical, our Nexstar members have come to us asking for guidance. So, we partnered with a company called ReviewBuzz™ to create StarBuzz™, an exclusive program combining our Nexstar Customer Satisfaction Survey with ReviewBuzz’s public online customer review generator and technician recognition program.

With StarBuzz, you know what percentage of your customers is influencing other potential customers, and where you need to train and improve. It capitalizes on the one-on-one relationships your staff builds directly with your customers, resulting in positive reviews on influential websites, so you out shine the competition, authentically and ethically. In addition, StarBuzz increases staff engagement by rewarding your “Customer Service Heroes” for sharing their glowing reviews to build trust and close more sales.

Take the time to think about your online reputation. As a service business, your success depends on providing the best customer service then for potential customers to find you. Ask potential online reputation providers a lot of questions about how they generate reviews and ask them about their commitment to authenticity. I would be happy to help you get started. Call me at 888.240.STAR (7827).