Every homeowner goes through a series of steps to hiring a contractor. Along that journey, there are critical windows of time after new systems are installed. This final stage of the customer journey, otherwise known as “Advocacy,” is also when contractors can maximize the marketing value of their customers by generating more ratings and reviews.
A recent survey conducted by Silverback Strategies looked at how homeowners find, evaluate and select a contractor. The study shows key marketing actions service professionals should take. This is the final article of a five-part series exploring each phase of the modern customer journey for buyers of plumbing/HVAC services.
An Overview of a Service Buyer’s Journey
It’s helpful to understand the process a customer goes through before they contact you – and what they do after. We identified five phases to this journey:
Realization — when customers recognize they have a problem.
Education — when customers gather the information they need to make a decision.
Evaluation — when customers compare service providers.
Decision — when customers decide on a contractor.
Advocacy — when customers leave a rating or review online.
Why are Customer Ratings and Reviews Valuable?
Asking customers for a rating and review on a platform like Google My Business can give your website a major boost in search visibility. But, perhaps more importantly, positive customer ratings and reviews give your business credibility.
Buyers can sometimes be skeptical of home service professionals. The Silverback survey found 42% of Plumbing/HVAC buyers went online to find the contractor they hired, and more than 53% evaluated a Plumbing/HVAC company based on customer ratings, reviews and testimonials. These testimonials act as social proof that your business can meet a user’s needs.
From a technical perspective, search algorithms like Google look at these ratings and reviews to determine when your website comes up when buyers search for terms like “air conditioning companies near me.” If your company has positive ratings, strong reviews, and is within the geographic area of the user, your business’ profile is likely to show up in the search results.
On Which Ratings & Review Platform Should Contractors Focus?
One pitfall contractors should avoid is to try to get reviews on as many platforms as possible. If you’re struggling to get traction, focusing on one platform could make a big difference. But choosing the right platform can be difficult without knowing where buyers spend their time.
According to the Silverback study, Google and Facebook were the most common platforms buyers used to leave ratings and reviews. Search engines were also the most common channel buyers used to discover companies in the “Realization” stage. Naturally, this would make Google My Business a logical platform to focus on.
It should be noted that Facebook can also be a great platform to focus on. If your business already runs Facebook Ads, you’ve likely generated business and built up a following on that channel. These ratings and reviews add credibility to your campaigns and can have an impact on conversion rates.
How can Contractors Generate More Ratings & Reviews?
This is the million-dollar question. Unfortunately, generating customer ratings and reviews is harder in the HVAC industry than other home service industries like home cleaning services or residential construction. Less than 37% of Plumbing/HVAC buyers reported leaving an online rating or review after their most recent service.
However, not all is lost. Marketing teams (in-house or agency) can coordinate with installers to ask customers directly to leave a rating or review on a specific platform, leave behind a business card requesting the review, then follow up via email or SMS with a link directly to where a customer can leave a rating or review.
These multiple touch points are critical. There is a window of time where contractors should ask a customer to leave a rating or review. The clock starts ticking once service has completed, and as more time passes the chances of getting a rating and review decline.
Simply put, if your company doesn’t have good ratings and reviews on the platforms buyers use, you’re leaving revenue on the table. While results from generating more ratings and reviews won’t happen overnight, it will have a compounding effect over a longer time horizon. Combine this with other lead generation channels like paid search and social media, and contractors have a viable path to growth and profitability.
John Tyreman is a seasoned marketer with experience conducting market research focused on buyer behavior. John has appeared on webinars, podcasts, and authored hundreds of blog articles. Connect with him on LinkedIn.