Is Your Online Reputation Spotless? Let’s Hope Not…

Wait… what?!

That headline doesn’t seem to make any sense. Having a perfect online reputation with great reviews, glowing testimonials, and 5-star rankings on Yelp would be a dream for any home improvement company, right?

Not so fast…

According to a recent study from Northwestern University’s Spiegel Research Center, they found that having only high ratings and more stars is not necessarily better. At least not when it comes to purchase probability. Sure, this study is mainly for e-commerce but, if you think about it, it could apply to how homeowners make decisions on which remodeler, roofer, or basement waterproofing company to hire.

“Five Stars is Too Good to Be True”

Their research shows that having only perfect reviews or only positive feedback means potential prospects don’t trust any of the recommendations.

“When consumers see all five-star reviews, they become skeptical that it’s too good to be true, that there’s some manipulation happening. Therefore, what we see in that chart is if you have an average star rating in the mid-fours, the purchase probabilities are higher than if it’s at five, which means having some negative reviews in there actually adds credibility to you,” said Edward Malthouse, professor at Medill Northwestern and the Research Director of the Spiegel Center.

Am I suggesting that you should create a fake account and give your home improvement business 3 stars? Certainly not. Every company should strive for only real feedback from their customers and should never give themselves any false reviews – that will always come back to bite you because people almost always find out.

That said, it does mean that your online reputation will survive if you don’t always get perfect ratings. If you have a homeowner who was a pain to work with who complains about some perceived slight online then… you’ll survive. And, according to research like this, it might even help you gain more business.

If you have a negative review online, you should always reach out to attempt to remedy the situation. Contact that customer to see what can be done and make every effort. But you cannot please all the people all the time – it’s next to impossible. Once potential customers see that you have posted positive and calm replies to a poor review, they’ll know you made every effort and they’ll take it all in with a grain of salt. Do not simply let any bad reviews or complaints just sit out there online – unanswered – for everyone to read. Make efforts to respond and offer remedies.

“So, it isn’t to say you’re happy that you’re getting negative reviews, but in fact, the presence of some negative reviews apparently increases the validity and authenticity such that people will purchase more when there is the presence of something other than pure fives. That’s significant, we think. That’s one,” added Tom Collinger, the Executive Director of the Spiegel Research Center at Northwestern University.

Don’t don’t stress too much when you get 4 stars instead of 5. It might actually help.