Contractors: How to Deal with Customer Complaints

improveit 360 complaintsYou truly can’t please all the people all of the time. It’s the nature of small business to deal with complaints – even when they are unfair. Especially when they are unfair… 

The problem all home pros must deal with are customer complaints. It used to be that unhappy people would tell ten friends about their bad experiences – now they can tell thousands… thanks to the Internet. They can take their tirades to Yelp, to Angie’s List, to their blog, to just about anywhere you can leave comments or reviews. 

And your potential customers might see the unjust claim they make. And that can hurt business. What can you do? 

Google Alerts
As much as we may curse the ‘Net sometimes, it can also be our friend. Start by creating a Google account, if you don’t already have one. Once you’ve filled out the details and are logged in, go to the Google Alerts page. Under “Search Query” – enter your business name and click “Create an Alert”. Unless the name is extremely unique or just one interesting word, you’ll want to put quotation marks – “Acme Remodeling” – or brackets – [Acme Remodeling] – around your business name. This keeps you from getting tons of alerts that really don’t apply to your name (in this example, without brackets or quotation marks, you’d end up with Alerts from anyone using ‘acme’ or ‘remodeling’ in a search.)

This will create an alerts emailed to you anytime Google finds a mention of your home improvement company on the Internet. Create a few variations on your business (like “Acme Remodelers” and “Acme Renovations”) in case a complaining customer gets it wrong. You might get a few unrelated emails but eventually you’ll see who is talking about you and where they’re saying it. 

Monitor Social Media
It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on the social media platforms – Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. Each site gives you the ability to search. Enter your company name (and those variations, including your personal name) and try to find any negative or even positive comments. 

Check up on Review Sites
Occasionally read the reviews on Yelp, Angie’s List, Kudzu, as well as the Google, Bing, and Yahoo! local reviews. These type of sites come up in local searches when people are looking for you or your services and a bad comment can really hurt business.

What Are Your Options?
First, don’t every try to get into an argument or engage in a negative way with any past customer online. It can only make the situation worse. 

Your best bet is to offer to reach out to that customer in your response. If you can comment, let them know you’d like to talk as soon as possible to try and fix any issues they may have. Avoid the underhanded apology, “I’m sorry you think there’s a problem”. It’s better to say, “I’m sorry you’re upset. Let me call you so we can take care of this.” Don’t get into details but let others who may see the review or complaint know you care, you’re interested, and you’re willing to address the issue. 

Hopefully, there will be additional great comments and reviews on the site. But if it’s the only one, you really need to do something. Now, before I mention this… you should do this anyway, but… it’s a great idea to reach out to your happy customers. Ask them to post their good experiences online to counter one bad review. Send your favorite customers links to your Yelp page or Facebook page or Yahoo! Local page and ask for a positive  comment. Enough of these great recommendations can overcome a single negative viewpoint from a disgruntled client. 

If it’s a blatant attack or a unhinged troll making wild claims that sound completely off-the-charts, you might even consider ignoring their posting. Many people looking for your services will ignore that one bad reviewer if they seem totally unrealistic. Just move on… 

If you see a negative review and it is worth your time, try to reach out as soon as possible. Any delay can cause damage and if you wait long enough it seems as though you didn’t care. When you discover it, dive right in and do your damage control. 

Finally, if you are at fault, don’t be afraid to apologize. Making it permanent in an online setting seems like it might be a bad idea, but viewers will see this and recognize that you’re human and willing to correct a bad situation. Offer to resolve any issue and if you’re able to make it right… ask the customer to post a new positive comment or review.

One of the tools we recommend is Guild Quality. We partnered with them because they specialize in doing third-party customer satisfaction reviews for remodelers, contractors, and home builders. As members, home pros can get real-time customer feedback that they can use to improve their quality and show prospective customers value. It’s a great way to make sure your customers can sing your praises and become evangelists for your business. 

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