It’s 2017. The world lives online, and online customer reviews are the cornerstone to a successful business.
“Name recognition for your business isn’t enough,” said Jon Eyre, director of content at Podium, a provider of customer interaction software. “You also need to be delivering stellar customer service so that the online reviews on your listings reflect your customer experience.”
Online reviews influence whether a customer chooses your solar company or goes with your competitor. During a recent Solar Power World webinar, Podium gave some tips for solar installers interested in understanding the customer experience and how to improve their online presence to gain more business.
“Sometimes customers [are] your best salespeople,” Eyre said. “No matter how much you train your staff, people are more apt to listen to someone that doesn’t work for your business. Consumers trust online reviews regardless of whether they know the person who left the review. Consumers would rather read about the experience of someone who has actually made a purchase and used your service, as opposed to seeing another ad, regardless of how clever it is.”
Podium described the customer journey with a solar company as a four-step process:
- Awareness/Investigation: Customers first need to do their research. Your business should be easy to find online and have a good reputation from online reviews.
- Consideration: Customers seek out real reviews of services and products, so having review and rating opportunities (whether on your website or through third-party sites) is imperative. BrightLocal found that 84% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from family and friends.
- Decision: Most purchase decisions come after significant online research. Customers will compare reviews on multiple companies before choosing the right one. Making sure you’re positively reviewed across all platforms helps.
- Post-purchase: After a solar installation, customers (hopefully) come full circle and leave their own positive reviews for the next researcher. Finding the right moment to ask customers to provide feedback is important. Online reviews provide your company with valuable feedback and actionable insight into how to improve the customer experience or the likelihood of repeat or referred business.
So how do you begin to shed a positive light on your company online? A Podium survey found that 87% of people have access on their smartphone to at least one of the big three review apps: Google, Yelp or Facebook. There are other industry-specific sites (like Angie’s List or SolarReviews), but focusing on the Big Three is a good starting point.
The easiest way to get positive reviews is to follow Podium’s three tips: Invite customers to review, make it easy for them to review and convey how important reviews are to your business.
- Invite your customers to leave reviews. When are they happiest in their decision? Is it right when they sign the contract? After a week with the finished system? Contact them when they’re most likely to leave a review.
- Make the online review process easy and let customers know what to expect. Will you lose people if they have to create an account or go to a third-party website to leave a review? Maybe asking for a Facebook review is enough. Podium has found success with asking customers for reviews through text messages rather than ignorable emails. Make it easy, and explain what you want up front.
- Express how much it matters to your business. If you’re in a competitive market, your superior service (that you want customers to comment on) helps you stand out in the crowd. Make sure your customers know how much positive reviews matter in the bid to get that next job.
Research by Nielsen found that referrals convert at a three- to five-times higher rate than other customer acquisition channels, and referral customers are more profitable and have a higher lifetime value. Good online reviews can be a great referral device.
Podium’s survey found that 93% of respondents said online reviews impacted purchase decisions, and 82% said the content of a review convinced them to make a purchase. When asking for reviews, try to get feedback on a specific aspect of your business that will help make the content of your reviews better. Your positive online presence will assist in customer acquisition efforts in a big way. You just have to ask!
Information for this article was gathered from a Solar Power World webinar, as presented by Podium. To take a deeper dive into this topic and learn more online tips specific to solar businesses (including what to do when you get a negative online review), access the webinar for free here.