If you run a cleaning service business, you probably thrive on referrals. Your marketing budget is small, so those referrals help you acquire new customers. Those customers become repeat customers, who then (with any luck) start the referral process all over again.
But what if there’s another sort of word-of-mouth you’re not taking advantage of?
I like to think of online reviews as a sort of digital word-of-mouth. They function as referrals for your cleaning business, and they can act as a great marketing channel, too. They’re not entirely passive, as you need to ask for reviews and respond to every review that comes in, but they don’t require nearly as much work as asking for referrals.
Now, I’m not advocating for you to stop asking for referrals– I’m just advocating for you to start using online reviews to their full potential.
According to an exhaustive study from BrightLocal, 80% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations– as long as those reviews seem genuine and trustworthy.
My own research also finds that having a greater number of online reviews, positively impacts your search engine visibility, too.
You’re already strapped for time and a marketing budget, so online reviews are a good place to invest. Potential customers consult online reviews during their research phase, and when they see trustworthy, positive reviews for your company, they’re much more likely to pick up the phone.
Asking for Reviews and Building Relationships
Unlike many other service-focused industries, you’re in a good position to ask your clients for reviews.
Your clients use your services regularly, so you get to know them. You also work inside of their homes, so you already have a more personal relationship with your clients than many other service providers do.
If you want online reviews, you’ll probably have to ask. But you can’t ask too quickly.
You should only ask for a review once you’ve established trust with your client. If they trust you in their home and appreciate the service you provide, they should be receptive to leaving a review. If they don’t know you well enough, they could feel you’re demanding too much from them before you’ve built a relationship.
And there’s one more thing you should do before you ask for a review– learn the review process yourself. That way, you can walk your client through the review process and answer any questions they may have.
- Leave a review for a local business you’ve recently visited– learn the process for Yelp, Facebook, and Google at the very least
- Make note of how you had to sign up or log in– some platforms allow you to use your Facebook account, some require you to sign up with an email address
- If you struggle with the review process, make note of those setbacks so you can help your clients easily get through the process of leaving a review
It may be tempting to somehow incentivize your clients to leave you a review. It might be easy for you to trade discounts or expanded services in exchange for a review, but I recommend not pursuing those options.
Even if you were to never get caught, incentivizing reviews violates most review platforms’ terms of service. If you do get caught, you could face penalties on the review platform, or even legal action.
It’s not worth it.
Instead, let your client know that their review helps you grow as a company. Reviews help you attract new business and offer even better service. Their reviews also help other consumers choose a trustworthy cleaning service.
If you’ve established a relationship, asking for reviews shouldn’t be difficult. You can also leave review cards or other reminders in the home, send text messages, or mention reviews in email correspondence.
There are plenty of options.
Responding to the Negative
Next, we need to talk about the reviews you don’t ask for– the negative kind.
You can’t please everyone, and sometimes our customers take their frustration out on us when they’ve had a bad day. Alternately, they’re just difficult to please, despite our best efforts.
And, sometimes, they have legitimate criticism we need to embrace.
If you’ve received more than one negative review, look for any patterns that emerge. If you see any patterns, address those issues and move forward. It can be difficult, but it will help your company grow in the long run.
And it is difficult. When you run or work for a small business, a negative review can easily feel like a personal attack. You’ve worked hard to create and maintain your company, so negative reviews can cut pretty deep.
But you can’t let those emotions get the best of you.
When you receive a negative review:
- Wait at least an hour before responding– never respond in the heat of the moment
- Respond publically to every online review, so potential customers can see you care about their feedback– and so they can see your side of the story
- Never act defensive
- Never attack or insult the reviewer, even if they’re way out of line
- Respond using facts, and invite the reviewer to contact you to sort out the issue
- If necessary, respond in private, as well
- If you made a mistake, or if the criticism is legitimate, swallow your pride and take the criticism to heart
If you’re providing good service and forming relationships, your negative reviews should be few and far between– but you do need a plan for tackling negative reviews when they come up.
Since you’re operating a small business, you’ll likely want to take some preventative measures against negative reviews, as well.
In this video podcast from Mike Campion of Grow Your Cleaning Business, he gives some excellent advice. I recommend watching the short video, but here are the main points:
- Bill in advance to avoid any payment issues that could result in a negative review
- Don’t go to court for small amounts of money, or over negative reviews (unless they’re actually libelous)
- Fix your customer’s broken heart by swallowing your pride, calling them on the phone, and trying to make it right
- Add a personal touch, such as offering to take them to lunch if they’re angry
- Make peace whenever you can
- You won’t be able to prevent every negative review, but those tips should help you avoid the disastrous ones.
- When you do receive a negative review, give a sincere, professional reply. I recommend replying to all positive reviews, as well.
You can also diminish negative reviews by earning more positive reviews. When a potential customer sees 10 positive reviews and one negative review that seems slightly unhinged, they’ll understand you encountered a difficult person.
Though time is a luxury you probably don’t have, try to take five or ten minutes in the morning to monitor your online reviews and respond as necessary. Online reviews are an effective place to spend your time and marketing budget. They influence purchasing decisions, almost as much as referrals, and they help your overall web presence and search engine visibility.
Keep a cool head when you receive negative reviews, and respond to every single one in a professional manner. Try to prevent negative reviews by leveraging the personal relationships, and the personal nature of cleaning someone’s home.
And, above all, ask your customers for reviews.
Thanks for reading!