Online Reviews Can’t Hurt Me…Can They? Part II

What to do when you get a bad review
By Todd Bairstow
August 06, 2010

Part I of this series discussed how easy it is for disgruntled homeowners to post their frustrations about your home improvement company online. Moreover, it offered that such bad postings can have a material effect on your business. Here's Part II on what you can do about it.

It’s happening more and more in the home improvement business. Homeowners who are angry at a contractor—for reasons real or perceived—harness their frustrations by posting their scathing opinions online. Homeowners hammer companies over a slight and then post it online for all the world to see. In extreme cases, homeowners even post videos of their projects and berate their contractor by name.

In essence, the Internet has empowered homeowners to be judge, jury and executioner in their disputes with home improvement companies. Not your problem, you say. Unless, of course, that company is yours. If so, what should you do?


This is the emerging practice of online reputation management (ORM). It’s increasingly embraced by home improvement companies looking to protect their good name and reputation online.

How does ORM work? Here’s an overview: A homeowner posts negative feedback about you on a website like YouTube or Yelp. Your team might become aware of the posting, either through a Google search, a mention by a prospective customer or through a Google Alert.

Your team isolates the posting and tries to respond to the complaint online—in the most professional manner possible. You’ll leverage the functionality that many websites that permit responses to web posts.

Sounds simple, right? Not quite.

Think about it. What’s your natural reaction when someone erroneously and publicly criticizes you? To fight back, of course. The reaction of most home improvement dealers to a negative post is to fire right back at the poster with a candid assessment of the homeowner’s complaint, integrity and intelligence.

Bad idea. Why? While it might feel great at the time, such a reaction will not reflect well on your company. If a homeowner posts about a bad experience with your firm, and you respond by essentially berating the homeowner, how will that look to other potential customers who read the exchange? To say the least, you would present yourself as combative, unprofessional and difficult to do business with.

And as DeBeers says in its diamond advertisements, “an Internet post is forever.” Your exchange is likely to stay around for a long, long time—long enough for many of your potential future customers to read it.


So, then, what should you do? In the words of Dalton (Patrick Swayze’s character in Roadhouse—my favorite Swayze movie) “Be nice.”

Let’s consider Wayne Construction, the home improvement company introduced in Part I. The posts against Wayne noted that he failed to follow up with homeowners who were waiting for estimates. Here’s what Wayne might have written back, had he chosen to reply to these reviews:

“My sincere apologies for not following up with an estimate. I’m afraid my team dropped the ball with your project, and I would like to do whatever I can to help lessen your inconvenience. Please feel free to call me at 888-888-8888, and I will personally respond to any of your remodeling questions or needs. Again, please accept my apology and I look forward to helping you in the near future.”

Notice, there is nothing harsh about the tone of this response. Wayne does not blame the customer or makes excuses. It’s not necessary. This is 100 percent damage control, and the post makes the best out of a bad situation.

Will this win Wayne any new customers? I don’t know. What I do know is that active dialogue like this is well-received online and that at the very least, this response will soften the bad reviews.

So the next time that you go online and see your name next to a scathing post, remember that “Be nice!” is your best option.

Todd Bairstow is cofounder of Keyword Connects (formerly Keyword Advisors), a company dedicated to online lead generation for the home improvement industry. Contact him at todd@keywordconnects.com or call 781899-3677.
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