Negative online reviews: fair or unfair, you can’t ignore them

online-marketing-tips-normanizedBack on March 27 I looked at how online referral companies can be a great way for renovation contractors to get new business (click to see that article here). However, I went on to mention that obtaining business through this method can still cause headaches for contractors!

Since that article we’ve received a lot of feedback. One contractor told me that many of the comments posted against him by homeowners were/are unfair, unfounded and untrue. This is obviously every contractor’s worst nightmare. If the magic “10? rating becomes the coveted badge of quality, if your business relies heavily on your online reputation (and this is true for most businesses these days), you can still see that number plummet with even one bad review. A bad review that could even be unfounded. Reviews like this can quickly reduce the flow of business to that contractor from anywhere between 30 to 50 per cent or more. This is a huge problem!

And what about those unscrupulous homeowners who want to hold back money from contractors by threatening to trash them online?

Have you received a bad online review lately? It’s tough, because usually even if you complain to the website’s president or CEO most online referral sites will let those pleas fall on deaf ears. And, on the one hand, I can understand why that happens. If online referral companies start manipulating the reviews by removing unwanted posts (unless, perhaps, in the case of clear libel or defamation) where does it all end? The organization would risk losing its credibility. Every Tom, Dick and Harry contractor would be on the phone, crying foul.

On the other hand, I believe there should be safeguards in place when it comes to online contractor referral sites . Yes, homeowners need to be protected and know that the site has credibility.  But contractors and home service companies pay these online referral sites a lot of money, and legitimate, professional, well-organized contracting firms should be receiving value for this investment, but they certainly won’t if they get unfairly slammed online. It’s not really acceptable if they have absolutely no recourse or protection if an unscrupulous homeowner just wants to hold them to ransom, or avoid paying them, by posting maliciously online.

I believe it’s time that online referral firms should get involved when complaints arrive from contractors and home service providers. I believe that online referral companies need some sort of independent body or department to look into these complaints. They should be unbiased and should work with both parties to help resolve the problems.

We at CARAHS investigate complaints from homeowners about our members. We try to bring both parties together, give guidance and see if we can find common ground between the contractor and the homeowner, hopefully arriving at a settlement to suit everyone. We have found some homeowners to be unreasonable and in those cases we have sided with our members. We have also found, historically, member contractors who have not followed our code of ethics, contractors who have failed to uphold the standard they agreed to abide by. Recently, we suspended a member for this very reason, removing their company from our CARAHS website membership list. We lost that member revenue, of course, but as a non-profit organization we upheld our integrity. Maybe it’s time all online contractor referral companies followed suit and upheld fairness for everyone.

READ THIS ARTICLE AT: Canadian Contractor Magazine

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