Online reviews can be a very helpful guiding tool for consumers making purchasing decisions, especially regarding contractors. Reviews can help build trust in a business, relate important information to potential customers, and show previous work. The most popular review sites for construction and renovation-based companies are Google, the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, and Facebook. While usually beneficial, reviews can become complex to navigate for potential buyers and for business owners alike. Here are four things for consumers to keep in mind while reading through a contractor’s reviews online.
1 – Quantity Matters!
Look for averages – if a company has an average of 4.6 stars out of 5 based on over 100 reviews, it’s safe to assume the general experience is a very positive one. The logic here is a simple numbers game: if a business can pull in numerous positive reviews with just a few negative comments, it’s likely the business is trustworthy and legitimate. Negative reviews are much easier to dismiss in the context of several positive reviews. While the squeaky wheel always gets greased, their opinion may not be totally relevant to your search. If you see a business has positive reviews both before and after a negative review, it’s worth pursuing.
2 – Context matters!
Every business has a few less-than-positive reviews – but are they relevant? According to a 2017 BrightLocal survey of over 1,000 US-based consumers, users read an average of 7 reviews before trusting a business (up from 6 last year). While 86% of people will hesitate to purchase from a business that has negative reviews online, 30% of consumers assume online reviews are fake if there aren’t any negative reviews listed along with them. In short, consumers do not like to see negative reviews, but require a few to be sure the business is legitimate.
What does this mean for potential buyers? Take your time and read through several reviews before forming an opinion, whether positive or negative. If a business has a few negative comments among a slew of very positive reviews, it’s worth doing more research – do the negative comments have any tangible details? Does the poster have a series of negative comments regarding several businesses? Cross-reference a few different review sites and look for the details. A good review of construction-based services should have a solid account of the experience, including supporting project details, a timeline, and a clear account of communication between the reviewer and the business. If the negative review lacks context or details, there’s likely more to the story than the consumer is willing to make public. If a business’s reviews trend as very positive with a few dark marks, they are likely trustworthy and warrant a more thorough look.
3 – Contracts matter!
While doing brief cross-survey of contractors on popular review sites like Angie’s List, one thing became apparent: people often write reviews for contractors despite never actually starting a project with them. Many reviews are written about companies that were never hired due to a missed call, a late appointment, or a costly estimate. While these reviews are legitimate to determine the overall reputation of a company, seeing completed work should be crucial in your decision-making process. If you find a company and you like their work, but you see a comment about a missed call or late appointment, follow up with the company. It is okay to ask contractors about negative reviews and they will likely appreciate the opportunity to clarify the situation. You can make your final judgment based on their response, rather than a one-sided comment online. If a contractor is willing to openly discuss a negative situation in a positive and respectful manner, it’s likely your whole experience will be positive and respectful.
4 – Sources matter!
There are many different online review sites that cater to several different products and services – some are tailored to travel, to restaurants, or to home services. The best contractor or construction service review sites are search engines like Google and Yahoo, Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau, and Facebook. Search engines and the BBB are generally the most reliable and trustworthy because they do not solicit reviews from users – they are completely optional, so you are most likely to see reviews that were organically written by the customer without influence. Sites like Angie’s List sell advertising or sponsorships to businesses which can affect where a business lands when you search for their services. They also solicit reviews from their users which can lead to subpar reviews that lack detail and context whether positive or negative. Because Facebook is, first and foremost, a social media platform, reviews tend to be less formal and detailed and much more emotive. It’s a great place to look for word of mouth references, but it should not be your only source.
When researching contractors for your next project remember to evaluate the quantity, context, contracts, and sources. Look at the same business over a series of review sites, look for patterns and details, and always follow up with the business if you are unsure. As a contractor looking to redeem an industry known for some unsavory businesses, I hope you found this article useful. Please remember that words are powerful and once they are written, many times, they cannot be erased. Before you write or read a review, either good or bad, be thorough in your thoughts and research.