“Psst. Hey! Need some work done on your house? I know a couple of guys who do great work at a cheap price; no questions asked. It’s an offer you can’t refuse, if you know what I mean.”
Looking for a contractor can sometimes make you feel like you’re in the middle of a Goodfellas movie. Where can you turn, and whom do you trust? If you’re like most people, you probably start your search using one of the major search engines. But that isn’t always the best choice, and here’s why.
The problem with general searches is that companies appearing in the top spots of the search results aren’t necessarily the best service providers. Rather, they may have simply spent the most money hiring a search engine optimization company to help them get to the top of the search results.
Believe it or not, search engines use many criteria in deciding what results to return, but reputation isn’t one of them. Now obviously, you don’t want to hire just anyone with a toolbox.
So, what do you do?
Visit sites that allow you to check out a company’s online reputation. This is where you can discover if that roofer or a plumber really walks the walk, or is just full of hot air. Sites such as Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, and Yelp provide ratings and reviews along with local search results.
Better Business Bureau (BBB) has been around for a dog’s age, and their site is simple to use. You can check out a service provider and see what complaints, if any, the BBB has received in the past three years. Find out if there have been problems with advertising and sales, billing and collection, product or service, deliveries, and guarantees and warranties. Companies with good reputations should have few issues.
Angie’s List is a premium review site that ensures reviews are not anonymous. That way you’re sure no one’s pulling the wool over your eyes. A site like this can give you a good feel for the character of a company. They also employ a complaint resolution team that intercedes if any of the service providers in their listings aren’t up to snuff.
Yelp is another review site that is free to use. But unlike Angie’s List, you never really know who writes the reviews. It might very well be a jealous competitor that’s trying to damage another’s reputation. So always treat these things with a grain of salt.
Use caution when interpreting the reviews. Sometimes it’s obvious that the reviewer is a few bricks short of a full load. But that doesn’t really matter as much. What’s most important is how that company responds to all its reviews–good or bad, valid or not.
Online reputation has become a major concern for virtually every organization. Bad news travels fast, but online it spreads like wildfire. So there is a big interest for companies to make sure their customers are very satisfied. No company is perfect, so you should expect to see some negative reviews. It’s bound to happen unless they’ve just started up their business.
Take time to read through a company’s replies to criticism. They did reply, didn’t they? That way at least you know what you’re getting into, should you decide to use their service.
written by: Stephen Jeske
Stephen Jeske is a former partner in a 49-year-old family business and frequently writes about issues affecting small business owners.