Two-thirds of the companies graded by consumers on Angie's List say they regularly surf the Web to learn what their customers are saying about them – and nearly 10 percent of them said they've fired or reassigned staff as a result of what they'd discovered online.
"Just as consumers have made a huge shift in purchasing and hiring habits, businesses are coming to rely on online reviews as a customer satisfaction survey," said Angie's List founder Angie Hicks. “The key is knowing which resources offer you useful insight and which are just Internet graffiti.”
Angie’s List, the nation’s premier provider of consumer reviews on local service companies and health care providers surveyed more than 600 companies about their online reputation management practices. Hicks, whose company has been offering consumer reviews for 15 years and has encouraged service companies to participate (free-of-charge) in the process for more than 10 years, says company participation is great for all concerned.
"Eighty-three percent of our respondents said they have responded in some way to online comments," Hicks said. “More than half of them said the comments have prompted them to improve their customer communication and/or response time to customer calls.”
• 12 percent of respondents found complaints they didn’t feel could be resolved;
• 9 percent learned employees had violated company policy and subsequently fired or reassigned them; and
• 5 percent said complaints were about price levels.
"Responding to customers – whether they're happy with you or not – is a clear signal that you value your customer’s opinion of your work," Hicks said. "When you take the time to correct a problem, you may just earn a customer for life."
Online reputation monitoring is all the rage in discussions about best business management practices, this new idea is really just good, old-fashioned customer service updated to the digital age, Hicks said.
"We review reports every year and every year we hear consumers saying their biggest complaints aren’t with price or quality of work," Hicks said. "It comes down to communication, responsiveness and professionalism on the job. These are things that companies can change without huge cost – if they know about them. Some business leaders still want that face-to-face discussion, but the facts are that people are increasingly more comfortable making those comments online, and that’s not going to change.”
Nearly half the companies surveyed said their Angie's List reviews have helped grow their business, some reporting they get 70 percent or more of their customers through the reviews.
"My advice to any service company is to monitor everything and participate in those venues where each side of the business transaction has an equal opportunity of being heard," Hicks said.
"Angie’s List has never allowed, nor will we ever allow, anonymous reports because we think they're unfair. Our members are reminded every time they report that the service company they're grading will have an opportunity to respond to the report. That, plus our accountability structure, helps keep the information as fair as it can be.”
Angie’s List collects consumer reviews on local contractors and doctors in more than 500 service categories. Currently, more than 1 million consumers across the U.S. and Canada rely on Angie’s List to help them make the best hiring decisions. Members get unlimited access to local ratings via Internet or phone, exclusive discounts, the Angie’s List magazine and help from the Angie’s List complaint resolution service. Take a quick tour of Angie’s List and view the latest Angie’s List news.