In the first half of “Lessons from the Trenches: How to Thrive in a Reputation Economy, during NARI’s Fall Leadership Summit 2013, Mark Miles, chief operating officer of GuildQuality, talked about the importance of developing and maintaining a stellar reputation online.
He then turned the microphone over to his colleague Erica England to moderate a panel, “Industry Experts Weigh In” with David Roberts, AIA, CR, UDCP, owner of Roberts Construction Group; and Bruce Case, CLC, president of Case Design/Remodeling Inc. An edited transcript follows.
Q: How have review sites and social media impacted your business?
Case: I don’t use social media personally, but those sites are very important from a business perspective. We’ve decided we need to go deep on a limited number of sites, instead of doing just a little bit on many. We are all about being authentic as a business, and social media is a great way to convey that.
Roberts: Review sites and social media are not just what we do but who we are. I use social media myself, and I want my clients to know more about the people behind the work we do.
Q: Do you track your social media?
Roberts: I track the ROI on all our marketing efforts, including social media. That’s how I know Houzz is a great resource for work. We’ve been getting real clients directly through them for the past 12 months or so. Some very good projects have started with a question via that site.
Case: We have a social media dashboard so we can track everything every week. With Houzz, the results are directly measurable, and we also get questions and even some work from that site. We view Facebook and Twitter more as branding tools. They’re not huge investments at this point, but they do continue to grow.
Q: You both mention getting questions on Houzz. How do you respond to those inquiries?
Roberts: We respond to every serious inquiry. I’ll answer the question and see where it goes from there.
Case: Initially we often weren’t answering those queries. Shame on us! But we’ve used these failures to develop better internal review systems so queries don’t fall through the cracks. Now we answer everyone.
Q: What role do you think the Internet plays in the homeowner’s decision process today?
Case: The Internet has forced us to look at where we bring real value to the client. Nowadays the homeowner is always looking over your shoulder, asking questions and verifying that you’re doing everything correctly—because they’ve gone online and looked up how to do everything online. This reality has led us to change our mark-up structure so that we now value labor more in the materials less, instead of the other way around.
Roberts: It’s always obvious that our potential clients know a lot about us than they used to. Many of our clients are in their early 30s and spend much of their lives online. Their child has an iPad, they provide their nanny with an iPad, and we know we need to be [online], too. We also know we need to constantly provide new content and keep it fresh and updated. They like to see projects were working on, new products, progress photos with the crew and the like.
Q: How does your company handle negative reviews?
Case: These eat me up inside; they really do. I immediately get the team’s perspective, then we call the client and see what we can do about the problem.
Roberts: I agree that negative reviews are really bothersome and that we always talk about the situation internally. The truth is it’s not always just a bad client. Maybe we made a mistake, so let’s learn from this. If so, we’ve got to ‘fess up to that and own that mistake. It’s all about learning for the future and making things right if we can.
Q: When speaking with prospective clients, how are you and your salespeople positioning your commitment to quality and service?
Case: We let our actions speak for us. We make every effort not to be late, and we think of ways to make the experience more pleasant for the homeowner. We provide the bio of the person coming to their home and use an iPad during the call so we can show pictures of how clean our job sites are and things of that nature.
Roberts: From the time we show up, we show caring and concern. Most people are scared because they’ve either had a bad experience are they’ve heard of bad experiences [with remodelers]. We ask questions to find out the homeowners’ fears and address them. —Darcy Lewis
To download the slides from this presentation, click here.
Click here to read Part 1, on building and maintaining your company’s reputation online.