Customer Reviews in Construction & Trades
Online customer reviews and testimonials are increasingly important for businesses, but how are the construction industry and trades leveraging these, and is there more that could be done? With both generic platforms like Google, Trustpilot and Facebook, as well as more industry-specific ones like Checkatrade and MyBuilder, and over 90% of consumers checking reviews before buying anything, the impact of reviews and testimonials can’t be ignored.
Benefits of customer reviews
Customer rely increasingly on reviews when making purchase decisions. A study of 2000 adults found that nearly half (46%) never bought anything online without checking reviews first, and paid particular attention to quality of service, reliability and value for money when reading reviews. Another report from 2021 by PowerReviews found that over 99.9% of customers read reviews when they looked for services or products online and 96% looked for negative reviews specifically.
To tradespeople and construction companies, positive reviews on platforms such as Google, Facebook, Checkatrade, and Trusted Trader can help them stand out from the competition and showcase expertise and trustworthiness to potential customers. They also help build a company’s or sole trader’s reputation and increase customer confidence, as an online equivalent to “try before you buy”.
The popularity of such platforms has grown fast: During 2020, 12 million people used Checkatrade to search for a tradesperson, with the Covid-19 pandemic and increased interest in home improvement driving a whopping 84% increase in the number of searches on the platform compared to 2019. In 2021, Checkatrade estimated that over 3 million homeowners searched the site every month, and a third of all trade work was booked through Checkatrade. Membership also increased considerably from 10 400 members in 2013 and 36 000 in 2019 – in 2021, 44 000 tradespeople were Checkatrade members.
Customer feedback in product development
Construction suppliers also benefit from customer feedback by gaining insight into improving products. Despite mainly supplying to other businesses, Metex has benefited from customer comments and testimonials in product development. The latest example is the Grindermate cutting jig for bricks and blocks: Following customer feedback, the design was tweaked to include a trough for collecting dust from cutting. “Testing on site is a key part of our product development process, and we carefully consider each piece of feedback received to ensure that the final product addresses real site needs and wants”, Metex director Daniel Bamford commented.
Making Use of Reviews
There are a few ways construction companies and tradespeople can use customer reviews to promote themselves: Companies like Arden Construction and CC contracting are showing reviews on their own websites, with separate pages dedicated to customer testimonials.
Showing finished work along with reviews also works: Platforms like Checkatrade let tradespeople add photos of their work, and companies like Surrey Plastering Services are making good use of this with over 1000 photos of finished work and almost 300 customer reviews.
And sharing positive reviews on social media helps them reach a wider audience and direct more eyes back to your business. Rated People, for example, has a function for tradespeople to share homeowners’ ratings to their social media profiles.
With a new nationwide study showing nearly 4 out of 5 tradespeople are concerned about the future of their industry and almost half having to increase their prices, being able to prove a solid track record with positive customer feedback could well be an important advantage over competitors and a way to win over hesitant customers concerned about prices and value for money.
How to get reviews
How can tradespeople get customers to leave a review then? Picking the right platforms comes first. Google is a big one – 81% of customers in 2021 said they checked out Google reviews before buying something or hiring a service. / Out of social media platforms, Facebook is the biggest, holding 19% of all customer reviews. A survey of 500 tradespeople by IronmongeryDirect showed that almost half (47%) of tradespeople said that having a social media presence helps them get more work, with Facebook being the main platform (22%). Trade-specific platforms like Checkatrade or Trusted Trader are geared specifically towards tradespeople and their customers, and usually have review verification, moderation and complaints procedures in place, which generic social media platforms might lack.
But will customers bother leaving a review? Despite the majority reading reviews before buying or hiring a service, 17% of people have never left an online review and 22% don’t think about the potential impact their review on a business. As the reasons why, 23% claimed lack of motivation, followed by not being a priority (23%) and just forgetting (20%).
In 2020, only a quarter of UK trade businesses asked for reviews, so a simple way of nudging more customers to leave a review would be to simply ask after completing a job – in person, by phone, or email, or even incentivising reviews by offering a discount on a future job for example. Sending an email reminder asking for a review a week after a job has been completed is also an option, as well as asking for customer feedback in social media posts.
The Problem With Fakes
The risk of fake reviews may shake customer trust, though. A BBC investigation back in 2018 found that fraudulent tradespeople were able to set up profiles on sites like MyBuilder and Rated People and give themselves fake reviews without issue. Facebook groups offering fake reviews on Trustpilot, Google Business and other platforms also stick around, despite growing demands on tech giants to do more to tackle the issue.
And another website for finding local tradespeople, hamuch.com, removed the review function altogether in 2019 because of the owner’s concern about fakes: “The review system has become a sort of two-way intimidation. Builders pressure customers to leave a good review and even offer discounts as a part of this. Customers ask tradesmen to include extras, heavy discounts or endlessly snag before agreeing to leave good feedback. A good tradesman can be ruined by one bad review, but a poor one can just bribe their way to positive feedback,” said the site owner Tarquin Purdie.
Online vs. Word of Mouth
Word of mouth has traditionally helped tradespeople gain work, and according to a new study by Checkatrade, customers do rely on recommendations especially from friends and partners with 38% trusting word of mouth for hiring tradespeople.
However, in a study of 2000 adults by Checkatrade, 30% of customers admitted they didn’t do any further checks of word of mouth recommendations online, which could put them at risk of hiring a cowboy trader, and 49% had also fallen victim to a poor word of mouth recommendation.
As customers overall tend to trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations from friends and family, having an online presence would still likely help tradespeople reach more new customers.
However, there still some reluctance regarding collecting online reviews among builders, who have traditionally depended on word of mouth. Some commenters in Builders’ Talk Group on Facebook were skeptical:
“Personally I’m word of mouth… I have an insta page to show what I do but I’m not a fan of the social media ego massaging”
“As long as you’ve done a great job & the customer is over the moon, reviews are irrelevant“
“I wouldn’t believe an online review (good or bad) any more than I’d believe it that if I clicked here good luck would bestow on me. What happened to good old word of mouth between family and friends?”
However, others pointed out the benefits:
“If you always do a good job and you have the ability for clients to leave a review, then you’ll get both word of mouth and a five star online presence. Double win and who wouldn’t want that? If the client is deciding between two recommendations and only one has online reviews, who do you think they’ll go with and who do you think will be able to charge more? Like it or not, people rely on Google and Siri and such, so might as well get on with it.”
What’s your view on customer reviews and using social media to promote your work? Let us know!