In June of this year (2021) we conducted a survey of 626 U.S. residents to get a better understanding of how important online reviews are, specifically for local home service businesses (plumbers, HVAC, electricians, roofers, painters, tree services, pest control, landscaping and lawn maintenance, etc.).
Over 40% of participants said that they have or would use Google to find a local home service business.
92% would seek out and consider online reviews before hiring a local home service business.
63% of respondents said they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
51% of respondents said they would not hire a local home service business if they didn’t have any online reviews.
The age of digital information is already well under way, and it seems as though many local home service businesses are unaware of the changes they must make in order to capitalize on this new digital era. In previous years, home service businesses primarily relied on word-of-mouth and customer referrals to build their brand and reputation.
However, this marketing strategy alone now ignores a vital aspect of a business’ brand. Online reviews have quickly gained authority regarding the depiction of a business. Increasingly, prospective customers are turning towards online reviews to investigate a business’ credibility, authority, and expertise. As a home service business owner, if you are not adjusting to this vital aspect of branding, you risk losing customers to your digitally savvier competitors.
Survey Question #1: When in need of a local home service business (HVAC, Plumber, etc.), how are you most likely to find them?
- 44% of participants would ask a friend or family member
- 42% of participants would turn to Google
When asked how they were most likely to find a home service business, respondents were almost split down the middle between finding a personal reference and checking Google. Unsurprisingly, younger generations (between 18 and 44) were more likely to use Google to find their home service business. That said, a significant number of older generations are also turning to Google. 30% of participants aged 45-60+ said they would primarily use Google to find a local home service business.
Survey Question #2: Would you seek out and consider online reviews if you needed to hire a home service business?
A very important statistic to note is that, although 44% of participants would search for a home service business through a friend or family member, 92% of them said they would STILL look at online reviews prior to hiring one.
Consumers have begun to vet personal recommendations through online reviews.
As a home service business owner, your online reviews should reinforce personal recommendations and build confidence for prospective clients, increasing conversion rates even for customers who found you through word-of-mouth.
Survey Question #3: Do you trust online reviews for local home service businesses as much as personal recommendations?
- 63% of respondents said they trust online reviews for local home service businesses as much as personal recommendations.
Again, consumers are demonstrating a growing trust in online reviews as a method of screening home service businesses. Reviews are increasingly acting as social proof of a business’ expertise, authority, and ability to perform a quality service at a fair price. With that in mind, understand that the words in each of your online reviews matter. The more detailed and specific a customer is with the review, the more it will help convert prospects into customers.
Survey Question #4: How many reviews would a home service business need to have in order for you to consider hiring them?
- 23% of respondents would only consider hiring a home service business with 1-10 reviews.
- 31% of participants would only consider hiring a home service business with 11-20 reviews.
- 26% of respondents would only consider hiring a home service business with 21 or more reviews.
No surprise here. Simply put, the more positive reviews you have, the better. But, this data shows that you may not need as many as you think to make a positive impact on your business. Ten is a good starting point and twenty will get you into the range where 74% of consumers will consider hiring you. That said, your goal should always be to have a comparable number to your local competitors (preferably the most in your area).
Survey Question #5: I would hire a local home service business with an online rating of (*note: respondents were asked to check all that apply)
- Almost 70% of respondents would only consider hiring a local home service business if it had an online rating of 4 stars or more.
- Only 13% of respondents would consider a business with 3 stars or less.
A business’ star rating represents the overall experience a prospective customer can expect to receive. Because of this, the chance of converting a prospect drops dramatically if a business’ rating dips below 4 stars. Consumers are far more likely to trust a business that has already demonstrated quality service to others.
Survey Question #6: If a home service business you were considering hiring had one negative review, how many positive reviews would they need to have for you to overlook the one negative review?
- Only 4.3% answered that a single bad review would disqualify a service, regardless of positive reviews.
- 24% of respondents would only need to see 2-5 positive reviews in order to ignore a negative review.
- 40% of respondents would need to see 6-10 positive reviews to overlook a negative review.
One of the most daunting aspects of being a business owner and managing your digital brand is contending with negative online reviews. It’s an unfortunate reality that consumers are far more likely to leave a negative online review unprompted, while it takes a concerted effort to get positive reviews from your satisfied customers.
The occasional negative review is simply part of owning a business, particularly in the home services industry. The best way to combat negative reviews is to counteract them with plenty of positive reviews.
If you have 6-10 positive reviews for every negative review, 65% of respondents would overlook the negative review and still hire you. Set your business up for success and preempt negative reviews by creating a system that consistently requests reviews from your satisfied customers.
The occasional bad review is not the end of the world, but it is far easier to overcome if you already have a steady supply of positive reviews coming in.
Survey Question #7: When considering a local home service business, would you still hire them if you found that they had zero online reviews?
- 51% of respondents would not hire a home service business if they discovered it had zero online reviews.
Half of the participants in our survey said they would immediately discount a business if it did not have online reviews. HALF. This just further solidifies the importance of your online brand. Online reviews now represent trust, credibility, and authority. If you don’t have any, you are missing out on a substantial number of prospects that you never even had a chance of converting into customers.
Even if your primary marketing strategy is through word-of-mouth and personal recommendations, your online presence is still a major deciding factor for many of your prospective customers.
*NOTE: When we saw this data, we thought that perhaps this would portray the split between those who use personal recommendations to find a home service business, and those who turn to Google. However, of the participants who said they would ask a friend or family member when seeking out a home service business, 51.64% of them said that they would not consider hiring a business if it didn’t have any online reviews.
Survey Question #8: We asked respondents to rank the following in order of importance to them. Here are the results:
#1. Details and specificity within the reviews
#2. Overall star rating
#3. Business owner responses
#4. Age of reviews
#5. Total number of reviews
Note that while the #1 benefit of getting positive online reviews is to convert prospective customers into paying customers, Google’s algorithm also takes your reviews into consideration when ranking you in the Maps “three pack” listings. While total number of reviews may have been least important to the respondents, a continued, steady stream of positive online reviews can help you rank higher within the search engine.
As a business owner, you have far more control over the quality of your reviews than you might think. Ideally, you want to create a process to acquire online reviews from satisfied customers. Within your request, consider including a note for the customer. For example: “The details of your experience are much appreciated.” Provide a few details of the service, such as the technician’s name and what problem(s) you solved for the customer.
Also important to note, your responses to your online reviews matter to prospective customers (especially if they are negative). Consumers like to see engagement from business owners. It demonstrates that you care and are responsive to issues when they arise. Your polite and professional responses to negative reviews reassure prospective customers that even if there is a problem with their service, you care about their experience, and any complications will be addressed.
This data also supports the notion that if your reviews are of a high quality, you can get away with having fewer of them. The responses overall show that this is not an “arms race.” You do not need hundreds or thousands of reviews to convert prospects into customers.
You simply need around twenty positive, high quality and detailed online reviews with a response to convert most of the people from our survey into paying customers.
Survey Question #9: At what age would you no longer consider an online review relevant for a local home service business?
- 16% of respondents said that reviews older than 6 months are no longer relevant.
- 33% of respondents said that reviews older than 1 year are no longer relevant.
This data further solidifies that it is important to have an ongoing campaign to collect reviews, keeping them fresh and up to date. If your prospects feel that most of your reviews are out of date, they will not be as trusting of your existing reviews, and you can lose your chance at converting them into customers.
Survey Question #10: Do you trust one of the following review platforms more than the others?
- 36% of respondents trusted the Better Business Bureau (BBB) more than Google, Yelp, and third-party review sites such as HomeAdvisor.
- 23% trust Google more than any other platform.
Google began its monopoly of online reviews in 2014, where it started to significantly pull away from other platforms like Yelp and TripAdvisor. Today, it continues to be one of the most (if not the most) sought-after platforms for online reviews.
As a side note, our survey demonstrated that many people still hold BBB ratings in high regard. It seems that even though the BBB is a private company, many consumers mistakenly believe that it is an official government entity and take BBB ratings very seriously. Because of this, BBB accreditation and ratings grant businesses a great deal of authority in the eyes of potential customers. In the same vein, a lack of BBB accreditation or a low rating can significantly harm a business’ credibility and reduce conversion rates. An A+ rating with the BBB serves to further solidify your business’ online presence. Displaying it on your website and maintaining an A+ rating can still boost trust in your brand, as it has in the past.
Local home service business owners can no longer afford to ignore online reviews, as indicated by the results of this survey. Without an active plan to request and receive positive online reviews, you are leaving a ton of business (and money) on the table. If you want to increase new customer acquisition, a strategy for generating positive online reviews is no longer optional. It is now a critical part of your marketing strategy.
If you’re a local business owner interested in growing your revenue, getting quality online reviews (specifically to your Google Business listing) is one of the fastest ways to accomplish that.
If you’re ready to kickstart your digital marketing and online review strategy but are unsure how to begin, don’t hesitate to reach out. We can help you start getting more of the customers you want for your local home service business!
Survey Methodology: This survey was conducted in June of 2021 among 626 adult, U.S. residents. Data was weighted for age, gender, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States.