For a company that builds, sells, improves, maintains, or cares for homes, having an online reputation management strategy is absolutely crucial. Savvy homeowners are looking for online reviews more than ever, and according to SearchEngineLand, approximately 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Helping businesses build credibility in the home services industry is something that Geoff Graham, Founder and CEO of GuildQuality, has excelled at for years.
Since the company’s start in 2003, North America’s best home builders, remodelers, contractors, and real estate companies have relied on GuildQuality's customer satisfaction surveying and performance reporting to help them monitor and improve the quality of their work.
GuildQuality ultimately provides a service for everyone involved: A resource for both homeowners and professionals trying to find a quality home services provider, and a way for businesses to differentiate themselves in their industry.
In this episode of the PME 360 Powering Business Growth Show, Ron Rodi, Jr and Ryan Paul Adams interview Geoff and explore online reputation management and how to build a reputation in the home building or remodeling industries. Tune in for insights from one of the best minds in the reputation management field!
"The fundamental thing is to recognize on every level of your company that your reputation is not a cosmetic thing. You must walk the talk. It's very difficult to sustain the facade of a great reputation if you're not truly committed to delivering great service."
~ Geoff Graham, Founder and CEO of GuildQuality
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How to Build a Reputation Online in the Home Services Industry with Geoff Graham of Guild Quality
Ron: Good morning!
Welcome to the PME360 Powering Business Growth Show. Each session, we discuss proven ways with our industry experts to help power growth for your local remodeling business.
Listen in as our experts provide practical tips that you can immediately apply to help power growth for your small to mid-sized business.
I’m your host, Ron Rodi Jr.
With me today as always, the CEO and founder of PME360, Mr. Ryan Paul Adams.
Ryan, good morning!
Ryan: Good morning Ron.
Ron: Also joining us today, we’re very excited to have here with is the founder and CEO of Guild Quality, Mr. Geoff Graham.
Geoff, good morning!
Geoff: Thanks for having me!
Ryan: Good morning Geoff!
Ron: Geoff, Guild Quality is a company that works with builders, remodelers, neighborhood developers and specialty companies and contractors all over North America, helping to promote their client’s exceptional customer experiences.
Tell us a little bit more about Guild Quality and tell us a little bit more about yourself, Geoff.
Geoff: Well, sure.
First, the business. We launched Guild Quality in 2003. It grew out from the work I was doing as a real estate developer. In the beginning, we focused primarily on customer satisfaction surveys and helping home builders and remodelers to understand how well they are doing and where they can improve.
And as the business grew, we expanded also into helping them articulate the commitment to quality so prospective customers can have a better idea of what experience they can expect if they choose to buy a home from one of our builders or engage with one of our remodelers to help them improve their homes.
Geoff: We now have about 1400 home builders, remodelers, real estate developers, home service contractors, specialty contractors all over North America.
They rely on us to help them monitor and improve the quality of their service. It’s a subscription business. So they pay us monthly fees for us to survey their customers and give them all these reporting and also, publish the feedback online.
Ron: Fantastic! I know a lot of our clients use the service. And I think that it’s a great offering.
Ryan: Yeah, it’s incredible.
Geoff: Well, thank you.
Ron: So Geoff, today, I know we’ll focus more on online reputation and why it’s so important. It’s a really hot topic, right now.
It’s something that everyone should pay attention to. And if you are not, then you need to learn how to do so.
And we are going to talk today about some practical tips that our listeners can use. And obviously, Guild Quality is a large part of that. And it really seems to be your niche, right Geoff? The remodeling and improvement space?
Geoff: It is. People ask what types of companies we work with. I’d say that if they build, sell, improve, maintain or care for homes for a homeowner then that’s the kind of company we work with.
And it’s everyone from window replacement contractors to a luxury custom home builder. They may have a few customers per year or some of the biggest home builders in the country.
Ron: And it can go all the way to home services – people who work inside the home, outside the home could be a residential cleaning service, correct?
Geoff: Exactly. We work with anyone doing work for the homeowner.
Ron: It’s really key – reputation within that industry, right?
Because let’s face it, one or two apples tend to spoil the whole bunch. So people who work within that profession: remodelers, most of them are really good at what they do. But there are some, let’s face it, they scar the reputation for the rest of them.
So was that a factor in deciding on your niche there? Did you see an opportunity?
Geoff: You know, it absolutely was.
I started thinking about Guild Quality in the late 90’s when we were developing real estate and the Internet was beginning to become a useful tool. I started checking online, checking my banking online and I started to do my purchases on eBay.
There’s an opportunity here to give powerful some services to small business in particular. I was thinking about it.
And in the remodeling, home building space which I was familiar with, I saw a pain that these guys had.
Those businesses that had a commitment to service excellence – real commitment to quality, had trouble differentiating themselves from the rest of the market.
What was happening was core service providers were able to charge more or get more business than they ought to have.
And great service providers were pinched on their pricing. Their brand was dragged down by where they sat in the industry.
If all these great businesses had a way to articulate their quality and had tools to deliver great service in a way to help customers understand that they are superior, then they can get all the business.
And it makes all that hard for core service providers to stay in the business.
And that was one of that got me started on it. I thought about it for a few years, and I ended launching the business.
Ron: That’s a great story.
What are some of the ways Geoff, let’s dive into it, specifically your service, maybe you can give an outline there of how it works?
What do you feel is one of the most important factors in trying to promote a company’s quality?
What is it that you feel need to have? And I know online reputation can mean a lot of different things.
Geoff: I think the fundamental thing is to recognize in every level in your company that your reputation is not a cosmetic thing.
It’s something that you must “walk the talk”. It’s a very difficult to sustain the façade of a good reputation if you are not truly committed to delivering a truly great service.
However one does it, however they institutionalize the commitment to service excellence, they need to do it.
We feel like surveying customers in a thoughtful way is a really powerful tool to help people understand exactly what their customers are thinking and see where, how they can do better. There are a lot of different things you can do in commitment quality.
Every business is different. Every business within the home improvement industry is different.
But putting it aside, assuming you have a commitment to quality and you’re actually delivering great service, there are so many things out there that you can do that are relatively simple to help, to articulate that quality to your prospective customer.
Because they have a lot of trouble. In our industry, it’s not like a restaurant that you have a hundred of customers a day, thousands of customers a week and you’re going to count on them sharing that feedback without doing any prompting online.
So it might not be a great tool for a great restaurant. But for a remodeler, you might have, for a large remodeler, you might have 5 customers online. Or, a large home services contractor might have 100 customers.
But it’s nothing like the scale of a restaurant business. Like only 1 in a 1000 or 2000 of the customers to share a review.
You really can’t count on possibly expecting your customers to come share their experience in a meaningful way so that lots of other customers can come find you.
So I’d encourage folks to claim their public listings – all the meaningful ones: Google Buzz, Google Places. Claim their Yelp profile. In the south, Kudzu is a really big deal for home services. It’s a really important one to claim.
Get those out there and promote access to those via your site and share those profiles with your customers just to grease the skids and make it look easy for them to go out and share.
Maybe you can include links to those things on the footer of your email. So, if you are doing that, if those places are out there, in all the communications that you have and you have a commitment to delivering great service and you are confident that most of your customers had a great one, they’re going to go out and start sharing their experiences.
So when you are looking on Yelp and you happen to see that random remodeler has 7 reviews, it’s kind of unheard off to have that many on Yelp because they just don’t encourage customers to post and go out there.
They might not be asking Yelp to promote to customers because Yelp does not want you to do that.
But that remodeler probably has more because it’s out there with their marketing. It’s just that they are talking about their commitment to excellence and how appreciative they would be if people share their experiences.
Ryan: One of the things I find that magnifies the power of this and makes this process a lot easier is setting up an exit interview after you’ve done the job.
So many contractors are running in different directions. Just slow down, finish the job, have a sort of exit interview. Talk about your process, what your warranty is, what your guarantee is and explain that, “We’d like to survey our clients. We’d like to get feedback. This is what’s happening next. You’re going to get a call, a survey, an email, whatever it may be.”
And actively explain what that process is. But so many just assumers that, “Okay, I’m just going to push an email out after and they’ll know what it is.”
I just want to tell them to slow down a little bit and make sure you are explaining to them what will happen next, talk tot them about your entire process after the fact.
Show appreciation. Send a gift – something to show that past client that you appreciated them hiring you. Let’s not assume that that will happen.
Geoff: I think it’s a great point to sort of set the stage to convey to that customer how grateful you are for their business, and help them to understand what you need to stay successful.
Because the happy customers, they want to help you to succeed. Just help them understand how it’s possible for them to help you succeed and they’re willing to do it.
Ryan: Just take that little next step. It’s amazing what will happen next.
Ron: And Geoff, the analogy about a restaurant versus the less frequent amount of projects that a home improvement business might have, the message is, what that happy customer say about the remodeling contractor would be so much more powerful, right?
Because it’s such a major, life-altering event. So to be able to capture feedback is powerful.
There are tips that we share in PME360.com and Ryan shares on his blog, RyanPaulAdams.com.
One of the great ways is to perhaps capture that moment in a quick video. Everyone has an iPhone now. So when you the big reveal maybe, and the homeowner comes and they see the finished product, capture that on a quick video. And that’s so important.
There are a lot of ways out there that you could get that momentum going. And we touched on a few of them there.
So let’s talk about Geoff a little bit about one of the most obvious things, having business go and Google their name.
How many people actually do that?
How do you recognize if you have a reputation problem or if you don’t have your reputation or you want to improve it?
Easiest way to do it is to Google your name, right?
And to take that to the next level, Google makes it very east to let you set up an alert. So you can subscribe to Google News Alert. And you can subscribe to whatever search phrase will produce things about your company.
And every time Google becomes aware of anything new in the web that has that phrase, they will send you a little notification.
So I get several a day about Guild Quality and phrases that are important about our business. I’m paying attention on what’s being talked about our business out there.
It’s very easy for a contractor to do that as well. They only have to set up an account. They don’t have to Google their name every week.
What are common mistakes you tend to see that customers overlook?
Is it possibly lack of reviews? What are other practical tips there?
Geoff: I think, there are a lot of great companies that have wonderful content out there. And they are not doing a particularly great job at making it easy for customers to find it.
So the first thing they’re going to look at is your website.
And they’re not making an investment in their website to make it easy for their customers to find out about what types of things are out there about them.
People think, “Oh! Social media, I just don’t have the time for that.”
They don’t even have a mild effort on putting out a vibe about their business – whether it’s sharing little pictures here, there or doing just a little bit on Twitter to share things about the company, little bit on LinkdIn.
It’s not a huge effort. There are wonderful consultants they can engage to help them with it.
But it’s seems to me that in the building and remodeling profession, we focus so much on the built product.
Ryan: The production end, yeah.
Geoff: And a lot of people tend to neglect. I think it’s almost an obligation or a responsibility, for a great company to make it very easy for customers to find out all they can about their business.
And part of that are a website, a great online presence and some investment on sharing information about your great company in places where customers are going to look.
Because if you are not doing it there, then there are other folks who are going to do it there. And they’ll end up hiring someone who doesn’t deserve their business.
To me, there is really no excuse for it anymore. There are so many good companies that can help you do that with very little involvement on the business owner’s end.
A lot of time, you hear the excuse “I just don’t have the time to do this.”
Well, you don’t really need a lot of time for it. You can be involved in it. If you have the right people who know what they’re doing, they can take that off your plate and make you look good and make sure you are capturing the business even just your referral business.
I don’t know how many clients that I have were losing business from the referrals they were getting because their websites were so bad, their information was so bad.
No one can even find them. And all those people had to go off from was a business name that a friend gave them. So where they are going to go?
They are going to Google. Google your business names and they’re going to look at who you are, what you have to say, what people are saying about you.
If that information is not good, your competitors, a lot of them are squatting in your name, so they’re going to somewhere else and start poking around.
So don’t give them a chance or an excuse to do that.
Ron: So in terms of improving reputation online, I know we have mentioned it. Geoff you’ve mentioned about claiming your profile, claiming listings.
But also, we feel as extremely important step further is to make sure you make your name, address and phone number accurate.
Ryan just mentioned it a little bit. Making sure that if you did change locations or you did change your address, that you got things updated. Just so that there will be no confusion.
Because look, referrals are huge in this business.
A lot of our clients would say, “I do all my business based off of referrals.”
I’d venture out and guess that 20% to 30% maybe Geoff, there’s some slippage there that they can lose by having a poor reputation online, right?
The percentage now is 85% of customers are influenced by online reviews before they make investments.
When you think about, you mentioned it, the importance of this investment. People are scrutinizing this decision unlike any other purchasing decisions.
And our survey response rate, an average of 70% is a reflection of that. People are invested emotionally in the work that remodelers and home builders are doing for them.
And they’re going to go out and do the surveillance they need.
So it’s absolutely something to be mindful of.
Ron: And let’s face it, 75% of people don’t believe the messaging from the actual company, right?
They need to see it from someone else.
Geoff: I think we’re getting to be smarter as a society.
Having lived through the advertising age and now the Internet age, people are beginning to have a fantastically fine-tuned antenna to discern between what’s a real representation of what a company is like and what is a marketing message.
What I like is, I think I saw a quote one time.
“For every percent of ego that is contained in advertising removes 1 point of effectiveness.”
And most ads are 100% ego-driven so they are 100% ineffective.
So quit talking about how great you are. And let other people do that work for you, go out and actively promote it.
Geoff: Yeah! That’s a great point.
I think, one of then things that we have from my business in specific – from a marketing perspective is, we feel like our job is to celebrate great contractors.
And so we try to market ourselves simply by celebrating all the wonderful accomplishments of the people we work with.
Through doing that, we attract other wonderful contractors who want to be part of our community.
Ryan: That’s really important.
Ron: So as we go through here and start to wind down, tell us a little bit more about Service Excellence awards. Tell us about that in Guild Quality, how does that work?
Geoff: We power a lot of awards for a number of different organizations.
These are our partners in quality and it ranges from major magazines in our industry to some building product manufacturers.
And we also power our own service excellence award – the Guild Quality Guild Master award each year.
And both the ones we power for other organizations and our own work in a similar way.
Our contractors will apply for the award, we’ll survey their history of customers.
Surveying an unabridged list of customers. We’ll get all that feedback and if they meet certain quality standards, it’s a 90% or better likely to recommend rate and a very high response rate that is according to a volume contractor. It goes down if they are higher volume contractors.
But if they meet the thresholds, they may get awarded a Guild Quality Guild Master award. That’s for our members in specific.
And there are others that we power for different organizations. They have different – the partner tends to have the criteria. And sometimes, they recognize anyone who scores below certain thresholds and sometimes they only recognize the Top 5 applicants.
One of the first we did outside of Guild Quality, outside of our Guild Quality Guild Master award was for a remodeling magazine at their Remodeling Leadership Conference and their annual Big 50.
So all the candidates who applied for Big 50 could also apply for the remodeling magazine’s Big 50 Service Excellence award.
And then the team, the editors there recognize the Top 5 performers of all time.
So what our members are doing with that and also our non-members who’ve entered awards with some of the partners, is they are taking that award and they are promoting that as a reflection of their commitment to quality.
In general, I’m really down with credentials – especially, when credentials don’t reflect some sort of a meaningful thing for the business’ customers.
So a lot of things to improve about licensing. But I think the credential of a Service Excellence award is a tremendous one because this is what the customers care about.
It’s representative of a contractor’s commitment to quality and their history of superior service.
And I think, things like that are really meaningful to customers. It is similar to Better Business Bureau and so forth.
Ron: It really goes a long way to solidifying the trust, beginning to build that trust.
It’s a fearful process. It’s a scary process for someone to engage a contractor to help them with their home in a meaningful way.
It’s among their most important assets, it’s this house they live in and they raise their children in it.
And to invite strangers into the home and shape that thing into this new thing that the homeowners aspire to is a really scary thing.
And whatever we can do to eliminate any of the anxiety around making that decision for people – it’s going to be positive both for the homeowner and the great contractor.
Ron: Well, Guild Quality is really doing some great things.
Geoff, how can our listeners get a hold of a representative from Guild Quality and start the process?
Geoff: Well, we’d like to hear from you!
It’s easy to visit GuildQuality.com and you can reach us anytime at 888-355 9223 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ron: Fantastic! email@example.com.
You have representation all over North America.
Geoff: Yeah! All over Canada, all over the United States. I think we’ve actually just gotten some Guild member up in the Caribbean.
Ryan: Oh, nice!
Ron: Geoff, that’s fantastic!
We really appreciate you coming on today!
Don’t forget our listeners can also go to PME360.com to learn more about PME360 and how our products are really complementary to Guild Quality.
I look forward to continued relationship. Best of continued success to you and Guild Quality.
Thank you so much for coming on to PME360 Powering Business Growth Show today.
Geoff: To you as well. Thank you very much guys!
Ryan: Thank you Geoff. Appreciate it.