Many years ago, when I was new to public speaking and teaching, I was asked to give a marketing talk at a local ACCA chapter meeting. Back then, not everyone had come around to the idea that they needed a company website. I was still trying to convince dealers how important it was that they could be found online. Reviews were sort of a new thing too, and I explained that they needed to pay attention to their online reputation, since customers surely would. As I made my presentation, I was heckled several times by an older HVAC dealer in the back of the room. The room was dimly lit for the projector, but I could see that he was gruff and grizzled and he clearly wasn’t impressed by anything I said. He scoffed at my marketing advice. He growled at my website suggestions. He, well, he pretty much pooh-poohed everything I presented.
He didn’t need marketing advice. He’d been in business for 40 years. He knew what he was doing. He got by on word-of-mouth and that worked just fine for him. I was just a marketing chick trying to sell him something, he grumbled.
Yowzah! This guy was a handful.
After tolerating his rude mutterings, I finally called him out. “Sir,” I pointed to him in the back of the room, “have you Googled yourself? Do you know what your customers are saying about you?”
Not surprisingly, he had not. His customers weren’t online, he barked. His customers were loyal, and he didn’t think anyone would waste their time writing a review about him.
“Let’s try this then. Give me the name of your company and we’ll see if there are any reviews about your company out there on the internet.” I closed out of my PowerPoint presentation and typed his company name into Google, which was projected on the large screen. What happened next falls under the heading of You-Can’t-Make-This-Sh*t-Up.
He had 12 Google reviews and a 1.5-star rating. Eleven reviews were truly awful: he was sloppy, he was rude and unkempt, he did shoddy work, he charged more than he estimated, etc., etc. The last review was the killer though. Here's what it said:
“Don’t use this man to fix your furnace. He’s a child molester.”
I kid you not.
The class went completely silent. I felt the color drain out of my face. My heckler made an inappropriate gesture in my general direction and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him.
Moral of this crazy story? Reviews matter. They mattered then and they matter exponentially more now. Did you know that 90 percent of consumers read online reviews when searching online for local services? And most consumers won't use a business with less than a three-star rating? And 85 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from a friend or family member.
Pay attention to what’s being said about your company online. If you don’t have a review service, consider getting one. Like, today. The monthly payment is negligible. The cost of a scathing review that isn’t properly managed can be devastating!
(And also, don’t heckle nice ladies.)