Qualified Remodeler Magazine

OCT 2013

Qualified Remodeler helps independent remodeling firms to survive, become more professional and more profitable by providing must-have business information, namely best business practices, new product information and timely design ideas.

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PROFITS: Market Insight REACTING TO NEGATIVITY Because negative reviews tend to draw the most attention, it's important to respond to them. Accountability is critical, too, especially if the remodeler gave the reviewer reason for the negative comments. "If I screw up, I will admit it and correct the wrong," Rittenberg says. "I'll stand up for any mistakes I made. I have no problem doing that, but sometimes you get an unreasonable homeowner you just can't do anything about." MacDougall agrees that all negative comments must be acknowledged. "You can't go on the defensive right away or you're shooting yourself in the foot. For example, if there's merit to the negative comment, I might respond with, 'This job could have gone better. It's true we had scheduling issues with this job. We acknowledge that our communication could have been better. We appreciate your input and will do everything we can to avoid it in the future.'" Even Dietz, who is losing revenue because of negative comments, agrees that initially a remodeler must respond regardless of merit. "You must treat them as a good client, because if you can turn a negative into a positive through your online response, then you can have a client and referral source for life." REMODELERS' HANDS ARE TIED If anyone fully understands the concept of having one's hands tied, it's Dietz, who successfully sued to have a customer's negative comments removed from Yelp.com, only to have the Virginia supreme court overturn that ruling. It's impossible to remove the client's assertion that Dietz stole property from 48 October 2013 QR the client's house, despite possessing a letter from the state's attorney general stating Dietz nor his company have no criminal record. "I can say you're a racist, and good luck getting me to take it down," Dietz says. "Until there's national or state legislation that the client says, they will go online and write how bad the remodeler is. "I've had two instances of online reports that are inaccurate, but I have no recourse; there's nothing I can do about it. I'm held hostage, and it's not right. At least the Better Business Bureau will mediate a dispute. I'm losing clients without even being given a chance to earn their business. changes the Communications Decency Act of 1996 Section 230, people can say whatever they want on the internet, and you can't do anything about it. With the speed at which technology advances, 1996 is ancient history, and it's time the legislation is updated," Dietz proclaims. "And here's a warning to all of the remodelers reading this. You have no idea how screwed you are until you're in my situation, so pay attention to my case," Dietz says. "This is essentially what'the former client is doing to me. If I want Thai food tonight, I look it up. If I see three places that look good and one of them has a negative comment, it's easy to rule out that place. That's what's happening to me. People are comparing me to my competition, they see the negative comment and eliminate me. They think, 'The comment might not be legitimate, but it's not worth risking my $200,000 remodel with him. Let's go with a different remodeler.' I'm losing clients without even being given a chance to earn their business." Rittenberg believes there's not a remodeling contractor who hasn't been threatened to be held hostage by a customer who says if the remodeler doesn't do what ForResidentialPros.com That's a fair process. But with most other sites, homeowners can say whatever they want and remodelers have no recourse." ADVICE FROM THE EXPERTS Nikki Golden, marketing and communications manager, National Association of the Remodeling Industry, Des Plaines, Ill., also agrees that getting in front of a brand is better than doing damage control. "There's a quote from Scott Cook, founder and CEO of Intuit, that brings home the point about being consistent with one's branding message. He said, 'A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is; it's what consumers tell each other it is.' This is why branding from inside a business is better than outside. Everyone at the company must sing the same tune, which makes it easier for customers to be your brand ambassadors. In the past, you would put your logo out there and hope people would see it and feel the way you intended them to feel, but now you have to tell them how to feel." Remodelers who don't have time to monitor what's being written online about their businesses have a simple alternative, Golden suggests. "Remodelers can set up a Google Alert to keep tabs on online comments made about their company. They can cimply go to google.com/alerts and set up an alert for the company name. Then, any time someone mentions their company on the internet, they will get an email." Another way to look a a brand is to think of it as a company's reputation, which is difficult to defend if one hasn't been established, says Darren Slaughter, founder and president, darrenslaughter.com. "If a remodeler has no reputation on these sites and suddenly a customer posts a bad review, that bad review just became your reputation, because that's all that's out there. However, if you've been actively working on building an online reputation and have a nice following, when one bad review comes in it'll look like a blip. For any business that has been online for awhile, it's OK to have one or two bad reviews mixed into 20 or 30 good ones," Slaughter says. One final piece of advice from Slaughter is to keep the fight where it begins. If a negative review is posted on Angie's List, respond on Angie's List and don't take it to Facebook or LinkedIn, he says. "If you take the fight to sites other than where it began, all you're doing is spreading the negativity to other platforms. Localize the damage." QR Exclusive: 7 Tips for Brand Defense Qualified Remodeler spoke with Deloitte Consulting's Jonathan Copulsky about the importance of remodelers' brands, and how word of mouth has changed. He also shares his seven tips for effective brand defense in an exclusive online article. To see the list and read about our interview with Copulsky, please visit ForResidentialPros. com/11177016

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