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Reputation is one of the most important business assets. However, in the digital age, doing high-quality work and providing excellent service aren't enough. In the world of Google, Yelp, and Houzz reviews, it is quite easy for people to publicly tarnish reputations with a single bad review. Russell Fuller, owner of Fuller Living Construction, said online reviews can be a competitive advantage for a remodeling business if managed correctly.

Embedding the Importance of Reviews
Fuller said he underscores the importance of reviews as early as the sales process with clients.

“When I first meet with the client, I ask have they seen our website [and if they] have they looked us up online?” Fuller said on a recent PowerTips Unscripted Podcast, sponsored by Remodelers Advantage. “If not, then I encourage them to view our website so they can see our work and see what we’re about and look us up on Google. I let the client know that you can’t fake five-star reviews if you’re doing business in a bad way. That’s something I use on the front-end to distinguish ourselves from the competition.”

Fuller said he includes a direct link to the high Google rating of his company in his estimate emails to clients. He said the repetition of the message with clients shows that reviews are important to his company and that client opinions and experiences "mean everything."Fuller Living Construction hosts weekly meetings with clients, and Fuller himself calls clients weekly to discuss projects. Additionally, Fuller distributes mid-project surveys to clients through GuildQuality to gauge client thoughts during the project.

"We just want an honest opinion and are looking for ways we can get better," Fuller said. "Clients maybe don't want to say something [negative about the project] to me on the phone, but with a written survey, sometimes will feel more comfortable saying things."

Fuller said such surveys allow his company to address issues head-on as they happen, improve them in real time, and resolve issues by the end of a project to ensure happy clients. After a project, Fuller uses a follow-up survey structured similarly to the mid-project survey to gauge customer satisfaction. After the follow-up survey, Fuller then solicits Google reviews from his clients, sending click-through links directly to clients.

Why Google Reviews?
Fuller said he used to have clients leave reviews on Yelp, but noticed that not all Yelp reviews appear online. The company only publicly posts reviews from active Yelp users. Houzz functions in a similar way. Fuller turned to Google instead as the primary place for reviews for his company.

"Google seems to have the SEO," Fuller said. "The first thing that shows up [in a search of businesses] is the Google business page, and Yelp and the other platforms are below that. The other thing with Google is they aren't sending people a bunch of emails or letters or a bunch of spam. So, when people leave a review, it's pretty straightforward and a pretty clean process."

Bad Reviews and Backups
Bad reviews are an inevitable reality of current business. How you handle those bad reviews can be instrumental to the reputation of your business. Fuller said maintaining relationships with past clients is important, as a high quantity of high-quality reviews can cancel out the negative effects of single bad review. Fuller also has subcontractors and employees fill out reviews of his company, which helps create a more positive image for the company.

"I think it's important for the client to see that [subcontractor and employee reviews] so they can see the well-roundedness of the company," Fuller said.

Fuller also employs what he calls a "review insurance account." Essentially, the account is a reserve of several clients who have agreed to provide positive reviews but have agreed not to post their reviews until asked. Such a reserve allows Fuller a fail-safe to mitigate the potential effects of a bad review and stabilize the online average of his company.

Future of Reviews
Consumers increasingly rely on online reviews when making purchasing decisions. This relates directly to retail products, but is extending to services consumers purchase as well. Fuller said this fact, coupled with the potential for younger, digital-savvy contractors to enter the fray in the near future, makes proactively managing online reviews essential for current businesses.

"I think there's a competitive advantage to being socially and digitally active with these reviews," Fuller said. "I think that competitive advantage is going to cease to exist in about five years as the next generation comes in. The younger guys will compensate for their lack of experience or portfolio with those things [reviews]."

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