Turning the Bad Review Around With the Help of Technology

Software helps Texas plumbing firm generate online reviews, protect its online reputation.

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There’s no doubt that many plumbers would like to talk to unhappy customers and resolve issues before they lead to a bad online review. Thanks to the PulseM review generation and reputation management software, managers at Baker Brothers Plumbing, Air & Electric can actually do just that — and at the same time, they can protect the company’s online reputation.

“We live in a digital world, so good online reviews are vital to our business,” says Bubba Thurman, a senior vice president at the suburban Dallas company, which was established in 1945 and employs 320 people. “And so is reputation management.

“PulseM allows us to capture negative reviews in real time before they get posted online and fix whatever the customer is unhappy about. We can act on negative reviews quickly, to the point that we can tell a technician to turn around and go back and make things right.”

It’s not that the company’s 200 technicians generate a lot of bad reviews, Thurman explains.

“But even a few bad reviews can cost us money,” he notes. “It’s expensive to generate leads and get the phones to ring in the first place, so if we get a bad review, you can lose calls you otherwise might receive.”

Since Baker Brothers started using PulseM, the software has generated a whopping 11,329 online reviews — 9,575 on Google and 1,754 on Facebook. Furthermore, the average rating on the Google reviews jumped nearly a full point, to 4.9 out of five stars from 4.1 stars.

WEEDING OUT BAD REVIEWS

Baker Brothers started using PulseM about four years ago.

“We were struggling with how to handle negative online reviews,” Baker says, noting that when consumers post bad reviews anonymously, there’s no way to contact them to try and make things right. “We can’t fix anything if we don’t know what the problem is.”

But that all changed with PulseM. Here’s how it works: When technicians finish a job, they ask customers if they’d be willing to do a quick review. If they agree, the technician sends them either an email or a text with a link that leads to two questions.

The first question asks how the technician performed, with three answers available: A smiley-face icon, a neutral face or a frown face. Customers then get asked how likely it is that they’d recommend Baker Brothers to friends and family, using a scale from one to 10, with 10 being the highest score.

If customers give technicians a score of nine or above, they then receive another text asking if they’d be willing to post a review on the Google-reviews platform, along with a website link. But if the score is lower than a nine, a plumbing, air conditioning or electric service manager can see it right away in real time on a PulseM computer dashboard and intervene, Thurman explains.

MANAGEMENT TOOL, TOO

The rating scores for technicians also serve as a management tool.

“We strive to keep our technicians’ average score at nine or above,” he adds. “And very few of them drop below that level.”

If a technician consistently receives scores under nine, it tells managers something is amiss.

“Maybe that technician is a ‘C’ player instead of an ‘A’ player,” Thurman says. “And the ratings are one of the only ways we can find that out because aside from coming in to pick up parts, our guys are on their own each day, essentially running their own small businesses.

“So we depend on customers for feedback,” he continues. “We can look at revenue as a performance benchmark, but you also can have high-revenue guys who provide terrible customer service — and that’s not good.”

The scores help managers hone in on potential performance issues, providing the proverbial teachable moment for managers. And on the plus side, many of the bad scores stem from communication issues between technicians and customers, which usually can be fixed with some coaching, Thurman says.

VALUE-ADDED SERVICES

PulseM also provides value in other ways. For example, it automatically sends a text or email notifying customers that a technician will arrive soon, plus a short biography and a photo of the technician. This helps customer feel more secure, Thurman says.

“PulseM integrates with our ServiceTitan platform [a customer-management, scheduling and dispatching system],” he notes. “When we dispatch a service call that’s booked through ServiceTitan, the notification goes out automatically.”

Using the system costs the company about $2,800 a month. But while it’s difficult to quantify, Thurman is convinced it pays for itself, given the importance of good online ratings in today’s digital-marketing environment.

“I wouldn’t speak positively about this product if I didn’t believe in it,” he says. “It’s very user-friendly. It captures data points for us in a very systematic way and presents them in real time.

“I’d absolutely recommend it to other plumbers — 100%,” he adds. “It’s a no-brainer.”  



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