In this series on reputation management, I’ve covered reviews on both Ripoff Report and Yelp in depth. This section about Angie’s List rounds out much of what you and your business needs to know about handling and addressing negative reviews at the three major sites that may cause the most grief. If you haven’t already read part 11 and part 12 of this guide, those will provide additional key insights on this topic.
What is Angie’s List?
Angie’s List is a review website co-founded by Bill Oesterle and Angie Hicks in 1995 with the aim to help individuals find quality service providers in their area. While the site covers a variety of service provider areas, including home improvement, pet care, auto repair, and health care, their primary audience consists of homeowners who are looking for service providers to take care of plumbing, electricity, and home renovations.
Businesses can benefit from Angie’s List because they provide referrals to people who are searching for service providers in a local area. Reviews by Angie’s List members are the main driver of the list and who places at the top of it.
Similarly to Ripoff Report, Angie’s List does not allow anonymous reviews and does allow companies and providers to respond to any reports so they can tell their side of the story. They also have certified data collection, which keeps fake reviews from competitors or companies themselves from destroying or lessening the credibility of the review system.
Similarly to Yelp, Angie’s List builds relationships with local businesses to offer advertising, but also charges members a monthly fee to subscribe to the list. The thinking is that Angie’s List members can save a ton of money by getting the real story on service providers who might handle huge, expensive projects around their home, while putting up a membership wall keeps out anonymous reviewers who might be shilling for a company.
How Do Angie’s List Ratings Affect Businesses?
Angie’s List prides itself on being able to drive referrals to businesses on the list; however, it’s a mixed bag as to whether service providers see enough referrals from the site to justify the efforts spent. The New York Times covers a woman whose company spends $3000+ on advertising on Angie’s List every year, who says they make the investment back easily. At the other end of the spectrum, a certified landscaper and arborist from Portland, Oregon says to NuWireInvestor that he has seen some business referrals, but that negative reviews may be hurting his business in the long run.
The latter also questioned the validity of these reviews, as most consumers are not equipped to judge skilled labor. He worried that his competitors are rated too highly for the work they do, and that it’s hard to distinguish his unique selling proposition from other laborers.
Regardless of whether the review system is the best way to find a skilled laborer, negative reviews on Angie’s list can hurt your businesss bottom line. In December of 2012, Washington D.C. contractor Dietz Development claimed to lose $300,000 due to a defamatory review. Though it is hard to get accurate numbers on what the true value of positive reviews might be for a particular business, a BrightLocal study conducted in 2012 found that 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations they receive from people they know, and 52% of consumers say that positive online reviews make them more likely to choose that local business.
How To Respond To Negative Reviews on Angie’s List
Angie’s List recommends that you respond to all reviews, both positive and negative, so you can thank the person for the feedback and in some cases, tell your side of the story. However, at Reputation Hacks we recommend that you take caution with this approach because responding can have a negative affect on your reputation. Depending on how you conduct yourself and how the customer naturally reacts to these situations, a response could:
- start a flame war between you and the customer
- make you appear defensive or untrustworthy
- increase that page’s page rank within Google’s search results
I went over this in more detail in the section regarding Ripoff Report, so please review it to get the best practices on this matter.
In some cases, it makes sense to respond. If you do respond, make sure you take the three-tiered approach I shared in the section on Yelp. Some resolutions you can offer for the tier 1: the rational negative review and tier 2: the emotional negative review include:
- Free replacement for damages to home repairs
- Discount or reimbursement on billing for the work
- Free labor (only charge for materials)
Depending on your business model, taking a resolution approach can be significantly more costly, so make sure you can make up this cost in lead referrals from Angie’s List that will generate new business.
Unfortunately, customers have the upper hand in disputes with local businesses, and in some cases it might be better to cut your losses. In the lawsuit that I briefly mentioned earlier, where Dietz Development claimed to lose $300,000, the matter may have been able to be resolved offline if Dietz Development hadn’t tried to sue Perez for work she was unsatisfied with. Regardless of the details of the dispute, and even though Dietz won the defamation case, it’s unlikely that consumers will be flocking to the business because they don’t want to be sued due to deterioration of communication lines and disagreements.
How To Respond to False Reviews on Angie’s List
As mentioned in our section on Yelp, we recommend not to respond to inaccurate and false reviews because it can do much more damage to your reputation than good. We believe that drowning out bad reviews with positive reviews is the way to go.
You can take legal action, as demonstrated by Dietz Development, who won their defamation lawsuit against Perez; however, the publicity over the case has likely done more damage to their brand and the coverage now dominates their Google search results for the term “Dietz Development.”
You can also contact Angie’s List directly, depending on the inaccuracy. While Angie’s List tries to remain agnostic to what it’s consumers write, they are willing to remove reviews in cases where the company was wrongly assigned or there are other minor errors on the consumer’s part. It is worth starting a dialog with them to find out what your options are.
The most proactive approach for handing negative reviews on Angie’s List is by generating more positive reviews.
How To Generate More Positive Reviews on Angie’s List
I’ve covered generating positive reviews in both the Ripoff Report and Yelp sections of this reputation management guide, but I wanted to address a specific point that is unique to Angie’s List. Angie’s List posts reviews and comments from both members and non-members, but gives precedence to members (who have a paid subscription) in it’s display results. Furthermore, Angie’s List posts an overall grade for a local business based only on the grades that members provide. What this means is that it’s harder to garner positive reviews and improve your grading because reviewers have to pay a yearly subscription fee to have their review count. This is a tough sell to customers who are not a part of Angie’s List; however, there are a few tactics you can use to generate more positive reviews from Angie’s List members:
The Fetch Program
For the fastest results, you can provide Angie’s List with your customer list and have them solicit reviews from any customer on your list who also has an Angie’s List membership. As of March of 2013, this is a free service through the Fetch program, which is billed as a review retrieval program. You can learn more about it here.
Exclusive Discounts For Angie’s List Members
You could also advertise an exclusive discount that is specific for Angie’s List members to your email list or on your website. As long as the discount is greater than the Angie’s List yearly fees, you will be incentivizing potential and current customers to join the list.
If taking this approach, make it clear to customers that they are not required to leave a review on Angie’s List to get the discount, and also encourage them to leave an honest review if they choose to do so at all.
If you want to take your exclusive discount to the next level and be more proactive, you can also look at Angie’s List’s advertising program. While you can’t pay directly to be on Angie’s List, you can pay to set up an exclusive discount offer to its members. In certain search results, Angie’s List shows discounted services at the top of their page display.
For general best practices on generating more positive reviews for your company, I really recommend reviewing my post on Yelp because many of the same tactics apply. There are dozens of creative ways to build positive reviews on Angie’s List. It just requires you to make Angie’s List a marketing priority and incorporate it into your marketing plan on a weekly or monthly basis.
Thanks for reading this part of the guide and if you have any questions, you can email me at Jun [at] ReputationHacks.com.