I've spent quite a few hours reading online reviews of shops across the country. I'm looking for trends in what makes customers happy and what makes them unhappy. I plan to find out what makes customers most happy and give them that while avoiding things that make customers unhappy.
Here's what I've learned. Real mistakes, real complaints, are few and far between. Most 1 and 2 star reviews fall into 1 of 5 categories:
1) PRICES - This is the most common complaint. Somebody feels like a shop overcharged them. My question is always "compared to what?" Overcharging requires a comparison. Well, independent shops like mine are always more expensive than Wal-Mart, parts stores, friends who work on cars, uncles, and salvage yards. However, we also offer warranties, courtesy cars, highly trained technicians, quick service and reliable business hours. So our customers also get more.
2) GRUMPY STAFF - This is usually tied with warranties. It's a legit complaint that should never happen.
3) WARRANTIES - Warranties are just confusing and there are always ways for shops to wiggle out of honoring them. Sometimes however, it really is a misunderstanding. It's important for you to understand that a warranty only covers parts than fail due to defects during the warranty period. We escape most of this problem by using quality parts the first time.
4) KNOW-IT-ALLS - These are the guys who don't know what they don't know. They know just enough to ask challenging questions but not enough to fix it themselves. There are 100s of ways to approach a repair and every technician has their preferred method. When I see these reviews I suspect that no shop could have gotten it right.
5) OLD CARS - I'm sorry, but when I read through bad reviews they tend to involve older cars more frequently than newer cars. Here's why, older cars are hard to work with, things break during repairs and they are often poorly maintained. They are really hard to work with and easy to make mistakes with. It's no wonder they attract bad reviews.
If you haven't noticed, I'll point it out for you. Of the 5 items on this list, I can only control the GRUMPY STAFF. My prices are set to keep me in business, warranties have terms that I can afford to honor, old cars are brittle and challenging and certain customers will argue with everything.
My search to improve my shop has revealed that there are some things that are simply beyond my direct control and that the odds of having 0 negative reviews is 0%. However, that will not stop us from getting better each day and doing our best to earn positive reviews.
I spent about an hour on the phone today with an SEO consultant. This happens from time to time as they have a bad habit of cold calling me until I talk to them. Truth be told they rarely know more than I do about SEO. Anyway, now that I've patted myself on the back tonight I want to take a moment to explain Google before I explain why I control every aspect of my website.
You see, Google wants you to find the most relevant website. That means it is guessing at what you are searching for. It bases its guess on data from millions of searches. This data is weighted towards urban areas because they have more people, more tech savvy searchers and more search history. Because Integrity Auto Care is not in an urban area, many of the data points that Google uses are skewed with urban data and therefore do not actually provide the user with accurate results. Further, because there is less competition on the web in small towns the game is entirely different.
In fact, it is very easy to skew the search results in a rural area if you know just a little bit about SEO and are willing to load the dice so to say. You see, Google uses many factors to determine if a website is relevant to your search. Some of the easiest factors to game are ratings/reviews, content, page titles and keywords. Because these are so easy to control, the search results in small towns tend to show the auto repair shop with the most crooked SEO firm at the top of the results, instead of the best shop. Kinda makes you skeptical of the shops at the top of the results right?
However, over the past few years Google has been getting better at pushing these dishonest sites to the bottom of the results. In fact, some of those SEO firms have seen their clients wiped off the web...literally. Google has shown that it really doesn't want people trying to trick it and it doesn't really care if it crushes a few websites in pursuit of its goal.
So, my bet is that at some point in the future only the honest websites will be left at the top. The sites that are different, that are the most useful, and that have real reviews. Because I am relying on Google's goal to provide the most relevant results, I expect that my honest little website with a couple real reviews (as opposed to fake or purchased reviews), real content (instead of rehashed auto repair garbage) and a light, airy tone (as opposed to a robot), will float to the top of the results.
So there, that is why I make my own website. I code it, I design it, I write it, and I am not interested in farming any of it out. May the best shop win. Not the best website. :)