One-star reviews can be fatal to your business, yet they are also sadly common in the restoration industry. If you had to wager a guess, what would you say is the most common point of failure with customers on a restoration project? Delays? Rogue technicians delivering bad customer service? Negative experiences with insurance?
Until you know, you’ll have a difficult time avoiding 1-star reviews and providing a better experience than your competitors. Instead, the failure points that plague many restoration companies across the country could likely be your digital downfall as well. However, with a clear understanding of what causes restoration customer experiences to end in crippling permanent online negative reviews, you can address, target, and eliminate issues before they arise, avoiding lost revenue and creating a competitive advantage for yourself in the market along the way.
Our passion at KnowHow is helping restorers achieve consistent project and workforce quality outcomes at scale, turning their reviews from 1-star to 5 along the way. In order to discover what these recurring issues were that caused restoration projects to go awry, the team at KnowHow painstakingly captured and analyzed data from the most popular reviews platform on the internet: Google Reviews. We collected over 1,000 one-star reviews from restoration companies in all 50 U.S. States, on a mission to find the common factors that contribute to a company being taken to task by former customers, and how you can avoid a similar fate.
Our analysis proved insightful, surprising, and at times more eyebrow-raising than we were expecting. During our research, we came across stories ranging from the mundane (complaints about no-show appointments) to the truly wild (public drunkenness, theft, and accusations of marital infidelity). Yet the overarching theme throughout was that there were specific, recurring themes common to all restoration projects that had gone off the rails. The good news is that almost none of the problems that kept emerging were unsolvable. With intentionality, any restoration business can identify potential failure points early and take concrete steps to avoid a timeless smear on their digital record.
Of course, it all starts with awareness, so let’s unpack the most common factors in 1-star reviews, and what you can do to avoid them.
In our analysis of over 1,000 1-star reviews, a whopping 37% of them pointed to communication issues between the company and the customer being a primary reason for investing time to write about their negative experience online for the whole world to see.
Sadly, the most common of these was also one of the simplest: companies failing to return phone calls or show up at the appointed time. Very basic business etiquette was often lacking, as customers described taking days off of work to meet the restorer only to be left hanging with their contractor nowhere to be found. Follow up voicemails were left unreturned, and many times that was the last (and only) impression customers had of the business. These completely avoidable 1-star reviews did as much damage to the company’s Google score as running over a customer’s dog!
Elsewhere, multiple reviews mentioned a mitigation project going smoothly until the reconstruction team took over, at which point things fell apart and it became impossible to get answers from anybody. Poor communication at these critical ‘handoffs’ was a major recurring pain point. Customers recounted horror stories of being stuck in hotels for eight or nine months while left in limbo with no answers on timelines or progress. It’s important to note in these cases, even if the poor communication was the fault of a third party company in charge of the rebuild, it was the original Restoration company who bore the brunt of the customer’s anger and their negative online review.
Thankfully, problems like this can be fixed, in some cases rather easily. For example, 10% of all reviews we analyzed were rated 1-star simply because the business never called back a customer requesting a quote. Likewise, ingraining the habit into team members to send a head’s up text when they’re running late can have an equally powerful impact on a customer’s impression of the professionalism of the company. Implementing a ‘call when running late’ policy can have a significant impact when you look at the very real impact of a single 1-star review.
However, many times, communication issues occur because different information exists in different people’s brains, and access to that information isn’t readily available. Fortunately, this too can be fixed with project management software, online internal knowledge hubs, and other tools to ensure that jobs don’t get dropped on the hand-off from mitigation to reconstruction, and every team member has up-to-date information on how things are progressing.
Poor Quality Workmanship
29.9% of all reviews we analyzed cited work quality (or lack thereof) as the reason customers ended up complaining and writing a 1-star online review about the company. Typically, this type of complaint fell into one of three categories:
- A final product that began to deteriorate in only a few weeks or months
- Jobs left incomplete
- General negligence on behalf of the contractor
In many cases, it was obvious that staff had cut corners during the repair or rebuild processes, either out of laziness or ignorance. Customers told stories of contractors performing a sub-standard job, which very quickly led to cracks, chips, bubbling, or further repairs that needed to be completed. The inevitable end result was customers complaining to the company or insurance, leading to loss of margin and reputation in the process.
Other reviewers described their homes being 90% repaired, but then projects never being officially brought over the finish line, but instead just left hanging indefinitely. Holes left in walls, exposed wiring, or dust and debris all over were commonplace, with many customers eventually just deciding to finish the job themselves.
However, most dangerous of these complaints were jobs done incorrectly because employees likely didn’t know any better. Some reviews mentioned potentially fatal mistakes, including gas leaks and carbon monoxide exposure due to inattentiveness from workers. Thankfully, in all the reviews surveyed, these were caught by the customer before it turned tragic, but it severely damaged the perceived professionalism of the business along the way.
Once again though, these problems can thankfully be addressed and eliminated, if intentionality and swift action is taken by leadership. This action includes identifying where team members have a “knowledge” gap, and where they have an “ownership thinking” gap. In the fast-pace and stress characteristic of the restoration industry, the best solution to missed expectations is clear, standardized processes that are easy for a technician to access, and follow and easy for management to monitor and enforce.
When the issue is simply a knowledge issue though, it’s important to note a few things first. Most importantly, the current way most companies train employees (few days for onboarding and then just “ask questions as you go”) isn’t working. Employees end up missing important information, and slowly over time, their work quality descends to their standard, not yours.
The way to shake the curse of employee inconsistency is to give them the gift of consistency. Define your standards and make them accessible to everyone, whether they’re on the job-site or at the office. Build a culture where what’s completed is inspected, something that digital tools can help you do at scale. By equipping employees with the knowledge they need to do their jobs the right way, you can take steps to ensure that team members walk away from a job with a final product you’re proud to have associated with your brand.
Coming in at third is the recurring problem of project delays, which were mentioned 16.6% of the time in our analysis. It’s been said that “frustration is the gap between expectation and reality”. In no category was this more prevalent than customers expecting their lives to return to normal on a certain timeline, or for that to be extended by weeks or months with often little communication along the way.
Typically, the factors that led to this occurring were estimators overpromising on timeline in order to close a sale, or a job starting, only for the restoring company to get distracted by something else before the job was completed.
Customers shared stories of estimators or project managers assuring them a potential job would be simple, only for delays to emerge because of contractor negligence or inexperience. Forgetting to insulate before putting up drywall, installing improper equipment, the examples of easily preventable mistakes delaying otherwise routine jobs were numerous, and directly led to many avoidable 1-star reviews.
In other cases, it was clear in the review that a project had been started, only for the restoring company to shift labor resources to another project before the first had been completed. Many customers complained about feeling disrespected and left hanging as the company pursued a bigger paycheck somewhere else.
In these situations, when customers were provided context on why the company had shifted their attention (say for example, a hurricane or other natural disaster in a neighboring town), they were sympathetic. However, in most cases they were never given an explanation, and instead were just left in limbo. Again, clear lines of honest communication between the company and the customer could mitigate some of the damage here, but instead, by going silent, businesses further agitated an already exasperated customer, giving them more fuel to take their frustration to the internet.
Likewise, delays related to employees making easily avoidable mistakes can be prevented with intentionality. Employees skipping steps is inevitable if there is no culture of following the right process and holding tension to high-quality outcomes within the company. At the same time, clear and accessible standardized processes ensure that project delays are not the result of simply ‘the team member with all the how-to’ being unavailable - ensuring even new workers have access to the right way to get things done. Restoration companies across the United States are eliminating 1-star reviews by documenting their expertise and “the way we do things around here”, and making sure it’s accessible to every employee when they need it.
The ways a Restoration project can fail are numerous, but 83.5% of the time it comes down to poor communication, poor workmanship and delays. Restorer’s that want to be market leaders need to take a sobering look at how these issues show up in their business.
By knowing where a project is most likely to fail, you can target those areas and take the necessary steps in order to ensure that the issues that dogged the 1,000 businesses that appeared in our analysis don’t affect you as well.