“Free” online company reviews

Are online company reviews the latest and greatest way to find a contractor? What are the pitfalls to simply pulling a contractor off the internet based on all of their spectacular reviews? On the surface it seems fast and easy but relying on “Free online reviews” alone could be risky, as all is not always as it seems.

“Once again something broke!”

When you least expect it, a disaster hits home and something breaks. It could be your fridge or the water heater or one of the many other household items that is due to break at the worst possible time.

These days when that happens, folks go online and look for a business that handles that type of repair and service but how do you know who to use? Who is honest and who’s not? In this economy, the grifters are running amok, imitating legit businesses through out America, and they are very good at camouflaging themselves amongst us. So how do you weed them out and avoid a whole lot of hassle?

There are a whole host of websites and browsers that have companies lined up for display and now it’s your job to pick one, but how? I think I will choose the one with the best reviews!! Whew…that was easy! But hold on a minute! Are these reviews honest or even legitimate? Not necessarily!

Reviews… how reliable are they ?

Being in the line of work I’m in for over 25 years, one gets to know the competition and the who’s who of the industry for one’s particular city and I would recommend that you not put all of your eggs in the review basket just yet.

Let’s just take a minute here to spot some of the tell tale signs that a review just might not be all on the up and up. As I scan thru the reviews listed for several garage door companies in my local area (San Diego) I notice that the reviews have certain patterns and real people typically do not.

Here are a few red flags that I noticed…

#1-The average service company within this particular site had around 5-10 reviews, one had 75 and another had 250. Now I can see a company really hustling reviews and getting double or even triple the average but 50 times above the average? and even worse…almost all of them 5 star! All of this from a company who I personally know is short on customer service.

#2-The reviews seem to have a pattern of coming  in rapid fire succession, 2-3 in one day then the next day a few more, then nothing for two weeks then the same pattern again, 2-3 in one day then nothing again.

#3- The reviews also appear to have the same style of sentence formulation. In other words alot of one line reviews and all of them vague and very general in nature such as “The service tech was great, fixed my problem same day, no haggling, stuck to price, a bargain”. Can you read between the lines here? This is an advertisement for what this company thinks you are looking for, such as a friendly service tech, same day service and a bargain of a price.

Real reviews usually come from happy customers that remember their experience with you, they usually remember the tech’s name and are glad to share their experience in fair detail (not one short sentence) with the audience that they feel could use this kind of helpful information.

Fake reviews are seldom creative, usually short, yet always 4-5 stars and most of them pinpoint exactly what you are looking for…fast service, a bargain price and friendly, knowledgeable people. Hmmmm…ya think?

So before you go diving headlong into choosing someone to do some repair work on or in your home based on reviews alone, think twice…slow down and take a look at the whole picture. They certainly aren’t going to write themselves a bad review, I’d put more stock into 5 bad reviews than 250- 5 star reviews, especially from a site where posting reviews is free!!

Do they have a website?

Do they have a physical address? or just a PO box?

Are they licensed?

Google them and see what pops up.

Take the “Free reviews” into consideration, but do not put a whole lot of faith in their credibility as a stand alone source of reliable information.

Last but not least, take a good look at any complaints that may have been registered with the BBB, those I can pretty much guarantee you…are not fake! Keep in mind, for every person that takes the time to file a complaint there are probably a dozen more unhappy customers who just let it go.

So when disaster strikes at your house, don’t rely strictly on free online reviews or you could be opening yourself and your home up to problems and costs you weren’t expecting.