Selecting any type of home service company is a frightening prospect for most homeowners. Here’s how to increase the odds that you will make as good of a decision for other industries as you have for air conditioning and heating when you selected YOUR COMPANY. This is a different list than you’ll typically see from a consumer magazine or government agency. Few people, for example, want to call three to five companies for an estimate, especially if you need service quickly. People simply want someone who will do a good job at a fair price with the minimum amount of hassle. Almost no one is going to call past customers, check with the licensing board, or investigate the amount of insurance carried. Our list focuses on things you can do quickly and practically.
Use Social Media
Are you social? Asking your friends through Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and other social media sites is a great way to find a good service company and minimize the odds you will select a poor one. It’s the fastest way to ask a lot of people for a referral. To improve the quality of the information you get, ask your friends and contacts to share their personal experiences.
Use Review Sites
The next best thing to recommendations from friends are public review sites. There are three types of review sites. The first charges you and charges the companies listed. You can pay for this information if you want, but the quality of the reviews is no better than you can find on the second type of review sites, which are the free sites.
Free sites include Yelp! and Google. In Yelp!, simply select your search term and city to see what reviews are available. For Google, search for the type of service and “near” and the town name. If either fails to return enough entries, try another town, a larger town, or the county.
The final type of review sites are known as slam sites. All they carry are negative reviews. A company’s failure to appear on a slam site usually means the company has few customers. Most large companies eventually appear. Some sites even offer a consulting service to “assist” the business owner with his reviews. Think of this as extortion to make bad reviews disappear. The consulting service makes the usefulness of these sites specious at best. Plus, the least reputable companies are the ones most like to take advantage of the service. Given that the free review sites include both positive and negative experiences, it’s best to avoid the slam sites.
Look at a Company’s Website
Once you start to zero in on a service company, check out the company’s website. A poor website is not necessarily an indicator of poor quality, but it does show less professionalism and an inattention to details compared to companies with good sites. The complete absence of a website should be a red flag. Most professional companies have websites. Most fly-by-nights do not.
Check for Professional Affiliations and Community Involvement
While you are visiting the company’s website, check for professional affiliations and signs of community involvement. Examples of professional affiliations are membership in a trade association like the National Federation of Independent Businesses or an industry association, the local or national chamber of commerce, and business alliances like the Service Roundtable. These affiliations are signs that the company is committed to professional improvement. You may or may not find signs of community involvement on the website, but a quick Internet search of the company name and the community or the principal’s name and the community should return service and civic club activities, charitable activities, youth sports sponsorships, and so on. These are companies committed to the community and more sensitive about their reputations.
Look for News Articles
Searching for the company under a search engine’s news tab may not reveal much. However, it is likely to uncover companies under pressure from authorities for poor business practices.
Look for Tangible Clues About the Company
Are the company’s trucks professionally marked and clean? If you can recall seeing one of the company’s field service personnel, was he or she wearing a uniform or a dirty pair of jeans and a t-shirt? Did the employee look like someone you want to invite into your home?
While not as efficient as posting a question on social media, call of few trusted friends to ask for recommendations. Call the “centers of influence” you know. Centers of influence are the people who are especially well connected and seem to know everyone in town. Ask other service companies for their recommendations. Many will only recommend companies to their customers they believe will take good care of them.
Trust Your Intuition
In the end, the company you call will be the one you feel best about. Trust your intuition over anything else. While we do not recommend selecting a company purely on the basis of coupons or discounts, it can influence your decision when it’s a toss-up who to call. If any of your friends need our service, feel free to give them the following coupon for $25 off (or, use it yourself the next time you need work done).