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VGM Live at Home Does Study on Members and the Industry's Google Review Activity

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From mid -October through mid-January, VGM Live at Home worked with an outside agency to measure the Google Review activity of 18 Live at Home members. We learned much about how engaged the industry is in pursuing online reviews and how it can affect business growth. Much of what we learned also translates and applies well to HME businesses. 

Online Reviews: A study as how it relates to home accessibility contractors and HME companies

In a former life as president of a home medical equipment company for 27 years, my role with the company was to be the “big picture” guy with a sales and marketing focus. Our company was in a rural state, so in order to grow, we had to maximize every customer we came into contact with. We did that by first being their go-to company for mobility needs, then we saw that many of our customers used disposable supplies, so we worked to be a go-to for that service also. We were also asked for many other products that in many cases were retail, so we built a retail program consisting of products in showroom setting and an outside service of home accessibility. We were able to dominate in the mobility, supplies and retail segment and were strong in home accessibility.

In the last 3-4 years of my tenure with that company, we struggled to increase and maintain our success levels in retail and home accessibility. As I look back, I realized why. It’s relatively easy to get business when a consumer is not the payer of a service. Sure, you must have high service levels, recommend the right product, and provide that personal touch for the consumer, but for the most part a referral source helps the consumer choose you as their supplier. When a person is buying something with their own hard-earned money, you must connect with them in a different way and on a different level. In many cases, the factor that translates in the buying decision is not a human clinical referral, but a digital influence that is not personal and is based on price and proximity. From 2011-2015, we never figured out how to bring the personal touch to our retail and home accessibility service to prospective customers. I now realize that digital customer reviews bring the relationship piece back into the healthcare cash paying markets.

Back in 2011, customer reviews and Google reviews were predominately found on travel websites. Amazon took customer reviews to whole new level and they are now a vital component for many products and huge for service companies, especially those who work on or in people’s homes. I don’t know about you, but looking at reviews has become a key component in my own decision-making process of who I buy from. For marketing and growing your business, it is not the wave of the future; it is the current trend.     

Our partner in this study provided me with excellent supporting resources on how important customer reviews are.

Customers Read Reviews

  • About 95% of customers read reviews before making a purchase (Spiegel)
  • 93% of customers will read reviews of local businesses to determine their quality (BrightLocal)
  • 72% of customers won’t take any buying actions until they’ve read reviews (Testimonial Engine)

Impact of Online Reviews on Sales

  • For every star increase of 1 point that a business gets, they see a 5-9% increase in revenue (Harvard Business Review)
  • When a product gets 5 reviews, the likelihood of purchase increase 270% (Spiegel)
  • When higher priced items or services display reviews, the conversion rate increases 380% (Spiegel)
  • If a business has more than 9 current reviews, they earn 52% more revenue than average. If a business has more than 25 current reviews, that increases to 108% (Womply)
  • Given two products with similar ratings, consumers are likely to buy the product with more reviews (Psychological Science)

Customer Review Engagement

  • 92% of customers trust peer recommendations (Search Engine Watch)
  • Customers require a business to have at least 40 reviews before they believe its star rating (BrightLocal)
  • 73% of customers place more value on a written review, rather than a star rating (Fan and Fuel)
  • About 85% of consumers consider any review older than 3 months to be irrelevant (BrightLocal)
  • About 50% of consumers need to see at least a 4 star rating to consider a business (Blumenthals)
  • 54% of consumers visit a local business’ website after reading a positive review (BrightLocal)

After reading this information, you may think that reviews sound like they work great in many industries. However, with home accessibility and HME sales being predominately made to an over 65 years in age population, that group is not tech savvy. So, in, turn we should focus our marketing efforts in other directions to reach them. A study from the Retailer Roadmap to Authentic Shopper Reviews by ReviewMonitoring.com found that both 78% of both men and women read reviews, and 75% of people over age 55 read reviews, and the higher the income bracket the more likely the consumer is to read reviews with 89% of consumers with incomes over 80k reading reviews. We also know that successful marketers in both the home access and HME segments market to the over 55 years in age market. They know that people in that age bracket either need the services we provide themselves or influence an elder parent on their purchase.

After learning about the impact that having a higher velocity of customers reviews can have on service businesses, we decided to start two studies, one being very informal and the other being formal on the status of collecting Google reviews.

In the formal study, we did research on 18 members who are home access companies to find out how many reviews they had gotten over a three-month period, what their Google rating was, and how they compared to their top three competitors in the markets they serve.   

Here is what we found:

  • Total average amount of reviews for 3 months 3.6 total. 1.2 per month
  • Review rating average 4.5
  • Average # of reviews for top competitor in market 4.3 total, 1.4 per month  
  • Average # of reviews for lowest in market 2.1 total
  • Average rating for best in market 4.9
  • Average rating for lowest in market 3.5

From this analysis, we learned that the home accessibility companies we studied average just over one review a month and overall, so did their competition. We also learned that approximately 67% of companies have a rating at 4.8 or above, and all but one had a rating of over 4. In all fairness to the one below 4, it’s a company that provides many other categories than home accessibility, so they could easily have a higher rating in the home access category. With those results, we have good news and bad news.  

The good news is that the industry has an exceptional rating number. We are providing great products and services, and our customers find us to be professional and bring great value to them. We all know that the work is very meaningful to the customer when done right and this study proves that point. Our rating is above average.

The bad news is that we don’t get enough feedback for many consumers to take our reviews seriously, if you look at the studies quoted earlier. If you do not produce fresh, current reviews, buyers are skeptical about if you are a consistent quality company. The chances of you winning over their trust to buy from you may not tilt if the review volume is low. The above data shows that companies that generate 25 or more reviews in a three-month period will grow 108% more than those who do not, and just having nine reviews will result in 52% above-average revenue.

We also did an informal review of HME companies and looked at 83 random companies. We looked at their review velocity and Google rating. It was obvious that HME has not yet embraced this concept as a source to show value to consumers and referral source. The amount of reviews collected was well below the home access results, and the Google ratings were very close to 3.0. The customer in this venue is somewhat different, but our analysis saw very low activity. However, the ones that did have activity had lots of it and had excellent ratings. We saw one HME company that in the three months that were measured for the home access group collected 117 reviews and have 1,025 all-time reviews.

Summary

My primary purpose for conducting this small study and writing this report is to show the importance of this concept of collecting customer reviews, primarily Google reviews. For VGM Live at Home members, I believe it could be the difference from growing your market share or becoming irrelevant and being left behind by the competition. Believe me, the competition will make this a focus. We say we offer great service and treat our customers professionally, but solid reviews are putting our money where our mouth is. It’s the same for HME. Consumerism is growing in healthcare, and solid reviews will have customers choose or switch to your company. Many times, referral sources go to companies' websites to check on services offered. If they see current reviews, they too will likely choose your company.

So now the question is how to generate more customer reviews for your company. There are companies out there that offer programs that can help you collect reviews and help you upgrade your rating. At VGM, we partner with a company called pulseM who is a leader for this service in the HVAC, home electrician, and plumber markets. I did not do this study just to sell their services. There are others who provide this service also, but what they do is very impressive for those who want to find a source to help you. We did a webinar showing their services late in 2020, and one of the Live at Home members who has worked with them for a couple of years now, Nathan Coburn from Accessible Systems, gave a testimonial as to what it did for his business. The testimonial is very powerful, and it falls right in line with the statistics we shared earlier in this report. We highly recommend that you take about eight minutes to hear his story below. You can find more information about pulseM at https://pulsem.me/.

21_218650 LAH - PulseM Webinar Testimony from The VGM Group on Vimeo.

All sources are from 51 Customer Review Statistics to Make You Rethink Using Them (g2.com).

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