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What can we learn from reviews?

A look at reviews and how useful they are to assess the companies we use

When we choose a company to provide a service for us, one of the first things we often look at is their reviews. While every company’s marketing department can tell us how fantastic they are on their website, reviews can give us a genuine view from the experience of the customer and this is why it is seen as a much more reliable appraisal of the business’s services and how they treat their customers. But, can we take them at face value and are they truly objective views?

At Plumcare.com we actively seek reviews from customers on open forums, predominantly Trustpilot and Google. We think it’s a good way of gauging how satisfied customers are and it also allows us to recognise individual staff members as, where people are mentioned by name, this feeds into our reward scheme. We do it this way, in public, because it’s open and honest and while we know we will always get some negative views on there, we feel it’s the only way to be authentic.

Anyone who has ever requested reviews for anything will know that those who take the time to provide them are usually very pleased or very dissatisfied; those who are generally just satisfied or indifferent rarely feel inspired to go to a website and write a review. That’s why the majority of reviews for most companies are either 5 stars or 1 star with few in the middle. People are busy and reviewing their boiler service is often the last thing that they’re thinking about.

What can we conclude from negative reviews?

If you look at our reviews on Trustpilot and Google you will see these extremes of opinion expressed: many people who were very pleased (including lots who were very grateful to have had a very difficult issue resolved) and some who have been less than satisfied and, in some cases, quite angry. Even though the balance is significantly tipped towards the former, it is often the latter that attract attention and may shape your view of us as a company.

Everyone that has left a 1 star review has done so because that’s how they felt at the time and were genuinely dissatisfied, frustrated or upset. This may have been an issue of workmanship or how they felt they were treated as a customer, or it could be something else. We would never seek to diminish this. We would, however, like to provide some context that demonstrates a wider representation that it is difficult to see from customer reviews alone.

We specialise in reactive plumbing and heating services and this forms the bulk of what we do. This means boiler breakdowns, floods and leaks, drainage blockages, and blocked toilets and sinks, to name just some. These are challenging situations for people, especially those who are vulnerable: the elderly, young children, people with disabilities etc. Where we can resolve this quickly and with minimal disruption, people tend to be very appreciative. Where there are delays, it can lead to frustration and heightened emotions. This is what we see reflected in our reviews.

The majority of work that we do is on behalf of insurance companies. We are a contractor for many of the UK’s leading insurers, including Axa and Domestic & General, so when you claim on your home emergency or boiler cover policy, it’s often us that comes to respond to your issue. We deal with high volumes of jobs all year round: over the summer months we attend around 2500 jobs a month. In the winter, this can be as high as 3000 jobs a month. In June 2020 we had 10 reviews across the 2 main review sites, which represent just 0.004% of the total number of customers we saw that month.

Frustrations can come from many directions: delays due to lack of availability of parts, insurance claims being invalid, not being able to resolve the problem first time, lack of communication etc. We don’t always get it right and sometimes we just have to hold our hands up and say that the service we have provided did not meet the standards that we, and our insurance clients, expect.

Where there is a complaint, we will always try to put it right. Where we receive a negative review, we will always respond and ask for more information by providing a dedicated email address. This is because it’s very difficult to identify jobs from reviews without details. Some take us up on this, some choose not to. Where we do receive a response, we will always investigate and try to reach an acceptable conclusion for the customer. Where we have failed to reach an acceptable standard, we will do whatever we can to make up for it. Despite reaching a satisfactory conclusion, few will go back and amend their review so often the reviews alone don’t provide a full picture; simply a snapshot of one moment.

We know that the vast majority of customers are happy with the work that we do because of the feedback we get from our engineers and from our insurance clients. We have very strict Service Level Agreements that we need to adhere to and this is constantly monitored so we would soon know if we weren’t meeting them.

Reviews are important to us – good or bad - and we take them very seriously. We have made a pledge to:

  • Read and respond to every review across all major platforms (Trustpilot, Google, Yell, social media)
  • Never delete negative reviews or comments
  • Always investigate negative reviews
  • Encourage people to write reviews and signpost them to ways they can do that (where we have email addresses we will always send them a review request on completion)
  • Use reviews to recognise and reward staff (so please mention them by name where you can!)
  • Learn from them and make improvements wherever possible

What our customers can take from this

Please go ahead and read all our reviews but read them in context, as set out here, and understand that they don’t show the whole picture. If you’re not happy, please contact us first and allow us to try to resolve the issue before posting a review. We understand you may be very frustrated but we really do want to try and make things right before it gets to this stage. If you are happy then please let us know by leaving a review, even if you think it was just a satisfactory 3 or 4 star experience (we understand it can be hard to enthuse about a boiler service or having a dripping tap fixed!).

We do truly care about the customer experience and we’re constantly trying to improve in a very fast paced, challenging industry. We hope that this comes across.

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