Changes to Google reviews during the Coronavirus pandemic - Housecall Pro

Changes to Google reviews during the Coronavirus pandemic

cover image for a video about google reviews during the pandemic with expert advice from Podium

April 22, 2020 quick update

The Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard is reporting that globally, we are at over 2.5 million cases and 176,000 deaths.

Here in the US we have reached 823,257 cases and 46,497 deaths. Notably, the dashboard shows the highest daily incidence for the United States—39,500 new cases—since the beginning of the pandemic. Based on recent daily incidence trends, the United States could reach 1 million cases by the end of April and 50,000 deaths by April 25. New York state again reported its lowest daily incidence (4,178 new cases) since March 20. This is the state’s sixth consecutive day of declining incidence.


  • Germany has experienced several consecutive weeks of overall declining new cases.
  • But even as many countries begin to loosen social distancing restrictions, the World Health Organization says that the pandemic is far from over. According to the WHO, complacency is the ‘greatest danger’ facing countries in the fight against coronavirus. Speaking at a press conference today, the director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the virus ‘remains extremely dangerous’ and ‘make no mistake, we have a long way to go. This virus will be with us for a long time.”


Yesterday, the US Senate passed an amendment to the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act which will provide further support for small businesses and the US healthcare system. 

The bill will be sent to the House of Representatives, which is expected to vote on it later this week. The new amendment will provide an additional US$484 billion—including $380 billion for small businesses, $75 billion for hospitals, and $25 billion to expand testing capacity—to support the US COVID-19 response. 

US President Donald Trump formally announced that he will direct additional restrictions on immigration in response to the economic impact of the US COVID-19 epidemic. The new measures will suspend immigration for those seeking a Green Card—for a period of at least 60 days as states relax social distancing measures and businesses resume operation. 

Exemptions are expected to be included for seasonal workers, who are critical to the agriculture industry and food supply chain.

Topic: What’s up with Google reviews? Review generation in a crisis

Special Guest: Podium with Wade Brown

  • Background on Podium
    • About 40,000 businesses use the Podium platform for reviews and messaging and about 13,000 of those are in home services. They have helped generate over 16 million reviews for businesses and about 5 million of those have been in home services
    • Wade works exclusively with Podium’s home service customers and has been for the past 3 years

Once you earn that review, it compounds

  • As funds become a little tighter and marketing budgets decrease, the thing that still will always exist is the reviews for the past work that you’ve done, which is very organic, helps you rank super high. 
  • The importance of reviews, especially in these times is, is more now than ever, because once you earn that review, it compounds. It’s very similar to the way that you should be saving so that money can compound and compound. And likewise the same for your reviews

What is going on with Google Reviews?

  • Podium has a fairly unique relationship with Google and we work pretty closely with their reviews team. We meet with them frequently. They’re actually based in Japan, their core reviews team. And we go out there and meet with them very, very regularly. So we feel like we’re pretty tight in the loop with Google. And so we’ve had some, some interesting conversations with them during the COVID-19 crisis. I think a few things happened:
    • Google had all employees go remote. Just like most businesses, they had to send everybody home. People are working from home. So that’s obviously gonna interrupt normal workflows.
    • Google reprioritized some of their staff and staffing resources for COVID-19 specific initiatives which took away resources from the reviews team.
    • This matters because Google reviews all reviews prior to posting them and with a reduced staff they do not have capacity to keep up with all incoming reviews
    • In Google’s words one of the reasons they wanted to be careful and not just throw everything out there when they couldn’t review it is because there’s a lot of pros like you that are working extremely hard and still trying to provide the best possible service
  • Google has still been collecting the reviews customers write and we are seeing some of them starting to be posted 
  • All reviews collected during the COVID-19 crisis will be reviewed and posted by Google and that they have reprioritized staff to better meet the demand on this front
  • Responding to reviews is working again so you can respond to reviews you have received

Responding to reviews builds trust

  • When you’ve got a little extra time on your hands, it’s really important to reply to all of your reviews that you get. Start with more recent reviews and then make your way back.
  • If someone took the time to leave you a review, take the time and thank them or compliment them on something that they said in it 
  • If it’s a negative review, use our framework and templates to craft a professional response
  • Customers want to build confidence before they interact with you especially during times like this and replying to reviews helps build this confidence because you show that as a business you actually care about what your customers think and you’re not there just to make a dollar
  • It takes more confidence right now for me as a consumer to want to invite someone over and I need to understand who this business is
  • Businesses that implement a review generation strategy and ask customers for reviews have seen a slight increase in that conversion percentage
  • They’re taking that extra touch, that extra level of service. And they’re giving that to them and as they’re interacting with their customers, then the customers feel more grateful and they’re more willing to give a positive review. 
  • Customers are 11 times more likely to leave you a negative review organically because when they get upset, they want to burn the world down. 

Customers want to support local businesses

Now is the perfect time to ask for reviews because people have more time on their hands to actually write the reviews and people are focused on their communities and supporting local businesses

How to get positive reviews

  • Provide great service and care about your customers by telling them what you’re doing to protect them from Coronavirus so that they feel like you’re going over the top to protect them and have their best interest in mind
  • Ask them for a review — customers don’t know these are important to you and they aren’t inclined to do it on their own, they have to be prompted
  • The more you communicate with your customers and the better you are at that communication, even if they have a bad experience, if you’re in good communication with them, you’re going to catch that bad experience before they go post a negative review. And then you can go back and you can solve whatever’s wrong. 

Communication is crucial

  • The number one complaint customers usually have is that they felt like there’s a miscommunication and almost every issue can be traced back to communication
  • If you can communicate well, then customers are gonna be so much more willing to give you a positive review and just feel good about your business.
  • This is also critical for direct referrals 

How to ask for a review

  • During COVID-19 people don’t want to stand around and chit-chat so the face to face interaction is less so utilize technology, text and email, to ask for reviews and make it easy for your customer
  • When you finish a job:
  • “Hey we just finished the job just so you know, you’re gonna be getting a text. I use a service that will send a link out that makes it easier for you to leave me that review. Would you please leave me that review?”
  • You set the expectation, Hey, you’re going to get something. I’m asking you to do something. 

How to approach past customers for reviews

  • You want to be thoughtful, really thoughtful about how you approach this
  • The last thing you want to do is make them feel like they’re getting spammed
  • You need to make sure that it’s relevant and you’re just thoughtful about how you ask them
  • When you know you’ve had a good experience, you’ve provided a good customer experience it’s okay to go back and even if it’s been six months or 12 months or however long since you last interact with that customer
  • But as you do so help them understand why you’re reaching out now
    • “Roland, we recognize that reviews are even more important right now given the current conditions and so we’re reaching back out to some of our top customers that we’ve had some great experiences with and just asking them if they wouldn’t mind leaving a review and letting everyone else know how your experience was with us. Is that something you’d be willing to do?”
  • Don’t be pushy
  • They might not remember you or the service you provided especially if it was something smaller but this can open the communication for possible new work if they need you for something
  • Calling your customers to check in is another natural way into asking your customers for a review 

Advice for getting customers to leave detailed reviews

  • It comes down to how you ask
  • Most people just say, Hey, would you, would you leave this review, right? Or would you go to Google and leave us a review?
  • Instead think about something like, “Would you please give us some feedback about the timeliness and quality of our work by leaving us a review on Google?” or “Hey, would you give us a review? And we’d love it if you tell us why you give us whatever rating you give us. What led to that? Was it a great experience with the technician, was it, you know, how we had mask and gloves on?”
  • Especially during COVID-19 its a time to say “Hey, we know this is a crucial time for consumers that really vet out who they’re working with. Would you mind leaving us a review on Facebook and in your review, if you don’t mind mentioning how you felt about how we handled COVID-19 and helped protect you. That would just be really helpful for us.”
  • It’s not any bigger of an ask, it’s just giving a little more detail as to what you’re asking for

What matters to the search algorithms

  • Proximity to search is always number one/ How close are they to you and where your Google My Business Listing is located
  • Overall star rating
  • Quantity of reviews
  • Frequency of reviews — Consistency is key! This includes both the reviews customers leave you and your responses

Where to focus your review strategy

  • Start with looking at where your business is coming from first and foremost
  • Recognize that most searches start on Google and they may end up on other sites, but Google is also indexing other sites
  • The stats are very compelling as to why you need to have a good reputation on Google
  • Getting reviews on any site will be helpful though
  • Wade sees that 90% of his home service Pros with Podium have Google as the primary target followed by Facebook and then either HomeAdvisor or HomeStars if in Canada

What should pros do to get good reviews and referrals on Nextdoor?

  • Give your customers an easy way to get into Nextdoor and leave you a review
  • Get a deep link to your listing in Nextdoor and share that with your review generation service, like Podium, or send that to your customers so they can leave a review more easily
  • If your customer doesn’t already use Nextdoor its difficult for them because they then have to sign up and create a login and then login and learn how to leave you a review
  • You need to make leaving a review as easy as possible for your customer

If someone leaves you a red negative review what is the easiest way to go about removing that review? 

  • if it’s a consumer who did business with you and, and they left you a negative review, you’re probably not going to get rid of that review. Honest truth. The key with that comes back to what we talked about earlier with the consistency of getting reviews because that should be an outlier for your business. You’re providing a good service, a bad review should be an outlier and so you don’t need to worry about the one unhappy customer who just can’t be happy
  • If it’s a disgruntled employee or maybe a competitor, every platform’s a little bit different, but almost all platforms, Google and Facebook and Yelp and everybody has a way to contest a review.
    • When you are logged into the admin side of your account you can contest the review as illegitimate, not a customer
    • If it’s an employee it’s easier to prove they used to work for you and you fired them
    • If it’s a competitor sometimes harder especially if they use a fake or different name online
    • Each platform handles this differently and unfortunately in some cases there’s nothing you can do but atleast submit the contestment 
    • I would say you probably have like a 30 to 40% chance of getting it done if you have a strong case
  • It’s just really important to make sure you’re getting those positive reviews. Cause if you just leave it to organic, whatever’s going to happen, whether it’s a legitimate review or not, you’re gonna get those negative views popping in. It’s going to bring down your average. So if you have 10 reviews and you get two negative ones, that really hurts you. If you have 150 reviews, you get two negative views. It’s not really going to impact very much.

How to incentivize employees to ask for reviews

  • Recognition — Recognize the behavior you want to see repeated and make a big deal about it. Shout out employees each time they get a review. But don’t make it about just one employee that “wins” 
  • Culture — Create a positive culture of encouragement so that your employees feel great about where they work and what they’re doing and that they feel appreciated. “You can catch more flies with honey”
  • Process — Reviews need to be part of the process, it’s just what you do. 
  • Competitions — These can be a great way to get initial buy in from employees but go beyond the coffee shop gift card and make it unexpected so that employees value the prize and the experience more and builds your company culture more too
  • Badges/Stickers — little stars they can put on the back of their truck or shirt for every review they get, you know, something that can’t be bought can only be earned. Maybe each one also has some sort of monetary reward attached or so many silver stars earn you a gold star and a gold star has a monetary prize attached to it.
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Solutions for your business Whether you need to improve dispatching, reduce paperwork, increase workforce or grow revenue, we have a solution.