The following post was first published on the Zen HVAC blog. It is reprinted with permission.

I was listening to Car Talk on NPR radio last week and one of the hosts — I think it was Clack (or was it Click?) — suggested that a caller take her eight-year-old car to a mechanic and have him go over it just like he would if she was considering buying it. As the owner of a 2003 Mazda with 141K miles, this idea sounded like a stroke of genius. Why wait for something to break, then pay the mechanic $50 bucks to put it on the lift and check it out?

So what does this have to do with my business? Good question — it has to do with your business’s reputation, its real reputation. It’s about what real people really think about your business, and not what your slogan on the side of your service trucks say. The good, the bad and the ugly.

Building on my recent article, “The Days of the Glossy Brochure are Dead, The Internet Killed It,” there are reams of information and opinions on how good (or not so good) people view your business.

Do I need a professional reputation mechanic?

Probably not. You likely have one living in your house that calls you Dad, or one close by that calls you ‘Uncle’, ‘brother’, or ‘Dude’… Go ask web-savvy kids, relatives, or friends to go online and dig up as much dirt as they can on you (yes, you) and your business. Sure, some of it is just going to be complaining, a few customers who wouldn’t ever be happy with winning the lottery; however, much of it won’t be.

If you’re one of those people who don’t think it matters what the “Web says”— I’ve got news for you.

I’m 43, and everyone I know my age or younger researches everyone they do business with on the Web before hiring them. Heck, I even managed to teach my 63-year-old parents how to Google caller-ID  phone numbers to find out “who the hell keeps calling them!”

What kind of information will you find on your business? I’m glad you asked.

  • Do you have a rude, unprofessional technician soiling your name?
  • Do people feel you’re providing a good value or over charging?
  • What do people really think about the brands you carry?

If you think customers’ opinions stop at professionalism and billing? Think again. I know of a service company in my area that has multiple online kudos from people who aren’t even customers! Even though these people have NEVER hired them, they recommend the company to others and SWEAR they will call them the next time they have a heating or cooling problem. Why? Their technicians are also ‘Good Samaritans’ of the highways — they help people stranded on the side of the road by changing flat tires.

Whatever the results, take them with a grain of salt and an open mind, and after you’re done, do two things:

1. Fix the problems that you uncover
2. Check out your competitor’s reputation. You just might find some opportunities.

ABOUT Patrick Peterson

Avatar photoPatrick Peterson of ZenHVAC has seen the HVAC industry from all angles, serving as a technician, manufacturer’s tech rep, salesman, technical trainer and business owner.