How companies can bounce back from a zero rating


July 18, 2016



It finally happened. We got a zero rating from a client.

Over the past 10 years, the worst rating we ever received was a 3.0 out of 5. If you were to look at our company online on the Home Advisor or Yelp apps, you would see our average rating is a 4.8 — which, let’s be honest here, is freaking hard to do. We are a four-time repeat winner of Home Advisor’s Highest Honor for customer service.

This particular client had used us before for rodents, and had given us a 5.0 just nine months earlier.

What the heck happened?

Strike 1: I make a client wait

I preach to all of you the importance of getting back to your clients quickly, yet here I dropped the ball. The voice message Mrs. Jones left me said, “Hi, Pete. Just wanted to let you know that your exterior treatment didn’t work very well. I found one really big ant and an even bigger wasp in my house over the weekend. Please send someone out to look at this for me.”

Normally, I would quickly call the client back and explain that one ant and one wasp is not worthy of a callback/extra service because the wasp could have flown in through the garage, sliding glass doors, chimney, etc. The ant that had wandered in would probably be dead shortly after crossing our chemical barriers.

Unfortunately, the day in mid-May that she called was the third straight hot day in the Chicagoland area. I was answering one call for every three that were coming in. To make matters worse, I was training a new employee, so I was super slow in responding. On top of that, the travel baseball team I coach had games every night that week, so I was leaving the office each day around 4 p.m. instead of my normal 6 p.m.

Excuses be damned, I did something I never do: I made this particular client wait to hear back from me.

Strike 2: I make my client wait some more

Later that night, I got an email from Mrs. Jones, reminding me that she had called and asking me again to call her back. It would have been easy to reply to her email and let her know that I would call her back the next day. But by the time my baseball game was over and I got home, it was 10:30 p.m. and I was tired. I just went to bed.

Strike 3: My upset client is not yet my priority

Early the following morning, Mrs. Jones calls again. I plan to call her back, but one of my techs needs my help first. By the time I was done with my tech, I had a dozen voice messages on my phone from new clients who needed help. One by one, I start calling them back, pushing my upset client farther down the line.

I teach both my baseball players and my technicians to work with urgency. A small ant problem for one client might be an annoyance; for another client, that small ant problem could cause severe anxiety. For Mrs. Jones, my lack of putting her as a priority was pushing her over the edge.

By 1 p.m., I’m starting to get antsy because I know I need to call Mrs. Jones, but I’m still too busy. I feel like James Bond when he is tied up and the timer on the bomb is flashing :09, :08, :07, :06. I know something bad is going to happen if I don’t deactivate this bomb, but I keep working on other things.

Three strikes, I’m out

At 2 p.m., Mrs. Jones has had enough. She sends a scathing review to Reach Plus, stating we were the worst company ever — remember, she was a repeat client — and that if she could give a negative-number rating, she would. All emails and reviews on Reach Plus go to my cell phone, so I see that message the moment it goes live. Clearly, she has my attention now!

Within seconds of the review hitting the internet, I’m on the phone calling Mrs. Jones, who promptly answers.

I’m the one who created this problem, so the worst thing I could do would be to lash out at Mrs. Jones. She is a client who has concerns that I didn’t address. While I may feel as though she has jumped the gun a little, this is still my fault. We calmly talk on the phone for about 10 minutes, and I promise her that I will personally come to her house the next day.

Back at bat

The next day, while I am at her house inspecting, I notice that Mrs. Jones has carpenter ants entering a hole in one of the soffits. I point this out to her, and I treat the problem. After treating for her ants, I explain to her that wasps can be scary, but she has no nests on or in her home.

Mrs. Jones is relieved, and even gives me a little hug. We end up talking for a few more minutes before I leave. As I am leaving, I ask her whether she is pleased with everything I did for her. She says yes. I then ask her to remove the nasty review. She does.

Customers have more power than ever before. One or two bad ratings can cause you to lose thousands of dollars in business. Larger companies can absorb these losses, but we little guys can’t.

Remember to treat each client with respect and urgency. If you don’t, a customer with the power of a James Bond villain just might come crashing through your door.

Schopen is owner and founder of Schopen Pest Solutions, McHenry, Ill. You can email him at or reach him via Twitter: @schopenpest; Instagram: @peteschopen; or Facebook: Schopen Pest Solutions, Inc.


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