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A chance to air your views

31 July 2013

Georgina Bisby speaks to Mark Dealtry, the managing director of Reference Line, the independent body which runs the AirSAFE Register about the challenges of running such a scheme, and how it is helping to raise standards in the industry.

Over recent years there has been a fundamental shift in how consumers buy goods with many consumers expecting to be able to access and consult user reviews before making a decision about whether or not to do business with a particular company or seller.

BCAS has been keeping pace with this trend through the AirSAFE register, an online customer satisfaction programme which gives customers the opportunity to rate their experience of a company through a set of questions, the answers to which are then independently compiled and published by Referenceline. Research shows that this model is favoured by customers with a recent survey for the property market suggesting that people are most likely to trust reviews which have been collated by a third party such as Referenceline (77%), in contrast with 50% of those surveyed trusting reviews collated by a trade body, and only 15% trusting reviews provided by the firm itself. 

By typing their postcode into the search box on the AirSAFE website, customers can check the ratings and reviews of all active BCAS members in their area.

A quick search of my local postcode brings up 26 companies with five of these having achieved a gold star (scoring 8.8/10 and above) in the rating system with "prompt and reliable" and "a first class service" among the recommendations included in the reviews. 

But there are also some negative comments which is one of my questions to Mark - how often do they receive negative reviews and what do they do about publishing them?  "We definitely publish negative comments," says Mark. "Where a review is either not recommended or contains a rating of 3 or less, we give the company up to 20 days to try to resolve the issue with their customer before it’s published.  If that’s successful, then we welcome a replacement comment to reflect the revised outcome. We’re not asking the customer to "hide” their complaint – merely to give credit to the business for addressing the issue, if that’s appropriate," he explains.  

However the level of complaints and negative reviews received is actually quite low (less than 10%) and Mark suggests businesses should, and do on the whole, realise that customers are unhappy before these complaints reach the site. 

"A much greater issue with any kind of online review system is how can you be sure that every single positive reviews is genuine," says Mark. "We take steps to verify that the reviews we receive are legitimate, including checking the authenticity of email addresses, but the reality is it is difficult to be 100% sure all of the time. However while a business could try and swamp the review system with positive reviews they can't prevent unhappy customers from speaking out, so the overall picture that emerges is representative," he says.

"The greater the number of reviews the more representative the picture and thankfully people seem to be quite willing to give reviews, perhaps because they want to give back to a resource which they find useful themselves," adds Mark.  

As to whether or not the scheme is helping to raise standards in the industry, Mark suggests it is useful for helping companies to identify their weak areas. For example a company might have an extremely competent engineer who is excellent technically but they may have less of a focus on customer service so this might be highlighted as an area for training and development.   

Have you used the Air Safe Register and was it useful or maybe you have submitted a review? AirUser would love to hear your comments and experiences. Email us at gbisby@western-bp.co.uk or vkealey@western-bp.co.uk. 

Using the AirSAFE register 

Don't be impressed by a few high ratings:

  • Look for a consistent pattern of references (every quarter) for a reasonable period of time (at least 6 months).
  • Expect to see the occasional low rating.  You can't please everybody.
  • Read the work descriptions and comments to get a flavour for the firm's reputation.
  • Treat the information we provide as a starting point and raise any questions with the firm.