‘NO BULLIES NO CHEATS’, the CEO & Founder of HomeStars wrote emphatically. She had gathered a ‘trust task force’ following the surfacing of a story regarding an Ontario builder who’d ran himself into massive debt, filed for bankruptcy and kept the deposits of a number of stranded homeowners. The team was devastated as some of these homeowners had found the contractor (let’s call him Roy) based on reading glowing customer testimonials on HomeStars.

Building Trust On HomeStars

Selecting the right contractor illustrationWind the clock back a few years and Roy was flying high on HomeStars. Reviews praising his work were streaming in and our random validation tests of his reviews (yes, we do that) were coming back positive. Logically, Roy was increasing his marketing activities on HomeStars to capitalize on the great reputation he’d built online.

As the years passed and everything was going swimmingly, Roy continued to get great reviews and a strong partnership was formed between his company and HomeStars. Roy started to expand his business to cater to the growing demand for his services.

Things Start To Go Sideways

In the background, however, Roy’s review ratings had started to drop. We sent a number of requests to validate that these lower ratings were genuine (yes, we also do this) to ensure a competitor was not trying to sabotage Roy’s reputation, for example. The less than glowing reviews were indeed all real – Roy’s customer satisfaction was decreasing.

Months later our fraud detection systems started to pick up unusual activity – his reviews weren’t quite as genuine anymore and many were not passing our rigorous checks. Roy’s company was attempting to artificially inflate the company’s ratings following the recent lower reviews.

Within months Roy was filing for bankruptcy and a number of devastated homeowners had lost large sums of money, many of them completely displaced in the middle of a Canadian winter. Roy had expanded too quickly and couldn’t manage his company’s growth. We had not picked up the important trends in his business soon enough to help our homeowners with their critical decision-making. It was time to look deeply into our product to see how we could truly help our community.

Using Data To Enable Trust

So there it was, the new top item on the ‘to do list’. Build trust so that homeowners can hire through HomeStars with confidence.

Trying to systematize how much you can trust a company is quite the challenge. We’re constantly collecting and analyzing enormous amounts of data in order to do this. Finding trust indicators within millions of lines of data isn’t straightforward – particularly in an industry where companies can come-and-go overnight – but with ten years of experience under our belts we feel we’ve built a powerful service that people can trust.

The 411 On HomeStars’ New Scoring System

As a result of this heartbreaking story, HomeStars launched an upgraded Scoring System to measure the trustworthiness of the hundreds of thousands of contractors on our site. This new Score is calculated out of 100 much like exam scores.

reco-meterSo while it’s important to still look at what kind of ratings other homeowners are giving to contractors when they review them (and review ratings are also included in the new Scoring System), it’s now also important to look at a contractors’ overall Score on their Recommendation Meter.

This new Score takes into account how a company performs across many variables that we know through experience to be critical when choosing a trustworthy home professional.

The Score each contractor is given is defined by a number of important aspects of a contractors’ performance and changes dynamically, as the contractors’ business evolves. Here’s how it all works:

  • Average rating is no longer a straight average of all reviews ever posted to a contractor profile. Reviews are now weighted based on a number of critical factors such as age of the review and reviewer attributes
  • Recency measures how long it’s been since the company last had a review published
  • Reputation measures whether a company has ever tampered with reviews or bullied homeowners to remove reviews
  • Responsiveness measures how responsive companies are to homeowner requests

We’re excited to see how homeowners feel about our new scoring system and truly hope that it helps homeowners hire the best professionals for all their home renovation and maintenance projects.

Questions about our new scoring system? Please send an email to contact@homestars.com.

Posted by Tom Brookes

Tom is the Director, Business Intelligence & Content at HomeStars. He is in charge of understanding the vast amount of data that Homestars collects. Tom spend most of the day drinking tea and looking at graphs.