Angies List

Ever since I moved to the bay area and joined Aster, I have started listening to KQED in my commute. The best thing about public radio stations is that they you don’t feel like ripping your hair out just listening to commercials. They do have some advertising, but it usually doesn’t show up on my radar.

Over the past few weeks, one particular commercial caught my attention: the one for Angie’s List. The ad proclaims Angies List to be the go-to destination for customer reviews on movers, painters, lawyers, doctors and more. What a great idea, I thought. So one day as soon as I got home, I decided to check them out.

Angie's List

The first thing that hit me was that it is a paid site. I would need to sign up as a member and pay subscription fee. Bummer! Don’t get me wrong, I think websites reserve the right to charge for whatever services they want. But in this case, I did not really see the value that Angies List itself was adding.

According to them, here are the top 3 reasons why I would use Angies List (as seen in the quick tour):

  1. Service providers don’t (or can not) pay to appear on the list
  2. They receive over 5000 reports each month
  3. They have information on over 250 types of services

Hmm, lets see. AFAIK, service providers don’t (or can not) pay to appear on either Yelp or Craigs list. I’m pretty sure Yelp receives way more than 5000 reviews each month. And both Yelp and Craigslist have more than enough categories as far as I am concerned.

At the end of the day, the value of the site like Angie’s List, depends on the quality of the reviews. Since the content is user generated anyways, I don’t see how Angie’s List can claim a higher quality than Yelp reviews. Just becase I paid a hefty fee does not incentivize me to actually write a detailed and thoughtful review. In fact, since I paid, I just want to get access to lots of high quality reviews, not worry about writing them.

Yelp

I have seen “Yelp loves us” badges on several restaurants. I have yet to see an Angie’s List badge anywhere. On Yelp, because it is open to anyone, people are recognized for their reviews. What is the reputation model in Angie’s List?

I digged some more on their website and found these nuggets (non-italicized text is mine):

Angie’s List is better than free review sites:

  • No anonymous reviews. Really? In some sense, Yelp reviews are not anonymous either. On the other hand, if you are going to force me to reveal my real name etc on the site, I would consider it a loss of privacy. Besides, what does this buy us?
  • Certified data collection process prevents companies from reporting on themselves or their competitors. Any details on what this process is? A closed system is not necessarily a good system. There have been many cases where customer issues were resolved or a problem was addressed due to the public nature of Yelp.
  • Our Complaint Resolution Team will intercede if a project goes bad.
  • Companies respond to reports, so you get the whole story. Which companies? Is there a partner program for providers? I thought you couldn’t pay to be on the list?

And there’s more:

What you get:

  • 24-hour access to reviews on AngiesList.com. Wow, the Internets have arrived. Are you listening Yelp?
  • Live support through our call center. Ok, this one might actually be a useful value-add.
  • Award-winning Angie’s List magazine. What does the magazine add beyond the website? I don’t want to be party to more paper wastage. I already get enough catalogs as it is.
  • Access to our Complaint Resolution Team.
  • Discounts from highly rated service companies. What is the business model here? Why/how would companies know they are highly rated, unless they sign up as well? Why would they offer discounts?

Overall, I just don’t see why anyone would use their service. If you have used Angie’s List, I’d love to hear your opinions on how it compares to Yelp or even Craigs list.

10 comments

  1. Cheryl Reed

    Thanks for opening up this discussion, Diwaker. I’m Cheryl Reed. I work at Angie’s List , and I wanted to respond to some of your comments. I’ll try to do that in the same order you set.

    But first, let me say that we’re a little red-faced that our Quick Tour is out-of-date. We’re nearly ready with the new version, but we’re not there yet. When it’s up, you’ll see that Angie’s List collects more than 40,000 reports a month and we have reports in 425 categories of service. The category list grows based on member demand. And yeah, the 24/7 reference is silly and will be gone with the new version.

    Now, to your concerns:

    1. Companies can’t pay to be on the List — the only way they appear on Angie’s List is if we receive a report from a consumer who actually interacted with the company. Members must affirm when they join that they’re giving truthful information based on their own experience, and we check up on that.

    This is important because it’s part of our highly structure accountability process. (No, I won’t detail it out for you but it’s a combination of technology and human review and we’re very serious about it.)

    At Angie’s List, companies can’t report on themselves and members can’t stack the deck for or against a company. Our reviews go beyond simple grades. The best reports are detailed narratives that talk about how the service went from start to finish. Those give other members great insight about how the service was performed and why (or why not) they companies will be hired again.

    We have invested a lot of time and resources in the integrity of the information we share. As a general rule, our members don’t just sign in, rant or rave and then never return. They’re part of an active community that shares experiences to help each other make good hiring decisions because they know they’ve been helped by learning of another member’s experience and they want to extend that courtesy.

    Once a company is on the List, we reach out to alert the company and to encourage them to participate in the process (free-of-charge to them.) If they register with us, we’ll alert them (free-of-charge) to new reports as they come in, so they can know what’s being said about them and so they can respond if they feel a need. They can tell us if a report is in error. We”ll investigate to determine what happened and take appropriate action.

    Companies that earn and maintain at least a B average grade are invited (but not required) to advertise with us. To do this, they must offer our members a discount. (often these discounts are more than the cost of our membership.) If their grades drop, they lose the privilege. And yes, we monitor for this every day. These coupons, along with articles on consumer trends, are available in our magazine, as well as on-line and in the call center.

    2. Report collection: Right now, we’re collecting more than 40,000 new reviews each month. The subscription limits the number of reports we get when compared to sites that operate differently, but we’re happy with putting accountability first.

    3. Types of service reviewed — Angie’s List is a subscription site that rates service providers — not products, not restaurants. We rate service professionals ranging from doctors and dentists to electricians, handymen (and women), hair stylists, mechanics, lawn care pro, etc… We add categories based on member demand for more. (health care is a good example of that.)

    You mentioned that you haven’t seen Angie’s List badges anywhere. That’s because we limit how service professionals use our brand. We have a yearly Super Service Award program that evaluates the service professional on our list. Fewer than 5 percent of the hundreds of thousands of companies qualify for the award. It’s based on a number of factors including overall grades and member commentary. We limit the use of our logo because we don’t want people to be confused. Just saying you’re on Angie’s List may imply that you have a good overall grade. Grades can change every day. We prefer that consumers go to the List and see the current grades rather than assume that if a company is on the List, that it’s a good thing.

    This is an awfully long response already, Diwaker. How about this. Give me a call and I’ll give you a guest pass to the List. You can see what we offer yourself and make the call as to the value we offer. You can reach me at 317-396-9134.

    • Diwaker Gupta

      Hi Cheryl, thanks for taking out the time to write such a detailed and thoughtful response. I’m definitely interested in checking out the List myself and would give you a call soon.

    • Wing Flea

      Angie’s List biggest source of income comes from Companies advertising.

      It is true that a company has to be listed by one of their paying customers.

      But it is also true that a company owner \ family member \ friend can become a customer and then post a review of that company.

      Technically all they have to claim is that they know them, they came out and that they looked professional.

      And say I haven’t used their service but I will definitely be using them in the future.

      This is assuming we live in a perfect world.

      There is now way for Angie,’ List to confirm the identities of their customer and verify the facts.

      Anybody can pay, sign up, and say anything positive.

      When there is money involved, there are interests involved.

      There are always many true facts.

      It just depends from which side they are coming.

  2. Melvin

    Yes, you don’t have to pay to be on Angie’s List unless you want your company to be seen. The 1st 12 spots are reserved for contractors who pay.

    Angie’s List also won’t allow me to state anywhere, print or Web that my company won an award from them if it’s older than 1 year old. How can they be such bullies… the fact is that my company won the award.

  3. M. D. Vaden of Orego

    Let me share a little bit that someone like Cheryl Reed may not be able to convey, about Angie’s List. It will partly show why I’m not planning to send any money their way at the present time as business.

    The best I can do, is relay my experience to others.

    My first encounter was an email that my company got a review on Angie’s List. So I started a contractor connect page. The review was by an actual customer, who gave all “A” ratings and commented they got more than their moneys worth. That review also fits the nature of my own testimonials page at:

    http://www.mdvaden.com/testimonials.shtml

    Then last autumn, another person gave me an “F” rating. I never talked to them by phone, nor gave an estimate or worked for them. They had merely emailed and did not like that I give free estimates if other bids are from licensed contractors. if required by the state of Oregon.

    Angie’s List confirmed that people can give ratings which affect other ratings, even if they have never so much as talked to a company.

    Just this last week, another person who I worked for recently, submitted a complete “A” report, also stating they got more than their money’s worth.

    So there are the facts, without even interjecting my opinion.

    Two separate customers who I worked for, both gave an A in every category, plus extra positive comments. And the one other person who I never met or talked to, gave an F with extra negative comments. The person who gave an F, dropped my companies overall rating to a “B” for about 4 to 5 monthe.

    I sent a message to Angie’s List, that they should consider listing ratings separately, for people who have and have not hired a service.

    Cheers,

    M. D. Vaden of Oregon

    • Diwaker Gupta

      @M. D. Vaden of Orego: Thanks for sharing your experience here. I haven’t gotten around to Angie’s list yet, but I’m beginning to see why some people might find this service useful. But, Yelp is still a very good alternative that will only get better.

  4. jimmy dean

    Angies List Don’t Do It http://www.Angiesconlist.com

    My Company received a poor review from a “non client”. We were able to prove the person posting was not a client however Angies List would not remove the post. Their suggestion was to have our clients purchase memberships or submit a marketing peace from their company to “our clients” and have them submit free reviews to another portion of thier site. Obviously this would promote their site and give the impression to our real clients that we support their forum. We believe this is extortion. They allowed “non clients” to post false things about our company and then told us to have our real clients purchase memberships to dilute the bogus posts. We actually caved into this extortion and purchased memberships for our actual clients so people would see real reviews not just bogus posts. Angies List claimed that because we purchased the memberships for our clients they felt we fabricated the postings and deleted our real clients memberships. Obviously this is a harmful action.

    Here is what Evan Hock, Operations Manager @ Angies Help Desk Wrote To Our Company.
    Because We Did Not Follow Their Suggestions To Promote Their Company He Insults Us By Saying Our Method Was Fraudulent
    Wonderful Customer Services ” Evan” We Appreciate Your Comments AND FALSE ACCUSATIONS
    Here are his comments: Please reach out to Mr. Hock and tell him what you think about his customer service skills towards a forced member here is his number and email: EVANHO@ANGIESLIST.COM or Phone: 317-396-9622

    HIS COMMENTS : Further, I have reason to believe that your involvement in gathering some or all of these reports is beyond the mere purchase of the memberships. I believe that you have set up these accounts, and have submitted the reports on your own business in an effort to falsely inflate your rating on our service. It should be noted that the penalty for self reporting is a one year suspension from the list, during which time your profile would not be available in category/keyword searches, and would contain a notification of the activity we found. Angie’s List has not suspended your business while our investigation is being conducted, but we reserve the right to do so. We will be removing the aforementioned reports today. By doing so, Angie’s List is in no way singling you out. Rather we are acting in accordance with our published guidelines. To not enforce the guidelines would be to give you special treatment, which Angie’s List cannot and does not do.

    If you need help gathering service reports by legitimate means, we have a number of free tools at your disposal. Most notably, we offer a program called “Fetch” through which we will contact your clients on your behalf to gather feedback on your business. I understand you may have thought it necessary to purchase memberships for your clients, but with nearly 50,000 Angie’s List members in the area, I think you might be surprised how many of your 9000 happy clients are already members, and would thus be eligible to give you a report. If you’d like information on this free program, please let me know.

    I AM A MEMBER: NICE INSULT EVAN FRAUD IS A DIRTY WORD AND WONDERFULL CUSTOMER SERVICE. EVEN BRAGING ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMER COUNTS, THAT MAKE ME A CUSTOMER FEEL SO WARM.

    ANGIES LIST RESPONSE TO THIS COMMENT: NONE

  5. Peter Jones

    Why on Earth would anyone join an online referral club to find a contractor just
    amazes me. Its not rocket science to talk to friends, Co-Workers or Neighbours to find out the services they use. At the very least Google it, Yellow Pages , Yahoo Local or Craiglsist, you can always ask the Contractor for referrals.

  6. Andi Brooks

    Thank you, for all the useful insight on Angie’s List, I now know what its about, and am
    no longer interested in using their service,

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