“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and only one bad one to lose it.”
Oh, how true this is… on so many levels. When it comes to reputation management, the truth is everyone is at the mercy of the customer and you know what they say – the customer is always right.
It used to be that online reviews were primarily useful in the hospitality industry. Before going to a new restaurant, you’d quickly jump online, scour Yelp or Google reviews, then based on ratings, choose a place to eat.
These days, consumers read reviews before doing almost anything. Before reading a book or hiring a mechanic – everyone checks out reviews to determine whether or not a service or item is worth their time, and most importantly, their hard-earned money.
Ever book a hotel without checking their reviews? After some pretty terrible travel experiences, it’s the only way I determine where to place my reservations because nowadays you can’t even trust the photos you see online! Recently I booked a hotel solely based on a travel agent’s cost finder option and looked at the hotel’s site to see what to expect. The place looked clean, modern, and showed a bountiful colonial breakfast. Suffice it to say that those photos must have been taken when the hotel first open…twenty years ago. To our surprise, it was beyond run-down, boasted missing ceiling tiles, scary dark hallways, worn furniture, and stains that left you feeling like you were entering a room where something extremely terrible had happened to previous guests.
It wasn’t until later that I looked at their reviews, and let’s just say that had I done do, to begin with, I never would have booked a room with them. Now, it’s the only way I shop.
That being said, I’ve had other experiences where the reviews weren’t stellar, but, my experience was.
Keeping up with your online reputation can be overwhelming. But ignoring your reviewers can cost you more than you think. For some business owners, competitor sabotage and false reviews dilute their overall impression that reviews are true. Others live and die by their online reputation and it’s a mixed bag on how they go about keeping up with the onslaught of customer opinions.
A few years ago, I worked with a restaurant chain, where their Yelp profiles were COVERED in reviews…depending on which location you looked at, the average this franchise was rating was a 2.5. NOT great. The hard part was some locations had a 4-star rating, while others had 1-star. All kinds of comments were being talked about from food quality to staff issues to overall impressions (many of which were NOT favorable).
My client, being the owner of the restaurant chain, knew he needed to have a handle on this. However, he was struggling to get his franchisees to see the bigger picture. See, they too felt it was important to answer to the reviews, but, were simply using canned responses and getting defensive in the process.
Rolling up our sleeves to tackle this issue was quite the undertaking. After many months, we were able to reach an understanding with all the franchisees and compiled an action plan to deal with their reputation management.
So, how did we do it?
The first task was getting all the franchisees to view the comments and reviews as “opportunities for growth”. Instead of getting defensive, they needed to recognize that their customers had valid points and were actually doing them a service by pointing them out. The reviews served as teachable moments, checkpoints, and helped to bring staff issues to light.
Next, it was important that the franchisees understand their customers. In doing so, they respected them more. This allowed them to respond to their reviews in a tailored way, addressing the individual’s concern. Through this process, not only were they letting the reviewer know that yes, they were being heard and that they appreciated the heads up, but in doing so, they were showing the general public that yes, we care. We hear you, and we are going to try hard to fix this issue.
In some cases, the responses made the reviewers come back, and in some instances CHANGE their initial rating.
Of course, this didn’t happen overnight. But, the experience left my client and his franchisees with a better handle on how to keep their online reputation in check and it allowed them to come together as a team.
When examining your own reputation management action plan, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Keep your cool. Responding in a super defensive way is not only going to send a message to your reviewer, but it will also send a message to anyone reading your reply. Think about what overall impression you want to leave. Helpful? Or harmful?
- Be sure to respond to all reviewers, not just the negative ones. Often times we spend so much of our efforts tending to the negative reviews that we forget to celebrate the positive ones. These customers should also receive love and acknowledgment and gratitude for taking the time to give you a heads up that yes, you DO rock!
- Don’t stick your head in the sand. Ignoring your reviews on any platform is essentially like ignoring your customers.