In today’s digital age, a franchise’s online reputation can be a game-changer, for better or worse. Positive online reviews, a strong social media presence, and a sterling online reputation are like magnets for attracting new customers, nurturing loyalty, building trust, and boosting revenue.
The internet is like a magnifying glass. A single unfavorable online review at one location can spread like wildfire through a franchise system, so you’ve got to be quick and effective in your response when a reputation crisis hits.
And it’s not just about your online presence; you’ve also got to ensure that the quality of your service and your brand messaging remains consistent, whether in the digital or physical realm.
Franchisors must make reputation management a core element of their business strategy to stay ahead of the curve. Success for franchise business owners is closely tied to the reputation of the broader franchise system. Here’s why online reviews and ratings are of utmost importance:
1. Influence on Customer Decisions
When potential customers consider products or services, they often turn to online reviews and ratings for guidance. According to BrightLocal’s local consumer survey, 90% of consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family members.
Studies show that a significant percentage of consumers rely on these reviews before making a purchase decision. This means that the opinions of your customers matter greatly.
2. Building Trust
A franchise with a positive reputation is more likely to gain the trust of potential customers. Trust is the foundation of any successful business, and franchisees benefit immensely when their franchise system enjoys a solid reputation.
3. Increasing Sales
Positive online reviews can have a direct impact on sales. Research conducted by Square indicates that businesses with a higher number of positive reviews tend to attract more customers and generate more revenue. This underscores the importance of maintaining a positive online reputation to drive sales and business growth.
Furthermore, Square studies consistently show that a significant percentage of consumers rely on these reviews before making a purchase decision, highlighting the critical role they play in shaping consumer choices.
Notably, Gen Z, a prominent demographic of consumers, typically reads between three to seven reviews before making a purchasing decision.
Crafting Your Reputation Management Strategy
Now that we understand the significance of reputation management let’s explore some practical strategies that franchisees can implement to enhance and protect a franchise’s image:
1. Encourage Positive Reviews
Actively encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on platforms like Google, TripAdvisor, and industry-specific websites. Consider displaying signs in your store or restaurant or incorporating review requests into your email marketing campaigns.
(Tip: If you're collecting emails with software like a CRM or manually, some business owners opt to verify email addresses with free email verifiers to help ensure effective and accurate customer communication.)
2. Respond to Negative Feedback
Negative reviews are inevitable, but how we handle them can make all the difference. Address criticism promptly and professionally. Show that you genuinely care about your customers’ experiences and are committed to resolving any issues.
3. Consistency Across Locations
In a multi-location franchise system, maintaining consistency is vital. Ensure that your branch delivers the same level of quality, service, and branding as other locations. When a brand has a robust online reputation, it helps prospects feel confident in investing capital.
A strong online reputation serves as a valuable asset for franchisees, as it instills trust and credibility in potential investors and customers alike. Prospects are more likely to choose a franchise with a positive online presence, as it signifies a track record of customer satisfaction and business success.
4. Invest in Employee Training
Your employees are the face of your franchise. Make sure they are well-trained and aligned with the values of the franchise system. Happy employees are more likely to provide excellent customer service, which can result in positive reviews.
5. Monitor Online Conversations
Use online reputation management tools to monitor what people are saying about your franchise. This proactive approach allows you to address issues before they escalate and provides valuable insights into areas that may need improvement.
6. Leverage User-Generated Content
7. Share Success Stories
Highlight success stories of your fellow franchisees who have excelled within the system. Sharing these stories on your franchise’s website and social media platforms can significantly enhance your credibility and trustworthiness.
The Benefits of Automating Your Review Request Process
In the digital age, time is of the essence. Franchisees can benefit significantly from automating the review request process. Here are some benefits of using automated tools:
1. Save Time and Resources
Manually requesting reviews from every customer can be time-consuming. Automated review request systems send requests to customers’ emails or phones after their visit, saving valuable time and resources. Automating the review request process is crucial, freeing you up to focus on operating your business.
2. Increase Sales and Get Referrals
Leverage your positive reviews to boost sales and gain referrals. Highlight these reviews on your website, social media, and marketing materials. Satisfied customers are more likely to become brand advocates and refer others to your franchise.
3. Increase Review Volume
By automating the review process, you can consistently request reviews from a higher percentage of satisfied customers, leading to more positive reviews that bolster your franchise’s reputation.
4. Prompt Customer Feedback
Automated systems allow customers to provide feedback promptly, giving you the opportunity to address any issues before they turn into negative online reviews.
Technology and Reputation Management
Technology plays a vital role in modern reputation management. Consider investing in online reputation management tools and customer feedback software to streamline the process. These tools can help you track reviews, manage online listings, and gain valuable insights into customer sentiment.
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Managing a Franchise’s Reputation
Franchise owners are not just business owners; they also serve as brand ambassadors within a larger franchise system. Managing a franchise’s reputation effectively in the era of reviews and ratings is essential for everyone’s success in the franchise system.
By implementing these strategies, including automating a review request process, and leveraging technology, you can navigate the world of online reputation management with confidence.
Remember, a franchise’s image is in the hands of everyone in the franchise system, and it’s worth nurturing for long-term success.
This article was originally published on the Franchise Wire blog in the Expert Advice for Franchisees category on October 15, 2023.