We’re all used to sharing our experiences online – from the restaurants we visit, to the products we buy and the services we procure. Here, Jess Pritchard, head of corporate at Moneypenny shares why franchises can make online reviews work harder for business.
To protect and grow revenues and cater for the shifting demands of consumers – franchises find themselves needing to put greater focus on the customer experience. In a world where ‘shared experiences’ fill the internet – advisers must acknowledge the power of the customer and their feedback. The drivers for this are almost certainly the shift in the way consumers expect to source a product or service. The prevalence of digital channels is in part responsible – helped by Covid driving us all online – and we now expect the same level of experience, accessibility and choice from all businesses, no matter the size.
Why are online reviews important?
Online reviews have tremendous value for franchises across all sectors. Whether it’s Trustpilot, Google, Yelp or social media, customers will be leaving reviews – the question is whether their value is being fully maximised.
Reviews provide transparency of quality, capability, price and staff. Reviews take some of the ‘unknowns’ out of purchasing decisions and make us feel informed – as if we have the inside track. They help us to compare, make an educated choice and put our trust in that decision.
In fact, 91% of 18-34 year olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, 93% of consumers say that online reviews influence their buying decisions and 64% of consumers check online reviews on Google before visiting a business —which is more than any other review site. During 2020, the year of ‘staying at home’ thanks to Covid-19, 31% of people said they read and referred to more reviews.
Reviews have the power to deliver more business to franchises. The satisfaction level of previous customers can determine the rate at which they grow and online reviews are the ideal place for customers to act as ambassadors.
There are four steps to harness the power of reviews:
Making the decision to embrace and encourage reviews requires franchises to first ensure they have an appetite to listen and learn and that they have, or are moving to, a more customer-centric culture. It is particularly useful to anticipate the sort of feedback you might receive – good and bad – so that you can make proactive changes to your approach to customer care. For example, if your business feeling the impact of being short staffed, or has introduced an exciting new service, these might come through in reviews.
A customer-centric mindset will help to ensure that their experiences govern your decision making – which in turn will help to deliver a greater number of good reviews. Giving regular attention to the proactivity of customer communication, response times and accessibility will all help here.It also provides an opportunity to think about how reviews will be responded to in advance and devise an online reviews policy so that it’s clear who should respond internally, and how to do so.
Reviews require responses. Negative reviews are what the industry fears but, when handled properly and proactively they needn’t be so damaging. Engaging with the review, responding in a friendly human tone and showing a desire to make restitution and improvements, can bring balance to poor reviews. It also provides an opportunity to thank reviewers for their feedback and to reiterate important key messages about your approach to customer care. Also, whether a review is glowing or damning, every single one should be responded to. Research suggests that online reviewers expect a response within seven days. As 97% of those who read online reviews also read business’ responses, it’s important to act.
3. Be ready
Consider whathappens when a prospective customer acts on a positive review and reaches out – perhaps via email, a live chat function or Google click to call. For 56% of businesses, the phone remains the most popular way for customers to get in touch. This is in spite of the explosion in new communication methods, proving the unswerving importance of human interaction. They should be met with a first impression to match the glowing endorsement. Ensuring calls are answered promptly and efficiently, that call backs, quotes and queries are handled quickly and that websites are rich in information and interactivity are all vital in order to maximise the power of good reviews. Anything less could see a new business opportunity missed.
With the earlier steps in place, franchise businesses will start to feel more confident and willing to ask for reviews on external sites. Inviting people to give feedback and share their experiences proactively not only shows a degree of confidence in service levels and standards, but ensures that they don’t fall into the trap of only receiving bad reviews – it’s human nature to go online and complain about something, rather than praise it.
The increasing use of online reviews presents an opportunity for franchises to interrogate their service levels and look at the customer experience as a whole. In doing so, they equip themselves with all the components for a glowing endorsement – and plenty of those will impact business development, revenue growth and brand reputation for the better.
About the Author: Jess Pritchard is Head of Corporare at Moneypenny, the world’s market leader for telephone answering, live chat, outsourced switchboard and customer contact solutions. In total, more than 21,000 businesses across the UK benefit from Moneypenny’s mix of extraordinary people and ground-breaking technology.
For more information about Moneypenny’s work in the franchise sector visit: https://www.moneypenny.com/uk/franchise-answering-services/
 BrightLocal data from 2018
 Research by Podium: http://learn.podium.com/rs/841-BRM-380/images/2017-SOOR-Infographic.jpg
 ReviewTracker data quoted here: https://www.reviewtrackers.com/reports/online-reviews-survey/
 BrightLocal data: https://www.brightlocal.com/research/local-consumer-review-survey/
 Data from ReviewtTacker 2018
 BrightLocal data 2019
 Moneypenny Value of a Call Report