It can only take one poorly managed bad review to destroy your carefully built reputation. This guide to managing negative reviews for franchise companies will show you how to make sure that when the proverbial hits the fan, you know what to do.
Are you having an online argument with a customer over bad feedback? Is someone trolling you with social media responses? Feel like you're always rushing to respond to any bad mentions you receive?
Here's how to deal with damaging internet posts about your franchise:
1) Pay attention and always be available
There are few things sure to rile up an online community as much as huge delays in response on your end.
"They don't care about their customers," other commenters will say. And without you listening and being available, they may have a point.
You should have monitoring systems in place to keep an eye out for any negative reviews. Your online crisis management team (see Tip #6) should be on the spot, ready with a response, keeping an ear out for consumer concerns.
2) Make sure your clients know what to expect
Don't throw out wild claims that state you always respond to customer queries within three seconds. Make sure you know what your response times are, and the way you're going to deal with a certain kind of situation.
Then you can tell your customers outright how long you've given yourself to respond to any queries - "within 24 hours", for example. This will give you plenty of time to collect information (see Tip #3 below) and generally make sure you're prepared and informed to discuss the topic with your customer.
This controls expectation. All you need to do then is make sure you actually do what you say you're going to do...
3) Make sure you're speaking from an honest, informed position
Do you actually know what happened to cause the bad feedback?
If not, it's time to find out. Never post from a position of ignorance. It's not a case of being able to make an argument (see Tip #6 below for why it's important to never argue), it's a case of being able to understand the customer's position, and then being able to respond in a manner which shows you have done so.
This is especially true in the event of a true reputation crisis. It's often good practice to allow your employees to contribute to your social media content...
But this is not one of those times.
Instead, you need a cohesive, fully informed response conducted by an expert or team of experts who fully understand the situation and how to deal with it.
Plus, you need to be honest about it. A customer will forgive you some things, but dishonesty is rarely one of them. Just consider the damage Volkswagen did to their brand reputation when they lied about their emissions ratings.
Always be transparent when talking to your customers, but especially when you're talking online - and that goes twice for talking on social media.
4) Don't keep posting your regular content
Nothing says "I'm ignoring what you've said" like posting your scheduled content releases at the same time as you have a crisis in the works. Even worse?
If that crisis is directly tied to the product, service, or franchise location that was to feature in your scheduled posts.
That's why, for the duration of your crisis, you should halt your regular posts. You can then have another look at the content you were going to release and decide whether it's still suitable for posting afterwards.
5) Respond once - thoughtfully and accurately
This is directly tied to Tip #6 below:
Always respond politely and calmly to any negative reviews.
This is particularly the case when your instant emotional response is to angrily disagree with what you feel is an undeserved or inaccurate criticism of your business.
When conducting crisis management for negative reviews of your franchise you should never:
- Delete online reviews (unless they are highly offensive)
- Block or delete profiles
- Argue or disagree about an interpretation of events
- Conduct communication in anything other than your brand voice
This seems like basic stuff, but in the heat of the moment, it can be easy to snap.
That's why it's so important to consider each review objectively and then respond once in a calm and polite tone.
6) Don't let things get personal - never argue
Always remember that arguing with a negative reviewer is a definite no-no.
If you - or your crisis management team - need to control your emotions for any reason, a surprisingly good technique is to actually write out what you want to say. And then throw it away. This helps you get the anger out of your system, and then you can concentrate on being thoughtful and polite.
Despite how you may feel about the nature of the action of the customer involved, you need to remember one vital thing:
On the internet, everyone is watching how you respond to criticism.
Imagine you're in a crowded store. A customer is complaining to management. Will you continue to browse if the manager gets frustrated and angry at the customer and demands they leave immediately?
Or will you respect the shop owner more if they remain polite and calm despite the increasing tantrum the customer is starting to throw?
No matter the situation, you always want to be the second one.
7) Let your crisis management team handle it
One thing's for sure:
Simply allowing any old employee to respond to a crisis situation isn't going to get you the best outcome.
You've selected your crisis management team for a reason. Let them do their job.
If you don't have a crisis management team in place, it's time to either hire one or locate the right outside expertise in the shape of a professional company who provides this kind of service.
Closely tied to this point is the fact that you need to manage access to your social media accounts carefully. Though in many cases employees who are engaged on social media can be a boon to your business's reach and content creation, in this instance you definitely only want your crisis management team to have the keys to the ignition.
8) Post moderation guidelines
This is a key part of setting up your internal franchise network communication:
Make sure that you've got the systems in place to tell individual franchisees how to deal with damaging internet posts relating to their franchise location.
Your crisis management team are there to handle the big issues, so some smart franchisors prefer to let these trained professionals handle everything. But if your individual franchisees are responsible for responding to feedback online, they should have access to clear moderation guidelines regarding what they should or should not do or say in this kind of situation.
9) Hire experienced community managers
Tip #8 is a vital part of managing your franchise's online reputation, especially if your franchisees are essentially going to be their own social media managers.
The role of a community manager is a little different. And for this reason, hiring experienced community managers who are experts in their field is always going to serve you well.
So what's the difference between a social media manager and a community manager?
It might sound like they're two titles for the same job, but there's more differentiation than you might think. The easiest way to think about it is to consider who your manager is talking to:
- Are they talking as a representative of your company to your audience? Talking about new offers, or sending tips for how to use your products creatively? (They're a social media manager.)
- Or are your audience talking amongst themselves while your manager facilitates this by adding and welcoming new members to the community, moderating posts, introducing members to each other, and so on? (They're a community manager.)
It's pretty clear what the two job roles now entail!
Experienced community managers are critical to building a strong online reputation.
10) The final word - you won't please everyone
Whether internet troll, secret rival trying to make you look bad, or genuine complainant who's dissatisfied with your service and will not be persuaded to give you another chance...
You're not going to be please everyone.
That's an important fact to understand going in. And it makes following advice like that contained in this guide to negative franchise review management all the more important:
Because would you rather come out of a situation where you haven't been able to please a customer having yelled your heart out, raged at the screen while arguing, having had a knee-jerk reaction while not aware of the facts - all while your other customers looked on?
Or would you rather have replied calmly and politely from the outset? Have spoken rationally from a fully informed position? And shown your other customers that you've respected and listened to one of your community's experiences and opinions even when faced with rudeness or accusation?
One answer will see your franchise's online reputation fail and fall.
The other will give your business a huge boost to reputation and profit.
Go Beyond a Guide to Managing Negative Reviews of Your Franchise
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