Franchise reputation fails can happen to any company...
It's that one negative review that gains traction. It's that one marketing misstep that goes viral. It's that one poor piece of customer service that interrupts your flawless record.
That's why knowing how to build and maintain your franchise reputation even in the face of crisis is so important.
Firstly, you need to have a strong, positive reputation already in place. Secondly, you need to know how to act in the event of a crisis.
We'll take a detailed look at how to do that here:
1. Build your brand into every part of your franchiseBe consistent in the creation and deployment of your brand. It's almost certainly the most important step you can take when starting your company, and something you should improve throughout its trading life.
This means you need to build a brand that's omnipresent in every aspect of your franchise's operation:
- Your brand voice should feature in all communication you undertake, even internal communication.
- Your visual branding should be cohesive and reinforce your presence in a market by being present wherever a consumer can come into contact with your business.
- Your online and offline brand personas should be the same to prevent any mental dissonance between different parts of your company forming in the mind of consumers.
- The staff at all of your franchise locations should know how your brand should inform their interaction with customers.
- Your individual franchise locations should be designed to be physically representative of your brand.
By having every action you take informed by your brand, you'll create a cohesive customer experience. The familiarity this will breed, and the impression of reliability that it will foster, are a great first bulwark against any reputation crisis.
2. Know what your current reputation is before you start
You should already be measuring your online reputation using pre-selected metrics. If you've neglected to do so, or you don't have a team with the experience or skills to interpret the data, it's time to call in some professional help.
There are many companies offering ORM (Online Reputation Management) services. Local Fame, for example, will even provide you with a free report on your current online profiles - without any cost or obligation to use services afterwards.
Knowing where you stand as regards your current online presence will inform your decisions as to what action to take in the event of any reputation management fails.
3. Protect your personal reputation
Your personal reputation should be distinct from your franchise's reputation as much as possible.
In the same way that having separate social media profiles for your individual locations forms a kind of firewall in the event of franchise social media fails, keeping your personal reputation and franchise reputation separate will serve to protect you in future.
4. Your online presence should come first
Even before you start trading with your company, you should have a strong online presence already in place. In today's hyper-connected world, the first step almost any consumer will take before buying something from you will be to search for you online to check out your reputation.
With a huge number of ways to research you at their fingertips even when standing right outside the door of your nearest franchise location, why would a consumer make a purchase from you without being confident of the quality you offer?
That's why you need to have your online presence in place even before you start trading. Because soon as your first client hits "search", you want them to be able to find you.
And to learn all about your stellar reputation.
5. Protect your brand from the competition
Few people usually want to think or talk about it, but unscrupulous competitors are out there. And they're willing to go a whole lot lower than you will in order to defend the commercial territory they see as theirs.
In the world of online reviews and reputation, a single negative review - even a fake one - can be enough to start scuppering a franchise's online standing. In fact, they're pretty much a one-step method for how to ruin brand reputation if they're not handled correctly...
This means you need to:
- Have systems in place - to manage any unfair negative reviews or feedback. You should aim for fast, personalised responses, and be ready and able to fight down negative mentions of your brand whenever they occur.
- Take active ownership of all of your online spaces - your Google Plus page, all local directories, your own website, and everywhere else where a consumer can find your business online should all be cohesive, correct, up-to-date, and controlled by you.
And that's just the start.
It's vital that you have the team and the expertise in place to manage your online reputation. If you don't have the expertise available in-house, it's time to find a reliable company which can provide it for you.
6. Keep your social media profiles active and engage with your audience
This is good general advice, but all the more critical in a situation where the reputation of your company is suffering.
Taking a recent example from the world of entertainment, the videogame product No Man's Sky was released in 2016 with the expectation that it would blow through the stratosphere of what was possible in a videogame.
When the reality utterly failed to match the hype, instead of directly addressing customer concerns, the game's creators went silent on social media. This has allowed all parts of the press and the internet to lambast them without them offering any defence.
Telecom brand TalkTalk also incorrectly decided that no news was good news when the company was hacked in 2015. They deactivated their social media profiles and refused to engage with their customers.
Social media demands that your brand has an active presence at all times. You'll need to make sure that you have a brand-appropriate response ready to go. And that your response is in keeping with Tip #8 (see below).
7. Get user feedback and gather reviews - especially positive ones
This is a more pleasant flipside of Tip #5:
Promoting the leaving of positive reviews and feedback in prominent online locations is franchise reputation fail avoidance 101. You need to encourage your clients to leave positive reviews. Because sadly, the experience of human nature tells us that most people only leave reviews when they're unhappy.
When starting out, in particular, consider simply asking your clients to leave positive reviews in relevant online spaces.
Peer reviews sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and a huge number of others are - increasingly - a consumer's first point of contact with any brand's reputation. This means that your reputation on these sites needs to be as close to spotless as possible.
Building up a stock of solid client reviews which shows any prospective customer the experience they can expect with your brand is a vital part of the ORM process. This is because when the occasional negative or average review is placed against the backdrop of your solid history of positive feedback, it will become more of an isolated incident in the eyes of a consumer.
Your already good reputation will see you through times of crisis more reliably than any knee-jerk immediate reaction.
8. Always take the high road
When responding to bad reviews, make sure your reputation management team never descends to "their" level. Whether the customer is politely phrasing a situation that you can see needs to be resolved, or whether they're spouting formless anger from behind the comfort of their online anonymity...
You need to present the same polite and professional facade when responding.
In some cases, a poorly worded customer service response - or one that shows a negative attitude on your part - can cause more problems than the initial incident.
And a bad customer service response can quickly become viral news. No matter how relatively harmless the initial query.
9. Constantly monitor your brand mentions
Monitoring your efforts to build yourself a powerful brand presence online is key for one simple reason:
How else will you know whether you've succeeded or not?
By consistently producing quality content and by monitoring how well it is received on a long-term basis, you're building yourself a reputation as an industry voice and leader.
This is much like in Tip #7, where you've built a history and identity for your brand as the provider of a quality customer experience. Here, by already having a solid history of quality content and positive mentions under your belt, you have an incomparable resource for maintaining your online reputation in the event of a crisis.
10. Don't forget your offline marketing
All the way back in Tip #1 we looked at the importance of keeping your online and offline personas cohesive. When it comes to how to ruin your brand's reputation, nothing makes it easier than forgetting all about your offline marketing...
Even when set against the strength and reach of online marketing, never forget that your offline presence still has power.
Combine effective offline marketing with your online presence to create a powerful brand that will withstand any reputation management or social media fails that the consumer world can throw at it.
When Franchise Reputation Fails... What Do You Do?
Local Fame knows.
Get chatting to an expert about professional online reputation management services now with one short phone call. Or get that FREE report on the current strength of your online presence without any fee or obligation.
To find out what not to do in the event of a crisis, check out our franchise reputation fail case studies FREE download PDF.