Earning Five Stars
Franchises that want to be in front of customers and build a positive customer experience should make online review management a primary marketing strategy.
By Megan Wenzl
More than 63 percent of consumers report that they are likely to check online reviews on Google before visiting a business, making Google the main space for online reviews in 2018.
This information, collected in a recent ReviewTrackers survey, shows trends in online reviews, in two parts: the first part is based on a U.S.-based consumer panel with a survey of 463 respondents, the second part offers an analysis of nine million reviews across more than 100 review sites during the past eight years.
From the second part of the survey, ReviewTrackers found that Google is also the No. 1 site where consumers leave reviews. The takeaway is clear: franchises need to actively watch their online reviews, especially on Google.
Another key finding is that businesses are missing opportunities to meet consumer expectations: 53 percent of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week. However, 63 percent of consumers say that a business has never responded to their review. What does this mean? Customers expect franchises to engage with them in online reviews, but in 2018 many franchises are still falling short.
“Of those surveyed, 45 percent say they are more likely to visit a local business if the business owner responds to a negative review.”
This is especially true because 94 percent observed that a negative review has convinced them to avoid a business. If a franchise owner responds to those reviews, however, the damage can be undone: 45 percent of the consumers surveyed say they are more likely to visit a local business if the business owner responds to a negative review.
These statistics show why it’s important for franchises to manage their online reviews: it’s where customers are looking for new businesses and where businesses can use consumer insights to improve operations and make important decisions.
One of the most essential reasons to manage and monitor online reviews is to understand where your customers are online.
Approximately 80 percent of U.S. consumers look at reviews before making a purchase decision, according to YouGov. That’s why it’s important to have a location page for each franchise location, where consumers can leave reviews or read what other consumers are saying about their experience.
By optimizing your online review and local listing sites for each business location, your franchise will appear in more local search results. Franchises should be concentrating their efforts on monitoring top sites for reviews (especially Google) and responding to reviews on those sites.
If you are not looking at online reviews, you are missing key insights. Customers are more likely now than ever to voice their thoughts and opinions in online reviews.
One franchise, fast-casual restaurant chain Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes & Fries, is listening and connecting to customers. It even bases operational changes on what consumers say in their reviews.
Andy Moore, Vice President of Communications, says his team analyzed online reviews to find that at multiple locations, the wait staff was taking too long to greet guests after they sat down.
“Reviews provide insights into operations and service so that franchises can make their businesses better for the consumer.”
“That enabled us to make that a priority in our training and onboarding process,” Moore explains. “We also used the opportunity to remind everyone in a company-wide email on the steps to greeting a customer and serving him or her as quickly as we can. It was interesting because we felt we were doing pretty OK at that, and then we realized it actually was a real pain point for us.”
Listening and Improving
As Google becomes the dominant player for online reviews (for consumers to both read and write reviews), consumers are more likely to talk about their franchise experience online.
It’s important for franchises to listen to what customers are saying to improve the experience at each franchise location. Reviews provide insights into operations and service so that franchises can make their businesses better for the consumer. When consumer needs are being met, customers will be more likely to leave positive reviews for other consumers who are beginning a search to find a new business.
Megan Wenzl is Associate Editor for ReviewTrackers, a customer experience software that helps businesses transform the customer experience. Find out more about ReviewTrackers at www.franchise.org/reviewtrackers-supplier.