Online reviews are an important component to business success.

This is a fact of life in today’s world. Even if every business doesn’t agree, consumers certainly do.

A 2016 BrightLocal study found that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

With the importance of reviews validated, an individual business owner might decide to simply manage their reviews themselves. They could check their business listings daily on review sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook and TripAdvisor, and reply to reviews as they appear. This approach may work for a business with one location, depending on how often reviews are posted.

However, for a multi-location franchise with hundreds of locations, managing reviews is a full-time job. Not to mention one that requires proper attention, delicate care, and the involvement of every department in your organization.

After all, reviews often include HR, Marketing, and Operations issues that can negatively impact revenue.

Below we’ll dive into why having an expert review team, as well as a company-wide approach to reviews, is essential to create a review culture.

Expert Review Team

Individuals at the store level are certainly the most in-tune with the everyday needs of their own customers. That said, you want them to be able to handle complaints in a face-to-face situation, but online may be another story.

Online, reviews can be captured by anyone, shared anywhere, and live in the minds of your customers forever. If the associate at your store does not have a background in writing, mass communication, or crisis management, trusting him or her to respond, no matter the situation, may be risking revenue.

Mishandling reviews can reflect poorly on your brand as a whole. After all, if a food poisoning complaint goes viral, people don’t care if the outbreak was only at one location. The brand is known for food poisoning, impacting the brand’s overall star-rating, when all locations are considered.

The effect of even a single star was highlighted in a recent Harvard Business School study. It found that a one-star increase in a business’s rating can mean a 5 to 9 percent increase in revenue.

Merchant Centric’s data aligns with this, and in some cases, the numbers are higher. A one-star increase could mean up to a 17 percent increase in revenue.

So then, the opposite is true as well. Businesses who receive a flood of negative reviews, and see their ratings drop as a result, will likely lose a large percentage of revenue.

The actions and reputation of one location affect the reputation and revenue of your entire brand. If an expert team is not in place to properly address reviews, the public will hold your brand responsible for any negative outcome.

Company-wide Approach

The goal should be for your entire company to be involved in managing online reviews. From the executive level, to the location level, everyone in the company should be aware of what customers are saying about the brand and how the brand is responding to customers.

If you are running a corporate promotion that consumers are having trouble redeeming, how will negative reviews be addressed? If your review specialists are not familiar with the promotions of your marketing department, addressing the issue accurately would be difficult.

Since reviews have such a company-wide impact, an expert review team needs the right tools to reply to reviews for all locations, and track each location’s performance over time.

In tracking performance, reporting to decision makers is essential. Reporting should identify positive and negative mentions of operational themes like product, price, selection, and service, to name a few.

themes-2

Are customers continually complaining about a specific issue? Is there an all-star employee who customers love? Insights like these allow you to address small issues before they become big issues, and reward top performers. This creates a corporate review culture that cares not just about the customer, but team members, and quality as a whole.

Conclusion

Whether you oversee a few locations or a few hundred locations, reviews matter, and how you manage those reviews matters even more.

To learn more about fostering a review culture within your organization, and to discuss tools that can help keep everyone involved, contact Merchant Centric.