Online brand reputation management for franchises is a must in the digital age. It could be just what your franchise marketing team needs to unify network-wide efforts, boost individual franchisee performance and deliver on growth goals.
Right now, your overall strategy may be cluttered, with each franchisee doing their own thing. Your current and potential customers may be confused about how to perceive you as a brand. It’s not going to change these conditions in a snap. Still, franchise online reputation management (ORM) can efficiently and sustainably transform critical aspects of your business, mainly brand image, search ranking, conversion and revenue.
There are many steps to take before you can enjoy the rewards, but here’s the beginner-friendly route to achieving a stellar online reputation.
Why Is Reputation Management Important for Franchises, Specifically?
No matter if your online reputation is nonexistent, minimal or fragmented, your franchise business needs online brand reputation management. Ninety percent of consumers check the web and rely on reviews in making purchase decisions. Additionally, Google uses ratings and reviews as ranking signals to present relevant search results.
Harnessing the power of online reviews and having a cohesive strategy in place gives you at least two things: a consistent brand image and search engine visibility. By extension, you also standardize branding, marketing and customer service for your franchise holders.
What Impact Can a Bad Reputation Have on a Franchise Business?
Low ratings and negative franchise reviews can drive away potential customers. Put yourself in the patrons’ or buyers’ shoes for a moment: If you find more and more people ranting than they are raving about a product, service or branch, that tells you something is wrong. You’d rather not give the brand or business the time of day if you could get a better experience from its competitor.
This kind of scenario shows how increasingly vital it is to focus on managing online reviews for franchises. Just as conversations are happening on the internet, usually at the local franchise level, so are complaints. Bad feedback can go viral quickly and shape public perception of your franchise brand. One misstep, and you can be caught in a social media storm, especially if it affects your customers’ lives directly.
Your bottom line could suffer from the damage, too. Learn from the Taco Bell crisis, in which a photo of a then-employee licking a stack of taco shells went viral. The image was shared and first spread on Facebook, putting Taco Bell’s food handling and sanitation measures in question. While the franchisee fired two employees, including the one who took the picture, the food chain reported a decrease in average sales per restaurant that year.
How Can Reputation Management Help Franchise Businesses Grow?
Effective reputation management for franchise businesses requires a cohesive strategy. With this in place, the corporate office informs and trains subunits regarding best practices. At the same time, subunits freely share local franchise reputation management services and knowledge that would benefit the entire organization. The end goal: brand image consistency across the network.
A recognizable brand should also have a robust search presence. Good thing Google counts franchise online reviews and ratings in determining your search ranking. Franchise business review management can bolster your local search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, and the higher you appear in the search results, the greater your chances of being considered by high-intent leads.
Your overarching franchise online reputation management strategy establishes brand control over your local SEO. In turn, franchisees still retain autonomy over their local activities, building trust among customers, generating conversions and boosting profits.
5 Tips for Effective Franchise Reputation Management
In maintaining a positive brand image across a franchise network, where do you begin? We put together this primer on reputation management for franchises to help you take initial steps:
1. Claim Local Business Listings
Make it easy for your target audience to find you. On top of having a corporate website, listing individual franchises on local business directories amplifies your visibility and expands your reach. Think about local directory sites as the Yellow Pages of the internet, which include Google My Business (GMB), Bing Places, Yahoo Local, Yelp for Business, Facebook, Apple Maps and Foursquare.
These platforms can be used as a franchise reputation management tool. Once you’ve claimed your business listing — which means registering and verifying your profile — you can enhance your profile by engaging customers through reviews. We’ll talk more about franchise online reviews below.
2. Perform a Local Franchise Online Reviews Audit
Whether you have 10 or 100 franchisees, being honest about where you are in terms of review response can go a long way. An audit can be a useful franchise reputation management tool. It entails some digging into how your subunits are replying to online reviews for franchises.
Seeing how one location may be diligently responding within 24 hours while another does so irregularly can help you craft policies and guidelines for franchise online reputation management and responses to online reviews for franchises. From here on, you can incorporate them into your franchise agreement.
Some audits can be complicated and may require the skills of a reputation management expert.
3. Respond to Negative Reviews
Knowing how to manage all kinds of franchise reviews should be integrated into your strategy. Train your subunits to respond to negative feedback with promptness and care. Even when a user is aggressive or disrespectful, some level of franchise business review preparation affords you to be calm and aim to correct the situation.
Remember that the exchange is happening online where potential customers lurk. The way you behave can show others how you treat customers, irate or not.
Meanwhile, responding to all reviews sends the message that you genuinely care about customers. It can also increase your ratings by 0.12 stars, according to a Harvard Business Review study. It may not seem much, but it makes a difference when you’re on a platform that rounds off average ratings. On TripAdvisor, 4.24 stars will be rounded down to 4, but 4.25 stars will be rounded up to 4.5.
4. Streamline Online Brand Reputation Management
Even if ORM is its own digital marketing channel these days, it’s inevitably linked to others such as SEO and social media. For instance, social media networks are instrumental in garnering franchise reviews and ratings.
One viable technique is to allow individual franchisees to handle their social media accounts and reply to their reviews, while the corporate level monitors reviews to ensure a developing crisis does not blow out of proportion.
Of course, it’s easier said than done. Just remember what happened to Taco Bell. A slip like that, when a corporation already has an established system, can be costly, so do small and mid-sized businesses stand a chance? Definitely – if you’re willing to invest in an in-house ORM team or hire a reputation management expert.
5. Automate With Franchise Reputation Management Software
Proactivity is a valuable aspect of reputation management for franchise businesses. While you can wait for customers to leave feedback on your products or services, you can also prod them to do so immediately. Franchise business review generation is a legitimate franchise reputation management service.
It would be tedious if you did it manually. But franchise reputation management software now exists for efficient rollout across your service locations. This franchise reputation management tool enables you to focus both on the quality and quantity of your reviews.
When To Work With a Franchise Reputation Management Service Provider
Reputation management for franchise businesses can be time- and resource-consuming. The strategy has to be unified, the standards high and the implementation impeccable. It’s an enormous responsibility for even a deep-pocketed corporation with a sufficient workforce.
If you’re wondering whether you need the help of a reputation management expert or agency, here are some guidelines you can use:
• Consider outsourcing franchise reputation management services if you have low human resource capacity for monthly franchise online reputation management audit.
• Try automating processes using proven and efficient franchise reputation management software.
• Tap into the strengths of an agency or consultant for a single franchise reputation management service, such as managing online reviews or online reputation repair for franchises. This should free up your resources to focus on sales, operations or a different marketing channel.
In this post, we’ve outlined why you need to do reputation management for franchises and do it now. But we’ve saved the best for last.
A Cornell University study in the hospitality industry showed that customers are 13.5 percent more likely to book a hotel with a one-point increase in rating based on a five-point scale. It also found that hotels with higher ratings and better reviews could charge more. This potentially considerable impact on your bottom line means your ORM efforts won’t be in vain.
We’ve also laid down the franchise reputation management tool kit for beginners and those who want to revamp their strategy. Our goal is to truly gauge how ready you are to employ this beneficial method for your franchise business. So if you believe getting help from someone who has done it all before will jumpstart your journey, collaborate with Rize.
Rize Reviews is a company that provides holistic franchise reputation management services to ensure your entire network maintains a positive brand image that leads to profitability. Our offerings range from franchise reputation management strategy optimization, review generation and review monitoring to reputation management tool rollout.
The free Rize review widget lets you display reviews on your website with ease and convenience, bolstering your credibility and ramping up our revenue. Through our reputation management software, you can tackle the unique challenges that come with monitoring and multiplying customer reviews for a franchise network.
Contact us to schedule your free audit and learn more about maximizing reputation management tools and techniques for growth.