Many executives are up against unique challenges when it comes to making franchise reputation management an integral part of their marketing strategy.
Because of the nature of the franchise business, leaders and decision-makers have to deal with reputation management and marketing on the corporate level, while also supporting the needs and opportunities of franchisees, who have their own local reputation issues, ideas, and goals.
In this post, we’ll walk through a number of franchise reputation management tactics that you can apply to each of your locations as well as on a broader corporate or franchise level.
Franchise Reputation Management: Best Practices
For a franchise brand, the following steps will take up plenty of time and effort, but it is vital to success. Taking control of your franchise reputation helps the brand gain online visibility, attract search traffic, and improve your reputation over time.
Claim and Update your Business Listings
Among the first steps to successfully managing (and protecting) your franchise reputation is to claim your business listings. Think of this as planting your flags on digital properties where customers are already talking about you or consuming information about your franchise brand or other locations.
Listings to claim include social media and online review websites, local business directories, online yellow pages, and even mobile apps and services with a business discovery feature.
By claiming your business listings, updating your information, and maintaining an active presence across multiple sites, your franchise reputation is easily managed at local and corporate levels. Doing so also gives your marketing leaders and franchisees a chance to respond to specific customer feedback, especially negative reviews.
Respond to Online Reviews
Your franchisees are obviously not going to be happy reading a one-star review or a negative social media comment, which is why it needs to be a part of your franchise reputation management strategy to respond to these reviews and show your customers genuine appreciation for their feedback.
Train your franchisees and location managers to respond to reviews proactively and with care. This helps customers gain more trust in your business.
According to the Online Reviews Survey, 53 percent of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week, but 63 percent say that a business has never responded to their review. Be a part of the minority by actively responding to customer reviews and your franchise reputation will improve over time.
Here are a few more stats demonstrating the power of responding to reviews:
- 80 percent of consumers believe that a business cares more about them when its management responds to their reviews.
- A Harvard Business Review study found that overall ratings increase by 0.12 stars when businesses start responding to reviews. They also begin to receive 12 percent more reviews.
- In a Cornell University study, revenue levels increased when management responsed to more reviews.
It’s also worth responding to positive reviews and high ratings even if it’s just to say “thank you.” By letting customers know you appreciate their feedback, you strengthen your franchise reputation and reinforce positive customer experiences.
Create Franchise Location Pages
Think of each page on a site as its own individual websites for each franchise or chain location.
According to Ron Holt, CEO and founder of Two Maids & A Mop, these pages “allow you to create unique content, build a personal brand, and also leverage the sister sites within your franchise’s network.”
In addition, the pages improve your search engine optimization (SEO) performance, which only benefit your franchise reputation and further supports the marketing efforts of your franchisees.
Here are some best practices to follow when creating your franchise location pages:
Keep the URL Simple
Let’s say your website URL is businessname.com. The URL of your location pages can be as simple as businessname.com/city.
NAP stands for business Name, Address, and Phone number. This information must be present on each of your location pages and correspond to each individual franchise location. Adding this information doesn’t just help in terms of overall presentation; it ensures that the right pages show up when someone conducts a local search near your franchise.
Add Relevant Local Content
Apart from entering your franchisees’ NAP to your location pages, you can also provide additional details to better inform each site visitor. This can include:
- Unique store descriptions
- Operating hours
- “About Us” section
- Local news
- Deals and promotions
- Information about the team or staff
- Customer reviews and testimonials specific to the location
- Case studies
Include a Google Map
This allows users and potential customers to immediately see the franchise location (relevant to where they are located) and get directions. Utilizing a Google Map display on your site also adds some familiarity for the user. After all, 53 percent of consumers will visit a business after they conduct a local search on Google.
Optimize the Pages
To boost the location signals on your location pages, apply optimization techniques like title tags, meta descriptions, schema markup, and first-party reviews. These elements help search engines “read” each page to better inform consumers when your site pops up in search engine results pages.
Embrace Customer Feedback
What customers say about you can shape your franchise reputation. This is not a problem if the customer is happy. If they aren’t happy, you must find ways to turn the conversation around and recover your critics.
Embrace feedback from naysayers and appreciate the ways this can benefit your franchise. After all, genuine customer feedback — even if it’s negative — serves as a great source of information and insight essential to improving your franchise business.
Do the staff members in your newest franchise location need more training? Are diners really happy with the new menu you rolled out recently across your chains? What are the most common complaints about your product, and is your customer service team coming through?
Adam Broetje, CEO at digital marketing agency Odd Dog Media, says that one of the most direct customer feedback platforms franchises have today is online reviews.
“Each location can be individually reviewed, so (online review sites provide) a great measurement of how individual locations are performing, and what customers like or don’t like.”
Broetje’s team recommends that every franchisee set up a monitoring system for their location, but it’s not just the franchisee that should be monitoring reviews. The franchisor should also listen to customer feedback across all of their locations.
Opinions and experiences shared online by your most vocal customers and even your critics may help you see growth opportunities in your franchise, leading the way to a stronger reputation and better customer experiences.
For a classic example of how franchise brands can successfully tune into online review sites and manage what customers are saying online, read this case study of Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes, and Fries.
Foster Customer Loyalty
One of the most effective franchise reputation management strategies is to let your happiest customers build buzz around your brand. To keep these promoters, you’ll need to employ a few strategies to keep them happy and make them loyal.
Customer loyalty programs, rewards, and referral programs tend to work well for franchise brands. They bring people to your locations on a recurring basis and drive positive word of mouth for your franchise, which in turn can improve franchise reputation and inspire shopper confidence.
Make the Customer-First Transformation
It’s difficult for multi-location franchises to listen and respond to customers, which can then affect franchise reputation, sales, search rankings, and the franchise’s ability to truly understand customers.
A franchisee may have a dedicated customer service team in-store, or the franchisor may have signed up to work with a call center for resolving customer issues and concerns. But in the age of Facebook and Yelp, more consumers than ever are making their voices heard on digital channels such as social media and online review sites.
Not only do these channels influence the behavior of consumers who are eager to validate their purchase decisions by conducting online research; they can also offer penetrating insight into what your franchise’s customers really need and want and think and feel.
Unfortunately, not all franchises have the structure, the process, the technology, or even the commitment to tune in, which then doesn’t reflect well on specific franchise locations and the franchise brand as a whole.
It’s high time for your franchise to make the customer-first transformation. Wherever your customers are talking, listen in and join the conversation.