One of the greatest challenges faced by large organizations, such as chains and enterprise-level businesses, is how to decide when it makes sense to centralize processes, versus a more granular approach that uses decentralization as a way to customize experiences.
Centralization and consolidation are often implemented with the objective of optimizing resource utilization and reducing costs. Today, we will explore how successful enterprises are managing online reputation by empowering specific business units and branches with the ability to directly address their customers and provide customized remedy, while implementing unit-specific process improvements based on customer feedback.
Reputation management is no longer just a “nice to have” option for B to C organizations. Whether you engage with your customers or not, they will still use available channels to voice their opinion about the services or goods they receive.
In fact, more than 50 percent of consumers indicate that they have at one point or another provided unsolicited feedback on review sites in association with a service received. Keep in mind that the stated goal in reviewing businesses is usually altruistic, with customers wanting to help other consumers make educated decisions about their purchase.
In direct contrast to popular myths, the bulk of reviews generated by consumers are generally positive in nature. Only a small percentage represents complaints, rants, and other types of content with negative implications.
Based on our observations and analysis of enterprise-level organizations’ reputation management, these are the reasons why it generally makes the most sense for individual branches or units to manage their own reputation, using brand-wide guidelines but with the empowerment to tackle issues at a more granular level.
Proximity Provides Clarity
In light of negative and positive reviews, nobody is more familiar with the transactional details than the unit providing the service.
When reputation management is handled at unit level, unit managers can quickly investigate the facts associated with negative feedback and easily reply to reviews, highlighting the specifics of the experience based on what each unit has to offer.
Furthermore, through relational engagement, local units are able to better foster customer loyalty. When centralization does take place, oftentimes it becomes virtually impossible to handle escalations promptly, thus exposing the business unit to image issues where the affected reviewer may feel like a delayed response means that the business does not care. Highly successful enterprises know that immediate responses do matter, and often implement a rapid response strategy that is paired with social media management that aims to tackle customer escalations effectively.
Management Must Be Contextualized: Chains Are Not One-Size-Fits-All Reputation
There is no denying that branding, marketing, and standard operational procedures are essential in shaping the image of a business.
However, it is important to note that even the most standardized chains are subject to demographic influence and should seek to tweak their offering in a way that makes sense contextually.
By balancing brand alignment with a good understanding of what drives your local clientele, you can achieve optimal performance at unit level.
Similarly, unit-specific reputation management is nuanced by the understanding of specifics affecting the customer experience. For example, only someone on location could fully grasp the experiential shortcomings associated with a snowstorm or other acts of God. The leaders of each location are familiar with how customers were impacted and can make more accurate decisions on how to respond, empathize, follow up operationally, and what level of remedy needs to be extended.
When it comes to reputation management, context is everything. Empower individual units to manage their online and offline reputation, and chances are the results brand-wide will be synergic in nature.
Sometimes Brand-Wide Changes Simply Don’t Make Sense
If you have ever visited a chain restaurant such as Friday’s, in cities like Chicago, then you are probably aware that parking is not necessarily convenient or free. In contrast, several suburban locations offer generous parking options reflective of the cost of real estate and the specific needs of the demographic they serve.
When you centralize reputation management, the person or persons tasked with representing the brand may not have first-hand experience with the specific struggles of each unit. In the example above, if a reviewer were to complain about parking issues, it would not make sense for a company to make brand-wide changes to the way they handle parking or the direct remedies provided to reviewers who voice a concern specific to parking accommodations.
Reputation management demands that enterprises have the maturity and business know-how to create a strategy that prioritizes the needs of their customers, taking into account demographic and geographic nuances. While there is value in having standards across the board, enterprises need to consider unit-based reputation management. When companies empower every unit to make reputation management-related decisions, brands come out ahead and are able to reward units based on their performance and fix problems in a more unit-specific way, without having to revise the navigational path where no changes are needed.
Multi-unit, enterprise-level reputation management does not need to be insular. Through the use of smart reputation management tools, brands can have access to brand-wide data and leverage said data to make changes that matter, while still allowing each individual unit to shape their destiny based on their own strategic approach.