The worldwide coronavirus outbreak has upended nearly everyone’s personal and professional lives in a very short time. With concerns about risking illness, many are opting to stay home, and many businesses have been ruled nonessential and ordered to close temporarily. This leaves businesses in a tough spot; whether or not they have been forced to close, companies are facing a multitude of challenges right now. Disruptions in the supply chain and fewer customers can put a significant amount of stress on an organization, whether a large franchise or small business. However, these challenges also present a golden opportunity for brands to show their human side. Perfect time for businesses to highlight how they are there for customers and employees. It’s also time to make an impact on their community in a time when it really matters. Taking proper franchise reputation management steps will help to ensure that your business emerges from this crisis in a strong, competitive position, retaining the trust of your customers and employees.
1. Be Reassuring
COVID-19 understandably weighs heavily on everyone’s thoughts right now, and while staying home trying to keep themselves occupied, many are turning to brands for a sense of normalcy at this time. No matter the industry, businesses are in a unique position to offer some comfort to their customers. Make sure to inform your customers that your business is following all CDC and state health guidelines, along with whatever other steps you may be taking to protect their health. Additionally, double down on your communication efforts on your blogs, social media, Google My Business posts, and other channels available to you. Being a “friendly face” to your customers online shows you care and builds their trust. For franchises, where the hours or other details may be different from other locations under the same brand, it’s especially important to reassure your customers that you’re on top of all the recent challenges and changes.
2. Keep Your Employees Healthy
Your employees are a crucial component of your business. At this time, many of them are risking their health every day to come into work and keeping your business operational. Make sure to follow all guidelines and take any additional steps possible to protect their health and mental wellbeing during this crisis. Be flexible with employees who may have children home from school or older family members to take care of and consider implementing a work from home policy for your employees if possible. Unhappy and anxious employees cannot perform their best work and your business will suffer as a result. Making their health and safety a priority will not only help to keep your business flowing as smoothly as possible, but this support also shows the public that you value your employees. It showcases your organization’s values and helping your franchise reputation management efforts.
3. Be Prepared to Pivot, and Keep Your Customers Informed
The ever-changing nature of this situation means options available one day may not be available the next. For example, a dine-in only restaurant may have difficulty serving their customers if restaurant dining rooms are ordered to close, and may need to transition to delivery services. Other businesses may switch to curbside pickup only or may close altogether.
You’ll need to quickly update customers and potential customers with new hours, services, location closures, or other news that needs to be updated promptly.
How to Keep Your Business’ News Updated with Customers
If your business has had to suddenly switch hours, delay or cancel some services (like changing from dine-in to take out only), make sure to set up any necessary systems (such as delivery apps) and keep your customers up to date with the latest information regarding any changes to your services. Keep your directory listings up to date with any changes to your business hours and make sure to update your hours on your Google My Business page, as it is the first thing many people will see when they search for your business online. You can also utilize the posting features to update your customers with any changes in your business due to the coronavirus.
4. Be Responsive
In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Google has limited local review functionality, temporarily barring customers from leaving reviews and business owners from replying; however, there are still plenty of places online where customers are leaving reviews. Make sure to respond to both positive and negative reviews as often as possible, as this builds trust and shows that you are invested in your customers’ satisfaction. If you have been neglecting reviews on sites other than Google, now is the time to jump in and start engaging with your customers.
5. Use Franchise Reputation Management Services
Focusing on your business, protecting your employees’ health, and being there for your customers during a crisis is an enormous task, never mind taking the time to manage your reputation online. While designed to protect local listings from negative impact due to shifting business priorities, the recent changes to review functionality due to Google’s COVID-19 policies make it difficult to engage with customers through Google My Business; however, online reviews can often be the defining factor in whether or not a customer chooses your business over your competitors.
It is always recommended to consult experts when managing your business reputation online, as it is an ongoing effort that requires continuous efforts. Now is the time to be proactive and to create customer experiences that generate positive reviews. Let us worry about managing the ever-evolving landscape of online review platforms. Our team has the knowledge and experience to leverage your customer reviews into digital marketing wins for franchises and small businesses. Let us work together to not only survive this crisis but to emerge in a strong position, having preserved your business reputation and principles. Contact us today to learn more about our reputation management services or to set up a consultation.