Since the dawn of business Facebook pages, franchise restaurants have depended on the platform to interact with local consumers. Much as the platform has changed in that time, so too have the interactions– today, an increasing number of those interactions are happening in the form of reviews. As a result, modern local social media managers are forced to double as national brand’s customer care representatives. 

Since national brands are increasingly depending on local social managers to essentially act as customer care reps, how can these large brands ensure continuity of customer care across thousands of franchise locations? It starts with understanding that negative reviews and comments happen, but proper training and support can reduce risk and transform an unhappy customer into a loyal advocate. 

Here are six best practices for franchisers to keep in mind when managing reviews and feedback at the local level.

1. Avoid Cookie-Cutter Responses

A successful reputation management strategy includes as much personalization as possible. When businesses respond to reviews, it shows customers that the business owners understand the feedback and are taking steps to improve. While cookie-cutter responses are convenient, they don’t convey empathy as well as personalized responses do.

2. Ensure Your Responses Are On-Brand

Maintaining a consistent brand voice can be difficult if you have multiple people splitting the task of managing your online presence on multiple local pages. However, technology solutions can help you manage this workflow by providing an approval process to ensure all responses are reviewed before they’re posted.

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3. Grow Your Base of Local Reviews

Reviews build social clout and brand credibility but each review site’s rules for how you get reviews vary. Yelp frowns upon businesses asking for reviews in any form, while Google and Facebook simply don’t want you to do mass solicitation (i.e. sending a mass email to all your contacts asking for a review). 

To get more reviews, ask customers at the end of the transaction, when they reorder, or after they tag you on social media. Making it easy for your customers to respond by creating an easy to navigate platform and direct links to your profile can go a long way. 

4. Respond at the Speed of Mobile

Researchshows that consumers expect responses to their comments and reviews– in fact a growing number of people expect to hear back within 24 hours. On Facebook, your business will receive a “Very Responsive to Messages” badge if you can respond to 90 percent of direct messages within 15 minutes. That’s the speed of mobile, and that’s the kind of responsiveness consumers expect. 

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5. Find Your Ratings Sweet Spot

You might assume that a few negative reviews could destroy your business’ reputation, but that’s not the case. In fact, consumers are suspect of businesses with perfect 5-star ratings. Research shows that more than half of consumers expect between a 3.5 to 4-star rating in order to consider the business. Businesses should always strive to continually increase their number of review because building your base of reviews ensures that one negative review won’t tank your overall star rating.

6. Stay Current to Stay Relevant

The latest research shows that three out of four consumers look at the review date as a measure of relevance. In fact, most consumers only read reviews that were conducted within the past year. This point further emphasizes the need to proactively manage your base of reviews. It’s not enough to have a high-volume of reviews; you must also develop a plan to ensure you’re receiving a steady stream of new reviews.

Customer care is quickly becoming one of the most influential aspects of a local business strategy. In addition to affecting your online reputation, it now also helps determine your SEO ranking. By implementing a customer care strategy that helps you respond quickly and grow your review base you can turn your business’ online reputation into an asset.

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