Before you buy a product or service, you at least do a quick online search, right? Depending on the purchase, though, you might spend hours weighing your options and checking out alternatives online.
As the number of people using their phones, tablets and laptops to research their purchases continues to grow, your business’ online reputation only gets more important.
We listed a few best practices for local businesses to make a good online impression in our post about online visibility for physical therapists: Make sure you have a great website that shows up in search engines, keep your social media pages fresh, and update your listings on online maps services.
However, there’s a big component of your online reputation that you don’t have quite as much control over: Online reviews.
It’s all too easy for people to leave a negative review of your business after a hasty first impression, miscommunication, or mishandled interaction. And these reviews can live forever online, even if they’re unfair or inaccurate.
It’s impossible to ensure that guests always leave your facility feeling happy about their experiences. But you can still take steps to prevent negative reviews from being posted about your business.
Start with the following tactics.
Pay More Attention to the Visitor Experience
Local, brick-and-mortar businesses may have an even trickier job staving off bad reviews than businesses whose product or service never requires an in-person visit.
That’s because reviewers aren’t just evaluating the product or the service for sale. They’re also evaluating the experience they receive on-site.
Visitors may simply walk in the door, decide they don’t like what they see, walk back out and share their experience online. Even if they’re not conscious of how factors like office decor or facility cleanliness affect their impressions, they’re likely still influenced by them. (For more on how these kinds of impressions are formed, check out our post Why You Might Need a Director of First Impressions.)
That’s why the first step to preventing negative reviews is to consciously pay attention to what visitors experience when they arrive.
Many professionals tend to stay focused on the actual product or service that pays their bills, whether it’s an accountant preparing a tax document, a therapist evaluating a client, or a nursing home manager making sure residents are safe and healthy.
But if they fail to pay attention to the other details that help their clients have a pleasant experience, their business will suffer.
Put yourself in the position of your visitors using this post as a guide, and make any improvements necessary.
Make Sure Your Staff Knows How to Handle Complaints
In some cases, visitors don’t even bother complaining in-person first. In other cases, however, staffers may have had a chance to contain the problem, and they didn’t — either because they didn’t notice, didn’t want to deal with it, or didn’t handle it well.
Unfortunately, getting your staff to pay attention and care about visitors’ experiences isn’t exactly a simple task.
It requires a workplace culture that emphasizes the importance of attentiveness to visitors, and one that expects employees to step in and fix potential problems instead of ignoring them. It requires a workplace culture that values criticism and welcomes bad news, and sees them as opportunities to improve.
Although you can’t change culture overnight, it’s certainly possible if leaders consistently demonstrate with their actions, words and money that visitor experience is important. It requires hiring people who have a sense of empathy and professionalism, then treating those characteristics as a central part of job success. It also requires investing in some education or training that could help employees deal with difficult customers appropriately.
Put a Solid Visitor Feedback System in Place
Good damage control tactics often come down to these steps.
- Making sure that a customer feels heard
- Showing them you understand why they’re frustrated
- Demonstrating an effort to help or change what caused the problem
In many cases, if you can provide this right away, visitors won’t feel the need to vent their frustrations online. And if a staffer doesn’t catch a problem quickly enough or handle it properly, there should be other easy alternatives for them to make a complaint.
For example, those in charge of answering the company phone or monitoring voicemail calls should know exactly how to handle and route complaints from upset customers. There should also be a place for feedback or complaints on your website so people can submit their complaints online. And for some companies, it might make sense to place “comment cards” prominently by the exit.
Of course, it’s not enough to simply collect the complaints. There must also be a process to follow up on them, regardless of which channel they come through. This should include an initial response to let the visitor know you’ve received the complaint, and another follow up after the problem is solved (or to make sure that the problem has been fixed on their end).
Get Proactive with Follow-Ups
It’s still a little easier for your customers to go straight to the social media app on their phones and leave a bad review than it is to go online and find your business’ phone number or web site complaint form.
That’s why it can pay off to actively encourage visitors and customers to use the appropriate internal complaint channels.
You can do this with a simple email, text message, or phone call to the visitor after they leave. You can send an official survey, if you’d like, but it works just as well to simply ask how their experience was and encourage them to share any feedback. Then, all they need to do is hit “reply” or verbally let you know if anything is bothering them.
As long as you respond appropriately to that feedback, they may no longer feel the need to leave a review online. And, of course, you’ll also get tons of valuable insights that can improve your business in other ways.Proactively contacting visitors after they leave can prevent bad reviews and lend valuable insights. #receptionistapp Click To Tweet
Of course, in order for you to be able to follow up with facility visitors, you need to get a better handle on who is actually coming in and out of your facility.
This task becomes much easier with the help of visitor management software like The Receptionist.
For example, you can filter reports by time period and by visitor type, then export their contact information so you can follow up with them more easily .
If you have questions about how this could work for your company, we’d be happy to show you how it works in a personal demo. You can also see the program for yourself by starting a free, 14-day trial.
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