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Building — and Guarding — Your Online Reputation (Conclusion)

You’re going to get reviews, so handle them well

CHICAGO — Online word of mouth can be a drycleaners best friend or worst enemy — it all depends on how the customer is treated before, during and after the transaction.  

During his webinar “The Power of Reputation Management,” sponsored by the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI), BeCreative360’s Yash Patel broke down the sometimes-complicated issue of online reputation management. In Part 1, we examined why this topic is so important to dry cleaners. Here, for the conclusion, we’ll take a look at ways cleaners can build and maintain this vital element of marketing.

Respond — No Matter What

When a customer leaves a negative online review, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The important thing is to respond correctly to it. “You want to keep it short and simple,” Patel says, “even if it’s the customer’s fault. Some business owners will write long novels going back and forth, arguing with the customer. The best thing you can do is say, ‘Hey, Chris, we’re sorry you had a one-star experience. Someone from the team is going to reach out right away.”

If the customer is new and not in your database, Patel suggests leaving a number in the response where the customer can contact you. Not only does it give the angry customer an option, but it shows others who are reading the review that you care. “A new review reader is going to think, ‘OK, this business owner is doing everything they can to make sure that customer who left a one-star review is able to get the problem fixed or get a refund or whatever it needs to be.’ It’s very important to do that.”

Patel believes that cleaners shouldn’t fear bad reviews because they can serve a bigger purpose. “You can’t impress everyone,” he says. “A balance of reviews makes your business look legitimate.” If there’s a negative or lukewarm review every now and again, he says, it makes the reviewing process look more honest than if a cleaner’s reviews were uniformly — and unrealistically — raving.

Patel urges dry cleaners to respond to both negative and positive reviews. “A lot of people say, hey, ‘I’ve received a five-star review — I don’t need to respond back to it,’” he says. “Responding to reviews is so important, and it’s simple. ‘Hey, Chris, thank you for the five-star review. We really appreciate your great feedback.’ It takes 20 seconds to write that out, and it goes a long way as a business owner.”

Besides being the courteous thing to do — showing a reviewer that you took the time to read what they wrote — it also has an impact on the overall visibility of your business. “Google sees this response as fresh content,” Patel says. “It’s just data that you’re pushing online. Every review that comes in is data, but every response is also data. So, whether it’s a 1-, 2-, 3-, 4- or 5-star review, respond to it. Just a few words. Use the customer’s name, use the date they arrived, and maybe the CSR who assisted them. All of this is important because those are keywords that are going to help your business build its reputation.”

The Power of Messaging

But, while a negative review here and there won’t hurt a business, no cleaner wants a customer to leave his or her store angry — and wanting to publicly vent about it. One way to avoid this is to offer some sort of messaging system, where customers with issues can let you know about it more privately.

“Use a service that allows your customers to message you and let you know about negative experiences,” Patel says. “A messaging tool is important because this way, it’s not going out online and that you, as a business owner, have the ability to fix an issue before it becomes a problem.”

There are three assets that online reviews can provide to a dry cleaner, Patel says, and those who do not take an active role in gathering reviews risk losing them. They are:

Visibility — “You do all these different things,” Patel says. “You Google yourself to check the results. You make sure you’re listed online and that your hours are correct. You have a Google My Business page, a Yelp! Page and a Facebook page. When you do all these different things, you’re building visibility. In many cases, reviews for a business become visible to consumers before they ever click a link. You show up when someone searches ‘dry cleaners near me.”

Accessibility — Because online reviews are now incredibly easy to find, thanks to search engines, mobile apps and review features on platforms such as Facebook, customers looking for information about dry cleaners around them will be able to find you through reviews. “You can’t stop someone from leaving a review on random websites,” Patel says. “It’s going to happen, positive and negative. So, embrace it and accept those reviews. Turn on notifications and, when a new review comes in, respond. That’s it. You’re building your reputation.”

Credibility — Customers like to choose companies with numerous reviews, even if they’re not all five-star entries, rather than companies with only a handful to display. “The ability to read real-life experiences about a service will naturally provide a customer with second-hand experience, and that gives them valuable insights,” Patel says. He also reminds cleaners that a “perfect” score is not the goal. “Nobody is a perfect cleaner,” he says. “You’re going to get negative feedback, and you should embrace it.” While people read negative reviews, they’ll also see if the cleaner responded to them and tried to make things right.

For Part 1 of this series, click HERE.