Managing reviews can be a challenge for businesses with a single location, so when you have multiple locations or a franchise model, the effort is multiplied. Responding to reviews is an important task in maintaining your brand’s reputation. Fortunately, with a well-planned strategy, you can make tackling the challenges of managing reviews across multiple locations easier for your team.
According to BrightLocal’s 2019 consumer review survey, 82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses and of those who read them, 97% read the businesses’ responses to them. Managing reviews are not only part of maintaining brand reputation, they’re also paramount to sales. That’s why it’s essential for businesses of all sizes to find a way to stay on top of their reviews.
With the right tools and a solid plan, review management doesn’t have to be the headache you might imagine it to be. Whether you’re researching possible strategies or reviewing your current one, we’ll cover the considerations you should take for multi-location review management.
Multi-location models for managing reviews
Multi-location can mean two different things: you’re a corporate office with franchise locations or you’re a business with multiple locations. Either way, the two models below are options for review management. A possible third model would be blending these two.
Corporate manages all reviews
Your first choice is having the corporate office manage all the reviews, whether it’s a franchise or multi-location. In this scenario, the corporate office has a marketing or customer service team that can handle the volume across all locations. The benefit is that you control the brand image, communication and responses. You also are able to track analytics easier because it’s all managed in the same place.
The downside to corporate managing reviews is that corporate doesn’t know everything that is happening in each location. Depending on the type of incident, it might take more time for corporate to research and decide how to handle it than if the location’s manager had immediately responded.
The individual location manages reviews
The next choice is to have the individual location manage their own reviews. In the franchise model, some locations are given free rein on their marketing and customer service. The corporate office might send a plan or strategy document but the location is still the first to look at and respond to reviews. When individual locations manage their own reviews, they tend to be instant feedback to the managers, who can quickly correct any mistakes.
On the other hand, you risk brand dilution. Your company could have 90 successful locations and 10 poorly reviewed ones, but the poorly reviewed ones that don’t successfully align with your strategy may continue to stand out and define your brand.
What to consider when creating a franchise review strategy
How do you decide which review model is the best for your business? There are several components that you need to consider.
Who is managing the workload?
If you’re a small local cafe chain where locations are carbon copies of each other, it might make more sense to let corporate take the reins on review management. A centralized person or team could easily manage a few locations’ reviews.
If locations vary from each other or you have hundreds of locations, then the individual location’s manager might make more sense to be the point person for reviews. Having individual locations manage their reviews means that you need to have a designated person or team at that location with proper training. That work needs to be factored into their day. Corporate might provide oversight and note trends across locations but it’s still on the location manager to execute.
How much control does corporate need?
As we mentioned before, brand reputation is one of the reasons for managing reviews. The more people who are involved in the review process, the more you risk brand dilution. If corporate handles all of the reviews, then responses will be similar across all locations. But if franchise locations are given more freedom in their management, then reviews would fall under their workload, so they’ll need the bandwidth to handle them and the training to represent your brand identity well.
How much friction will be created by your strategy?
No one likes red tape. Ideally, reviews are responded to promptly and if needed, solutions are offered to the consumer. What you don’t want is having a corporate office read the review, talk to the location about it, have a meeting to discuss options, respond to the review and then have the location handle the solution when the customer comes in again. It’s a lot of back and forth that might take up valuable time. Sometimes, the easiest solution is best.
Where are the locations?
The more locations you have across more demographics, the more you will need local support. A bakery with two local locations would usually have just one main team that handles general management. But when you cross cities or states or even countries, you wade into different cultures and demographics. Those on the ground at the individual location will be more in tune with the customers submitting reviews than the corporate office that might be thousands of miles away.
Which industry are you in?
Some industries lean more into a need for centralized review management than others. Think about how you currently manage your social media profiles and customer service requests.
A clothing or technology store that has the same inventory and store training for each location would do well with corporate managing reviews. This way, they’ll be able to collect information on which products aren’t working well and note those trends. Reviews based on location are not as important as reviews based on the products that they’re selling.
The hospitality industry, however, does rely on individual locations performing well and tracking the differences between them. One hotel location’s experience could vary drastically from another’s, even under the same brand name. It is also an industry where quick responses are desired. You don’t want to wait a week before hearing about someone’s poor stay at your hotel.
Setting up review sites for multiple locations
Whichever review management model you’ve chosen, you still have to establish your active presence on the various review sites. If your business or location has been around for a while, it’s very possible that a listing already exists on a review site even if no one has claimed it. Depending on the industry you’re in, Yelp and TripAdvisor are also important sites to claim your business on.
Google My Business
Google My Business reviews show up in various places connected to Google such as the search results sidebar and Google Maps. If the location is established on several review sites, Google will average out the star rating. Keywords are also pulled out from reviews and highlighted. To manage your reviews, you’ll need to set up your Google My Business account and verify your business.
Facebook has the same format for both kinds of multi-location business models. There’s a main company Page and then you have the ability to add locations. Each location is also a Page that can be individually managed, if desired.
When you click on “More” in Pep Boys’ main Page bar, you’ll see Stores, which will lead you to a map of all of their stores. Each location marked leads to its own Page where the individual location manager can reply to the reviews. Alternatively, corporate can still handle reviews.
Managing multiple location reviews
There are ways to make it easier for everyone to be on the same page on review management even for a large chain business. Here are a few ideas on how to better manage your reviews across locations or franchises.
Review management tools
To blend management strategies, Sprout’s enterprise solutions include adding multiple social profiles, review sites and locations all under one account. It’s the best of both worlds: corporate can track performance and trends and even reply or allow permissions for individual locations.
Covering Facebook, Google My Business, TripAdvisor and Glassdoor, one location can see all of their reviews in one place. Using a tool like this will help you streamline your efforts and put your focus where it’s most important: responding to reviews.
Another important part of Sprout’s enterprise solutions is the Asset Library. Not only does it include image storage that can be easily shared across locations, but it also contains the Saved Replies feature. Saved Replies are essentially template replies for the most common messages that you receive, such as frequently asked questions you know your customers often have. For reviews, corporate can add these Saved Replies so that individual locations can use them as a starting point and customize as needed. This keeps the core information consistent and accurate, while allowing personalization for the specific conversation.
Create a review management strategy
To make sure everyone’s on the same page for multiple locations or franchises, creating a review management strategy is the best thing you can do.
This way, everyone is synced on what different types of reviews require in responses. Perhaps in a Level One category where reviews are positive, the individual location can manage. And then in a Level Five category where it’s a major complaint that might be a trend across locations, it’s an automatic escalation to corporate.
Create templates & a brand voice guide
For common complaints and praises, you’ll find yourself repeating the same thing over and over again. This is where reply templates come in. Having corporate create these templates will help keep your brand more consistent.
If the individual location is allowed some freedom in their replies, then creating a brand voice guide will be helpful. This way, all customers will receive the same general brand personality whether it’s from a location in Miami or in Boston.
Analyze the reviews
All this management work needs to have concrete results. You can’t tell if a strategy is successful without looking at its analytics. When you look at the reports, you’ll be able to note important things like product trends, interests and common friction points. Perhaps multiple stores have reviews about how a pizza topping is not up to par. That would be cause for an investigation into the topping supplier.
To help figure out your reports, Sprout’s tagging feature allows you to create tags and tag any message. The resulting report can help you spot trends in volume among different types of tags, whether you set these up to represent new products, recurring complaints or customer issues of different severity.
Are you feeling ready to take on multi-location review management? Sign up for a Sprout demo to see how you can easily manage reviews for any type of business model.