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Online Reputation Management: Responding to Online Reviews

Online Reputation Management: Responding to Online Reviews

How to best manage your online reputation and respond to customer reviews.

In the world of professional cleaning, online reputation management is the number one indicator of your potential business growth. No matter how well you hire, train, market, or sell your business, customers are now trained to reflexively Google any service they hire, even if it's just to find their contact information.

If your potential clients are greeted with anything less than 4.5 stars, their ears will immediately perk up and click to find out what went wrong. If the reviews they find are a laundry list of your past mistakes, you can pretty much kiss that lead goodbye, even if they were previously ready-to-close referrals.

This is why active online reputation management and speedy responses to online reviews are THE critical first step to any cleaning business marketing plan.

Mismanaged Google reviews 

While the task seems simple enough, soliciting and responding to online reviews is a delicate art that can easily do more harm than good in the wrong hands. Everyone has likely seen the unfortunate result of a mismanaged Google review page, which usually falls into 2 categories: the Graveyard or the Car Crash.

The Graveyard

On Graveyard pages, business owner neglect allows their reputation to run wild. Heartfelt positive reviews collecting dust without so much as a thank you and multi-paragraph tirades burning the business is effigy stand tall without so much as an apology or explanation.

Consumers have no choice but to conclude that every nasty story is true and the owner just doesn't care.

The Car Crash

On Car Crash pages, business owners swing to the other extreme, shamelessly engaging in flame wars with their unhappy customers in full public view.

Whether it's airing their customer's dirty laundry saying, "we charged extra because your home was so disgusting," or deflecting responsibility with guilt saying, "we've bent over backward for you. How could you try to ruin us," the effect is ALWAYS the same. People are now DRAWN to watching the carnage, reading and remembering the negative review they might have otherwise skimmed over.

Even if the owner "wins" a debate on a Car Crash page, they've lost any customer who reads it because they've proven that their clients' privacy is only one disagreement away from being publicly betrayed.

Hiring a cleaning service requires a huge amount of vulnerability, as it requires allowing a stranger to see your property at its dirtiest. The thought of being outed for their filth is a huge fear for most clients, so the second they see it's a real possibility with this business, they'll leave, looking for another company they can trust.

Managing Positive Reviews

Luckily, these poor examples make teaching the right way to manage a review page easier and crystal clear. A properly managed review page has simple, clear themes: gratitude, positivity, accountability, and protection of privacy.

For gratitude and positivity, you want to respond to reviews as quickly as possible with an enthusiastic tone that shows you care about your customers and their experience. By claiming your Google business page, you can receive notifications of new reviews so that you can tend to them quickly.

Positive reviews should be answered with gratitude and humility online and on the phone. Writing a couple of sweet standard responses beforehand makes cutting and pasting a reply easy when you are in a time crunch (but don't lean on them too often, or it becomes obvious).

Written Responses

Heartfelt comments prove to potential clients how kind and appreciative you are, just the sort of person everyone wants to be taken care of when hiring for a vulnerable task.

A sample response would be something like this:

“Awww, thank you so much for this wonderful review! I can’t wait to share it with your cleaner, Jane, as I know compliments like this mean so much to our staff after all the hard work they put in.

Personally, it means a lot to me, too, as reviews like this are what assure potential new Maid to Last customers they’ll get the top-notch service and care they deserve, so your kind words are helping grow my business and put bread on the table of my amazing staff and my own family. From the bottom of all our hearts, thank you!”

Phone Responses

When you call to thank the customer personally, it not only solidifies the client relationship, it makes them want to recommend you to even more people, write reviews on other sites, make referrals in person, and more—so long as you ask for help during the call!

Don’t feel weird or greedy about asking for more help, as they’ve already demonstrated an interest in helping your business and letting others know how great you are. Bait your hook while the fish are biting! Every script should be unique and authentic, but the conversation should sound something like this:

“I wanted to call you right away, Mrs. Smith, to tell you that I just saw your Google review and am smiling from ear to ear. Thank you so much for taking the time to say such lovely things about us!

<pause for client response>

I am printing it out right now to share with your cleaner, Jane, as I know she’ll be so touched. Our cleaners are amazing and work so hard, and I tell them so every day, but it means so much more when a client takes the time to tell them, so thank you for helping me make our cleaners feel valued and appreciated, as they really are.

<pause for client response>

I’ll be honest, as much as all our clients love our service, they all hired us because they’re busy, so most of them are too distracted to remember to write reviews or refer us to their friends. I know you have a full plate too, which makes your taking the time to help us so special.

If you ever have a moment to share these lovely words again anywhere else, on another review site or social media, or even just in passing conversations around town, please know every time is such a huge help and makes sure I can keep all our cleaner's hours full.

<pause for client response>

Thanks again so much.”

Ask For Reviews

Again, if you don't see as many positive reviews as you’d like, you need to ask for them. Don’t let your shyness deprive your cleaners of the hours and growth opportunities they deserve. “Faint hearts never won fair ladies,” as Shakespeare explained, goes double for online reviews.

Anytime you speak to a happy client, consider it an opportunity to slip in a request for a review. Whenever you reach out via phone, text, or email to ask how they're enjoying their cleaning, if they respond happily, immediately ask if they’d be kind enough to share those words of praise they just shared on Google or social media.

Be careful about blanket emails to clients soliciting reviews, including links to the pages or promising compensation or discounts for reviews, as Google is smart enough to notice a bunch of traffic suddenly landing on your page without searching for it and suppresses your page if they think they’ve caught you stuffing the ballot box.

Your goal is a slow and steady stream of happy clients, not occasional tsunamis.

The conversation will sound almost identical to the script above for calling clients who have left a good review. Start by saying you’re calling to check in to make sure they’re happy.

When they inevitably say "yes," launch into the thank you so much and, “I’ll be honest, as much as all our clients love our service, they all hired us because they’re busy...” and continue the script from there, asking them to say their kind words to the world.

In reality, you’ll be lucky if 25% of the people you ask remember and bother to do it. So you need to make asking a standard spiel you automatically launch into whenever you find the opportunity.

If you are really low on reviews and desperate to get a baseline started fast, you can sneak an incentive into the mix by making it an incentive for your cleaners, not your customers!

If you tell your clients you're running a bonus program for your cleaners, that if their customer mentions them by name in a positive online review, they get $25, most clients will happily hop online to help earn their favorite cleaner free money.

Again be careful how many people you send this to at once so you don’t flood Google and get flagged.

Managing Negative Reviews

Now that you’ve nurtured the good reviews and learned to farm a steady stream of future ones, it’s time to face the haters.

Negative reviews are the trickiest situation, especially when you are a new business. Each one has such a damaging effect on your star rating and practically begs to be read by anyone visiting your review page.

Your long-term goal is to have a steady stream of positive reviews that the negative ones get buried below the scroll as fast as possible, and the overwhelming evidence still points to your being a great service.

The sister goal is to put better systems in place to reach out to clients for feedback and address their needs before they explode online. Even when the day comes that you have tons of great reviews and strong customer feedback systems, promptly and effectively managing negative reviews will still be critical, as every review you can fix only improves your overall rating and appearance.

Managing negative reviews comes in three clear steps: Public Display of Enthusiastic Accountability, Take it Off Line, Get it Taken Down.

Written Reviews

As soon as the negative review comes in, you want to respond quickly in a way that expresses commitment to excellence, concern for customer satisfaction, respect for privacy, and a desire to find a resolution.

An example of this would be:

“We are so sorry to hear that you were dissatisfied with your cleaning experience. At Maid to Last, we understand that cleaning satisfaction is subjective, and what feels great to one customer may not feel clean enough to another, so we are always happy to reclean any portion of our work that isn’t to our client’s personal taste, so long as they inform us within 48 hours of the cleaning.

We will be calling you today to resolve this issue, but feel free to call us at 000-000-0000 if you see this message beforehand! Thank you for sharing your honest feelings and giving us the opportunity to become an even better service!”

You’ll notice this message never addresses their actual complaints and says if they are true or not. It doesn’t get into he said, she said, and stays squarely focused on feelings, not actions.

At that moment, it doesn’t matter if their cleaning was perfect. What matters is they don’t “feel” happy, and the message expresses your disappointment about their feelings, not at your employee performance or your business.

There’s no bashing of the clients, no bashing of the cleaner, no apologizing for poor work, no complaining about the initial conditions of the property. Just a focus on how they feel and how to fix it.

This message makes any reader confident that your business is engaged, rational, eager to please, on top of its operations, and ready to correct problems as they arise while not getting into public tit-for-tats. Even if the above review is terrible, this will take the wind out of their sails considerably.

Getting Reviews Removed

Now that damage control is managed for the moment, the goal is to track down the client and make them happy enough to pull down their review.

This can be difficult, as sometimes reviews are very anonymous, so it's critical to respond to negative reviews quickly and deduce which clean they’re complaining about.

Once you’ve hopefully isolated the upset client, reach out over every medium you have to get a hold of them fast, as they might be rearing to leave nasty reviews on multiple sites if you wait too long. If you're sending emails or texts, avoid the temptation to resolve the matter in writing, as text never properly expresses tone, causing further escalation when someone already angry reads your words in their worst light.

The messages should read very similarly to the template response above for negative reviews, saying you’re sorry they’re upset, your business is committed to client satisfaction, and you want to speak to them ASAP to make it right.

Schedule a Re-Clean

Once you get a hold of them live, now comes the artful dance of angry client diffusion. Remember, in this tango, the goal isn’t to be right; it’s to simmer the client down enough and make them feel they've gotten enough that they’re willing to take down the review.

If you’re one of those people that gets all up in their feelings about being right and doing what’s fair, remind yourself that the priority is what’s fair for your CLEANERS who don't deserve to lose potential new client hours because you couldn’t manage your ego for one phone call.

During the call, try to steer the conversation away from a full rehash of what went wrong, as clients are likely to rile themselves up by restating events or listening to you explain them in a varnished manner.

Instead, focus the client on what would make them feel better going forward, not what made them feel crummy in the past that you can’t fix without a time machine.

The conversation might start something like this:

“Mrs. Smith, I'm so happy I finally reached you. I read your review this morning and have been trying to get a hold of you all day, as nothing makes me more upset than seeing one of our clients anything less than thrilled with our service!

I want to assure you that I'm not calling to get into he said, she said. At the end of the day, what matters to me is that you received a clean from Maid to Last and left the experience dissatisfied, which for me, is the worst-case scenario.

I know that my staff and I work really hard every day to make sure all our clients love our service, so I want to get this fixed ASAP so all of our hard work isn’t in vain and you get the amazing cleaning you deserve for your hard-earned money too.

Rather than rehash what happened, I want to find a resolution that feels fair and satisfying to everyone. Usually, for most clients, we offer to re-clean for free the areas that were not done to their satisfaction and then make careful notes in their file, so we can clean to their taste going forward.

Can we schedule a free re-clean for you for tomorrow?"

Partial Refunds

Some clients may have already fixed the issues themselves, or the window they needed the work done in has already passed (like cleaning before a party), in which case they may rightly refuse any re-cleaning.

In these cases, you may want to explore offering a partial refund on the service. This obviously will sting, especially if you know your employees' work was excellent, but remember that every hour that bad review stays live costs you far more than the discount, so keep your eyes on the prize.

Depending on how many reviews you have and how deep a discount the client is haggling for, you may have the power to walk away and let the negative review stand with your initial reply. But if you’re review page is light, discounting up to a free clean may be worth getting the review pulled.

As you discuss with the client, you might say things like:

“From reading your review, it seems like you were happy with a majority of the work, but some critical items were not done to your taste. Would a 33% refund feel like fair compensation for those items that were not cleaned to your satisfaction?”  

Once you land on a number where they sound satisfied, you can ask directly yet respectively:

“I’ve refunded $XX to your credit card. It should appear within Y business days.

Now that we have this matter resolved, I humbly ask that you’d consider removing or amending your review to reflect our diligent efforts to make this right. We’re a small business that lives and dies by our reputation. Negative reviews really impact our ability to give our cleaners the hours they need. So it’s important to ensure the reviews on our page reflect all the work we put into making our clients happy, even if it sometimes takes a couple of tries.

Thank you either way, in advance, for considering making that update for us, and thank you for giving us a chance to make this right and learn from this experience how to be an even better company. Bye.”

Reputation Management is a Marathon

At the end of the day, even if you follow all the steps listed above, you can never get 100% 5-star reviews and every negative comment taken down. The key is to remember that online reputation management is a marathon, not a sprint, so if you stay diligent and do the work at a steady pace, eventually, you will see the results, growing your online review page like a seasoned farmer.

Just keep planting the seeds for the good review and pulling the weeds as soon as they sprout, and you’ll have a bounty of customer leads to harvest in no time!

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