Reputation, Reviews, and Customer Feedback During COVID-19

Right now, just about everything in our current social and business life is changing day by day and often hour by hour. And while there are very important topics, themes, and news items that have our attention with Coronavirus, many businesses are working hard to adjust to a very dynamic situation.

As a small business ourselves we are cheering for you, supporting you, and wanting to do our part in getting us all to the other side of this. And there is the other side of this.

A Dense Marketing Fog

It’s easy to describe everyone’s current situation as a “marketing fog” with very limited vision and a haze for making decisions. What type of marketing and frequency is OK given our current situation? Without a doubt, it’s a time to tread lightly, think like a human first, but still work like mad to keep your business going.  

We can’t lift the fog, but we do hope to provide some strategy and tactics you can rely on related to listening to your customers. There is still a place for customer feedback and reputation management through all of this. If ever there was a time to listen to your customers, this is it. 

Adapting To Change

Last Friday, Google announced that they have paused new reviews and review replies. This decision was driven by a reduced workforce due to COVID-19 and the need for Google to focus on managing business listings information rather than reviews. We believe that this is a temporary move on Google’s part, as reviews remain a key feature in Google My Business (GMB).

Many consumers won’t even notice this change. Customers can still leave reviews on Google and they will see them when they are logged in, but Google has stopped the reviews from displaying on the GMB profile. 

But, this is yet another change in a time of so many new changes. Being prepared and maintaining an open mind on how to adapt during this novel time is key.

Yelp has announced further moderation of their reviews at this time, but no other review site has made any other specific changes or seems positioned to do so.

So let’s look at where to keep your focus right now, where to adapt, and how to maintain some calm in your reputation management.

1. Listen To Your Customer

It doesn’t matter where your customers will talk, share, or post their thoughts, but it does matter that you know how they feel. Customer feedback and 1st-party reviews direct to your business is the best way to know the voice of your customer. While reviews on sites like Google or the BBB help with your marketing, your customer’s feedback helps with your business.

Make sure you have both proactive and passive methods for customers to talk to you on their experience, needs, praise, ideas, and criticism.  

  • Feedback buttons, links or other CTAs on your website
  • Enable the “Give Feedback” button on your Review Widget
  • Feedback options shared on your social media channels
  • Feedback Locator for multi-locations
  • If you still can accept customers in-store, post your TextBack number

Make it easy for customers that want to share with you to do it. You need to know now more than ever what your customer thinks. But you need to give as much control as possible to them. 

2. Prioritize Facebook Recommendations (Reviews) and Industry Review Sites

With social distancing, many are taking to social media and sites like Facebook to interact, share, and support each other. Customers posting about your business, sharing that they purchased from you or writing a Facebook Recommendation (their version of a review) might be the best marketing you can have right now. 

Google reviews are on pause so if you are in a business that is able to continue providing customer services, prioritizing asking for Facebook Recommendations as a review source is a great move. We always preach maximizing the value of a review and in this case, a Facebook Recommendation will give you a review, marketing, and a way to listen to your customers. 

Outside of Facebook, many other review sites exist for you to shift your focus to for the time being. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is one along with many other industry review sites. A great way to find out these options is to search Google for “your business name + reviews” and see what sites appear on pages 1 and 2. Shift your review requests to these.

While it is a delicate situation in which to ask for reviews, most customers want you to succeed and they understand that they can help you do so. 

3. Request Ideas and Insight Over Reviews

The landscape for how many businesses conduct their sales process and customer experience is pivoting quickly. What is the best way to find out how to serve your customers right now? Ask them.

We started using GatherUp in an alternate way last week to help a couple of our clients and it’s already paying off for them. Instead of asking for reviews, we used Ultimate mode and our survey questions to gauge interest in various changes to the business.

For Evelyn’s Wine Bar, we used their survey to find out how customers might purchase from them with their normal dining and seating shut down. Sharing the Feedback URL on Facebook, Evelyn’s captured over 50 responses in just a few days.

Our adjusted survey helped them understand if customers were interested in food delivery or curbside pick-up, what times they were likely to order, and also helped them capture new ideas they instantly implemented like adding a kids menu.

For brick-and-mortar business that is starting to map out how to shift from an open showroom to other options, it is worth exploring what customers want and need. Using our Ultimate Mode and survey questions to discover if consumers would do virtual consultations, Facetime, or private appointments is helping shape their next business decisions. 

Interestingly, when surveyed most people patronizing this business preferred the showroom being open by appointment only and the fewest liked video conferencing with postal delivery. As the situation changes and develops expect customers needs to as well. Don’t assume that what they say now is the final word; stay in touch.

4. Be The Best Source Of Your Reviews

Your business might have reviews scattered across half a dozen sites.  Bringing them all into one place gives you endless benefits. Using our Review Widget, Tag Widget(s) and their many options is a great way to market your reputation.

  • Trusted content to win over prospects
  • Fresh content to your website supplied by your customers
  • Keyword and topically rich content for prospects and SEO
  • Display of your review replies to show you listen, care and resolve issues
  • Reviews grouped by brand, location or services/products/keywords

With changes like Google’s possible from others, maximizing what you control directly is the best option. Bringing all of your reviews, both 1st-party and 3rd-party, into the business website that you control is a must. 

5. Doing a Deep Dive To Learn From Your Past Reviews

Now might be a great time to take inventory of your review history and analyze them further. GatherUp has a number of features to help you break down your reviews individually, by themes, or by site.

Our Insights Report is powered by IBM Watson and helps identify keywords and their sentiment in your reviews. Additionally, it breaks down what terms impact your reputation in a positive or negative manner.

IBM Watson report

One exercise would be taking those key terms, building out auto-tagging and then filtering your customer activity screen by tag type is a great way to break down your Net Promoter Score by a topic, not just by location.

  • Add more sites to your review monitoring to capture all of your reviews in one place for the history of your business
  • Use insights report to identify the biggest themes and impacts
  • Read every review manually to get closer to the customer experience
  • Set-up auto-tagging to create themes (based on the above items)
  • Set-up or change your survey questions (based on the above items)

Staying Connected With Your Customers

All of these outline ways you can stay connected with your customers during this time. As we touched on, we will all be facing change and the call to adapt in the coming weeks. The GatherUp team will be working to put out more information, ideas, and tips for you.

Please reach out to our support team at [email protected] with any questions or how to adjust what you are doing or to take advantage of what we have outlined above.

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