The term reputation management (RM) grates on me a bit, I must admit. I hear really smart people from chief marketing officers to club operators talk about RM as a stand-alone approach to social media review sites. How should we handle bad reviews? Who should handle them? How do we get more good reviews? It’s as though the reputation of the company is a review sites issue that can be solved by responding to bad reviews, getting people to talk to you outside the review sites and by sending your happy customers (perhaps from internal customer experience systems) out to review sites. If you consistently get bad reviews, managing your reputation isn’t the challenge. Changing your reputation is.
It is also important for all operators to recognize that all review sites prohibit incentivizing reviews and prohibit the practice of pushing only your happy customers to their review sites. Google is explicit about this. People trust reviews sites only as long as they know the information is truly representative of the experience. Review sites must protect their own reputation by enforcing their policies. If you are in the practice of only pushing your promoters to review sites, you should stop in order to avoid issues with review site companies.
Onward, RM should be a piece of a larger total loyalty management initiative. This doesn’t start “out there” on review sites. It starts “in here” in your operations. Your daily operation is represented by the interactions of your people with your customers and how that complex dance plays out. People give bad reviews when a club is dirty, disorganized, unfriendly and when policies and practices seem opportunistic to the member.
Total loyalty management starts by internally measuring the member experience on a daily and continuous basis across the entire member journey, putting that information into the hands of the frontline teams running the club and constantly using the information to drive continuous improvement.
Your next step is to understand the employee experience and to harvest frontline team member ideas for improving the member and employee experience.
With these systems and programs in place, a large portion of members with negative feedback will give it to you internally without going out to review sites.
We should encourage reviews from our members, and the process can be automated within your voice of customer system. Research shows that customers tend to have an “inside” voice and an “outside” voice. You may have a long-term member that is unhappy about something and they tell you so in your VOC system with low scores and some negative commentary. But when encouraged to do an online review, they are likely to give you a good review and reference the good side of your business. When all members in your VOC system are encouraged to give you reviews, the volume of reviews as well as the amount of positive reviews will increase. Moreover, you will not be violating the terms of your review sites.
If you take a total loyalty management approach to RM by operationalizing the voice of customer, voice of employee and by activating your customer base to do reviews, you will be building your reputation instead of defending it.
Treating bad review sites scores by trying to get rid of negative reviews and by trying to send happy customers to your review sites is like trying to out-exercise a really bad diet. Instead, change your diet.