The Importance of Reputation Management in the Aesthetic Industry
A business’ reputation has always been an important aspect of growth and success, and that importance has only expanded due to the recent COVID-19 quarantine and reopening. Positive reviews can go a long way in encouraging new clients to contact or visit your practice, while negative reviews can exponentially hurt your practice and discourage potential customers from doing business with you. Remember that the reach of positive and negative feedback is greatly magnified in these times of social media and digital communication. And this is even more exacerbated during the COVID-19 period as competition is fierce and greater numbers of people are home and on digital devices doing research.
In fact, your practice’s reputation is one of the most important and valuable assets of your business. Your reputation is a culmination of how you are viewed by customers/clients, potential employees, and others within your community. Even a small number of negative comments posted in the digital world (even one negative comment) can directly and powerfully impact your practice’s reputation. It is essential that you have a strategy in place to PROACTIVELY manage and deal with any comments posted, especially negative comments.
In today’s digital world, the vast majority of people will seek to read online reviews before visiting your practice, attending an event, or even contacting your practice. Studies show that 85% of people trust online reviews as much as in person testimonials or recommendations, and this information spreads and has a much greater reach through digital mediums. Which means an effective strategy regarding your online reputation is one of the most important aspects of any marketing or business plan.
In essence, here are the most important reasons your practice needs to have a robust reputation management program in place:
- allow your audiences (customers, employees, supporters, investors, etc.) to regularly see the most positive image of your practice.
- develop credibility and trust with your stakeholders – how you react to any negative feedback speaks volumes as to how your practice operates and handles their business.
- understanding the perceptions of your clients – positive and negative reviews will help you gain valuable insight and help you adapt where needed. Remember, perception is often reality when it comes to a client’s experience with your practice.
- ensure that your messaging is relevant – reputation management allows you to receive feedback on the content you are producing.
So how would an effective reputation management program work for your practice? Below are some best practices you should employ to conquer this crucial aspect of continually managing and growing your business:
What exactly do people think of your practice?
It is impossible to manage any negative comments or hits to your reputation if you don’t know what is being said about your business. In the same vein, it is crucial to hear from those who have had a positive experience. Monitoring your practice’s reputation is the first step to a holistic understanding of how your business is perceived by your publics. This includes proactive steps such as soliciting reviews from each client you see at your practice, as well as comprehensive social media monitoring. With this consistent information, from multiple sources and platforms, you can develop a profile of developing trends and patterns. This invaluable information will help you develop protocols and plans to address positive and negative feedback.
Develop a strategic response plan
Now that you have all of the feedback data coming in from multiple sources, it is important that your business have a structured and well-thought-out plan to handle these reviews. This is a crucial step that can often be overlooked or not made a priority. Having all of this feedback is an extremely valuable tool for your practice, but only if you regularly monitor it and respond appropriately. Here are some important questions to ask:
- who at your practice will be responsible for regular monitoring of the reputation management system and feedback?
- who will be empowered to filter these responses and decide which ones will warrant a response (or will they all receive some sort of acknowledgement from your business)?
- has your practice developed some standard protocols as to how you will respond, especially to negative comments or reviews?
- will the responses come from the owner, manager, or another staff person, or will this be dependent on the subject matter of the feedback?
Having these questions answered as you begin a reputation management program will eliminate any confusion or uncertainty as you start to gather information.
Respond properly to negative feedback
If or how you will respond to reviews is especially important when it relates to negative feedback. It is crucial to avoid the knee-jerk reaction of many who want to ignore or delete negative feedback, or on the flip side, respond immediately with a defensive posture that “counter punches” the respondent. Instead, take a deep breath and follow a systematic approach to negative reviews through the well-thought-out reputation management process you have developed.
First, it is highly recommended that you do respond to negative posts or reviews. It is too easy to just ignore it or dismiss the complaint as being unfair or unwarranted. But the impact of negative feedback does not simply go away, whether the response is a public on social media or sent privately through a survey or follow-up.
What is the best way to respond to negative comments? It is of utmost importance to let all of your customers know that you are listening and that you value their feedback. Responding to the person who left a negative comment in a friendly, respectful, and professional tone conveys to all of your clients that you care and are interested in addressing any and all issues. Often, these negative comments can turn into positive interactions and will serve as a wonderful example to all as to how you treat people at your practice (more on this below).
Turn Complaints into Positive Interactions
No one is happy to receive bad news or criticism, but there are opportunities to turn those negative comments into a positive engagement. A reputation management program will allow your practice to interact with the unhappy client and take steps to make it right. Here is where it is crucial to take that deep breath and respond in a way that is respectful, caring, and demonstrates your ability to listen. And remember, in the case of social media and online review platforms, your online responses will be viewed by countless others who are reading through your reviews. You can not only repair the relationship with the disaffected client, but also show many others how you will respond to issues and complaints.
Take some time and really try and understand what the negative reviewer is trying to say to your practice. What was their experience and what led them to take the time to share their negative comments? Was there anything your practice could have done to avoid this issue (and thus prevent it from happening again)?
Don’t Ignore Positive Reviews
While we have been focusing on the negative reviews, it is certainly important to also read and recognize the positive reviews. Positive reinforcement is essential to share with your staff, as well as other important audiences of your practice. These positive testimonials are also tremendously effective in marketing and promoting your practice. A big part of your reputation management strategy is to proactively seek feedback from your clients, and then strategize about how to share and disseminate positive comments. You should be confident in your practice, services, and products, so that in soliciting feedback, you will also be confident in receiving many more positive than negative reviews.
Follow Through with Responses
Now that you have developed a smooth system for receiving and responding to positive and negative feedback, it is important that you are consistent and honest with any promises made. If a client shared a negative review and you offered to contact them to discuss, be sure to schedule this asap and make it a priority. Similarly, if you offered a client a replacement product or another service at a discounted rate, ensure that they have received this offer and it is being executed. This cannot be overemphasized – remember that your online reputation is public, and people are watching. If it is at all possible, avoid a second negative review from a client who is now unhappy with your less-than-stellar follow-up to their initial issues. Don’t skimp on the time and effort required to make things right with those clients that have left a negative review. Instead, invest in making these situations right, improve and change where needed internally at your practice, and show the world that you are committed to continually improving.
Monitor Your Results
A solid reputation management program will include a robust set of tools to help you evaluate and measure how your practice is perceived by former, current, and potential clients. Having accurate and up-to-date data allows you to track your scores and see progress as you implement your reputation management program. It is also important that the analytics available to you and your staff are presented in a way that are clear, concise, and manageable. A busy practice needs this brand reputation information handy and available, but it also must be easy to read and interpret. Don’t get bogged down in complicated and unnecessary data reports that only serve to confuse and overwhelm you and your staff. Instead, work with a reputation management firm that will cut through the clutter and provide you with a snapshot of your reviews and results. This will help you to establish regular check-ins with your reputation scores and insure you are moving in the right direction.
Remember, most potential clients will now seek online feedback to assess if they should consider taking the next step with your practice. The scary part about all of this is that your online reputation is a compilation of past and current clients sharing their experience with your brand. It is up to you to take control of how you are perceived and be proactive with your practice’s reputation management. There is no need to worry or lose sleep over this process . . . engage a solid reputation management service and take advantage of the opportunity to positively interact with your clients online. Acara Engage, a sister company to the Aesthetic Business Institute, offers the highest level of reputation management services to help your practice. More details are found by clicking here or by calling 203-488-0028.