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Franchisors often depend on their franchise’s reputation and brand image to be successful in the market. Many consumers choose which businesses to buy from depending on online reviews and word-of-mouth. As a franchisor, it is a good idea to understand how you can manage your online reviews and what to do if you find a negative one. Moreover, you should ensure your franchisees are also knowledgeable in this area. This article will detail how you can manage online reviews about your franchise and how to deal with negative reviews

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Monitoring Your Online Reviews

The first step to managing your online reviews is monitoring them. You can see what customers and competitors say about your franchise by monitoring your reviews. Moreover, making this a habit will lay a solid foundation for reputation management in your marketing strategies. A great tip is to identify and monitor the keywords related to your business. 

For example, if you run a fast-food franchise, you may monitor tags such as: 

  • food; 
  • restaurant; and 
  • fries. 

It might be beneficial to develop a plan to identify and monitor the correct keywords for your business.

Furthermore, you may choose to use the following tools for online reputation management:

  • Tagboard;
  • Hashtagify;
  • Tweet binder; or
  • Google alerts.

With such tools, you can set up alerts whenever social networks mention your franchise name or keywords. In addition, you can then read through your reviews and consider customer feedback. For instance, you may find ways to improve your business or identify processes that need improvement significantly. 

Decide Who Manages the Reviews

Your franchise must decide on who will monitor and respond to reviews. You may choose to do this yourself or appoint the task to your staff member. However, the staff member you choose should have:

  • an excellent customer service capability;
  • a friendly writing style;
  • the ability to resolve complaints; and
  • the capability to judge when to refer a review to you.

Furthermore, you should note that some websites may only allow one management response per review. As a result, the quality of your responses must be high and consistent.

Responding to Negative Reviews

Some customers may tweet or post a complaint that warrants a response. Customer complaints about franchises can vary depending on your business. For instance, if you run a fast-food franchise, you may receive complaints about long waits or cold food. As a franchisor, you must deliver a calm response and reassure the customer that it will not happen again. 

Most franchise owners begin by apologising for the negative experience and asking the customer to contact them directly about what they can do to resolve the problem. Furthermore, you can investigate the situation and offer solutions such as a discount or a refund. 

Under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA), customers are entitled to a refund, repair, or exchange if they bought a faulty product. However, you are within your rights to investigate the complaint before offering a remedy.

Your franchise may also choose to respond to positive reviews to strengthen customer relationships. However, unlike with a negative review, it is best not to provide vouchers or discounts for positive reviews. This may be interpreted as bribery, so it is best to avoid this. 

Can You Delete Your Reviews?

Under the Fair Trading Act (FTA), you cannot mislead your customers about your franchise’s goods and services. Therefore, deleting negative reviews can be seen as misleading conduct as reviews assist customers in making informed decisions.

Although, there are some cases where you can delete a negative review. For instance, you may delete a review if it is:

  • harmful;
  • abusive; or
  • offensive.

You may need to apply to the relevant social media site to have the review taken down. 

Legal Action for Negative Reviews

Taking legal action for negative online reviews can be time-consuming and expensive. Therefore, you should consider it should be a last resort. However, your customers cannot make defamatory statements unless they are genuine or honest opinions based on truth. However, sometimes a review may be false and purposely ruin your good reputation. 

Before taking legal action, it is essential to consider whether or not the customer is telling the truth. Moreover, sometimes it is better to focus on developing new positive reviews and new positive customer experiences than taking legal action against a negative review. 

If you wish to take the matter further, you may take action through the Harmful Digital Communications Act. Under the Act, you can take the matter to the District Court and ask for an order against the negative reviews. The Court may order damages, a correction, or the removal of the review. Negative reviews may include:

  • false statements; and
  • repeated online harassment.

Key Takeaways

Your franchise can begin an online reputation management strategy by monitoring online reviews and appointing a staff member to manage and respond to them. As a result, you may instruct your staff member to respond to negative and positive reviews while highlighting room for improvement. However, to avoid being in breach of the FTA, you cannot delete negative reviews unless the District Court orders so under the Harmful Digital Communications Act. Further, before taking legal action against a negative review, you must ensure it is false and worth the time and money. 

If you need help managing your online reviews, you can contact our experienced franchise lawyers to assist as part of our LegalVision membership. You will have unlimited access to lawyers who can answer your questions and draft and review your documents for a low monthly fee. Call us today at 0800 005 570 or visit our membership page

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I delete negative reviews?

You cannot delete negative reviews, or your franchise may be in breach of the FTA. You can only delete the review if you have permission from the courts. 

Do I need to remedy a customer complaint?

You are within your rights to investigate the complaint before offering a suitable remedy. Remedies may include refunds, exchanges, or repairs. 

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