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Spa MARKETING: Manage Your Online Reviews
Manage your spa's reputation with a strategy of staff surveillance and innovative software programs.
When was the last time you walked by a new restaurant and decided to make a reservation to eat there, without knowing anything about it? That is likely a rare occurrence. In the pre-Internet days, you would ask your circle of friends what they knew about any new venue, whether a restaurant, hotel, retail store or even a doctor’s office and, chances were, someone would know someone who had some appraisal information. Today, we don’t need to “know” anyone to gain such knowledge; we need only type the name of the business into our web browser and, voila!—the feedback we seek appears.
With that new capability, however, come some potential pitfalls, particularly for the business owner who strives to maintain a stellar reputation. Thanks to the Internet, you are now more vulnerable to the damage that just a single negative review can wreak. Online search statistics tell the story:
• 245 million Americans are online.
• Eight out of 10 use reviews for local purchases.
• Google is the conduit for three billion “local” searches per month.
• 78% of consumers believe it is very important to glean information about businesses online before deciding to do business with them.
Why do consumers use online reviews? Simple. They find them to be accurate. In a recent poll conducted by Alterian, only 8% of U.S. consumers trusted what a business said about itself, while 87% consulted friends, family, and professional and online reviews to gain information about a business.
And so, now you find yourself with yet another task that didn’t even exist five years ago—continually monitoring the online reputation of your day spa business. If you experience a sinking feeling when confronted with the volume and quality of your spa’s online reviews, here are some solutions to help you to take matters into your own hands and shape the online reputation of your spa business.
Let’s assume that you’re on top of your search engine optimization (SEO) and that when a consumer searches for your spa online, they can FIND it. And when they do, what comes back is a mixed bag of reviews on the spa experience you are currently providing. In the “old days,” we used to say that one angry customer could, within one week, infect up to 75 other customers. Nowadays, we wish that were the case! You’ve probably felt frustrated by the power of one disgruntled customer to influence the future purchases of not just dozens, but hundreds, of people. Since humans are attracted to negativity and drama like bees to honey, one bad review or tweet can go viral in a matter of hours.
But positive reviews garner plenty of influence, too. Look, for example, at the power that has been wielded by Yelp; in just six years that review site has managed to amass 20 million reviews of stores and services. Harvard Business School professor Michael Luca recently performed a detailed study of the impact of Yelp reviews on restaurants in Seattle over a six-year period, and found that a one-star increase in rating on Yelp led to a 5% to 9% increase in revenue.
So what’s an owner to do? From the moment the customer finds your spa during an online search, on to the initial phone call, actual booking of an appointment, arrival at the spa, multiple steps of the actual treatment and finally, the checkout experience, the guest will encounter numerous staff members and systems in your business. Each of these “touch points” carries the ability to delight or disappoint your spa guest. It isn’t enough to develop a comprehensive training program, make your staff aware of customer service protocols, and then sit back and cross your fingers, hoping for the best for each and every client.
One of the first rules for the new world we live in is that someone has to be responsible for monitoring the online reputation of your spa, aka your online identity. This starts with your website; when a client types your spa name into a browser, is your own URL in the first page of results? Does your spa present a user-friendly and intuitive web experience? What other sites do you link to? Then there’s your social media presence, which for most spas consists of a Facebook business page, Twitter and perhaps Pinterest.
And then, of course, come all of the review sites on which your spa might be mentioned. It is crucial that you stay on top of these conversations, and intervene before they get a chance to go viral. You can use Google Alerts or Yext to monitor online mentions, preferably on a daily basis. The only problem is, if something negative comes up, these services don’t help to remedy the situation.
Given that online search is now a key component of the decision-making process for a prospective client, spa management must take an active role in shaping its own online reputation. And having zero negative reviews isn’t enough. Suppose a potential client searches for your spa online, finds it, and then discovers only three reviews. Sure, they’re all positive—but they’re also all several months old. This does not necessarily encourage that client to book an appointment with you. Actively cultivating reviews will result in a greater number of them, and there are software programs to help you do this.
GenBook is an online appointment scheduling and marketing solution that helps businesses connect more meaningfully with customers and, therefore, drive revenue. The GenBook system automatically generates an email to a client who has scheduled an appointment online and asks them to submit a review. Thus, only clients who have received a service are invited to provide this feedback. According to Marc Woodward, GenBook’s vice-president of Marketing & Business Development, reviews are published immediately to a spa’s GenBook scheduling page, and are indexed by Google and Bing on a daily basis, further enhancing the spas’ web presence and SEO score.
GenBook has published more than 100,000 Verified Customer Reviews for its more than 5,000 active small business subscribers. One of those subscribers is Jim Lankes, owner of Divine Skin Spa in North Scottsdale, Arizona, who has been using the system since February 2010, and reports having more than 500 reviews and an average five-star rating. “It’s the best decision I ever made,” says Lankes. “55% of our bookings are from GenBook.”
Demandforce is another excellent software program that enhances the management of your online reputation as well as marketing efforts. This system syncs seamlessly with many of the currently popular spa operations systems, ensuring that online reviews are from real customers, and not competitors or even disgruntled employees.
“What makes us different is that we collect reviews on behalf of the business owner, create Certified Reviews, and then syndicate them out to more than 20 of the most important review sites, so you don’t have to keep track of them on your own,” explains Chris Brubaker, head of marketing. “Some solutions send your customer to their site and then you don’t own the review. With us, you own that review, and can use it on your website and print collateral.”
Demandforce offers levels of service from the basic monthly marketing and review component to a full reputation-management option that automatically emails a survey to every guest post-visit. This option has two great advantages: 1) Your survey results will be benchmarked for you against the nationwide network of spas and salons using Demandforce, and 2) You’ll be able to see trends in your service quality over a period of time, enabling you to take action before you receive a negative review.
“The best thing about Demandforce is that it makes everything automatic, so we don’t have to even think about things such as the email it sends to customers we haven’t seen in a while,” says Karen Albright, owner of BodyLase Skin Spas in Raleigh and Cary, North Carolina. “It’s very easy to use, and the reminders via text and email free up my front desk staff to perform other duties.”
If you’ve got plenty of reviews but they’re not all of the quality you’re looking for, then...
Reputation.com may be your answer. The company has created software tools that allow you to manage your online reputation, including one that solicits reviews and another that ensures you are listed in the top 25 phone-book-style sites. Reputation.com has developed an algorithm to demote negative reviews so that they rank lower in search results.
“The feedback we get is that small business owners know they need to manage their online reputations, but they just don’t have time,” says reputation.com vice president Brent Franson. “Everyone is maxed out running their businesses and there aren’t any extra people around to do this work anymore. If you’re a beauty expert, it’s probably not the best use of your time to try to figure out best practices on Twitter.” Reputation.com’s top-tier program involves managing your entire social media platform, scheduling promotions, and posting and responding on Twitter and Facebook.
Used thoughtfully and responsibly, the software programs described above can do much to bolster your online reputation. And it’s only fair that there be computer-generated solutions to computer-generated challenges. But at the end of the day, managing your reputation will be much easier if you invest the time and energy into making sure that the core basics of good customer service are in place at your day spa. Take good care of your staff and your customers, and you’ll be well on your way to countering any negatives that may pop up—online or off.
Online Review Stats
Not convinced that your online reputation requires monitoring? Check out these statistics:
• 73% of consumers read up to 10 reviews before making a choice.
• 21% of consumers change their minds about making a purchase after reading two bad reviews.
• 70% of consumers use the Internet to seek good local businesses.
• 67% of consumers have read online reviews of local businesses.
• One bad tweet can cost 30 customers.
• 89% of consumers don’t go beyond the first page in search results.
• Consumer reviews carry more search weight than your own website.
Lisa M. Starr is a business consultant for Wynne Business, spa management trainer/educator, speaker, blogger (gramercyone.com/blog) and regular contributor to global spa trade publications. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @gotalknow.
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