For a funeral home owner, there is probably not an asset that is more valuable than the funeral home’s reputation. Yet, the emergence of social media has changed the way that people evaluate the businesses that they should trust for important family needs.
85% of Americans report that they trust online reviews more than what their friends or family say about a business. (Brightlocal)
Many businesses that have built a good reputation over decades of service in their community don’t fully understand how much their good name now rests in the hands of faceless social media reviewers. Even businesses that are trying their best to ignore Facebook are being affected by reviews that are being left.
It can be maddening to think that someone can tarnish your good name by simply writing a complaint on Facebook. If you thought you could hold Facebook at arm’s length and still grow your business, it is probably time to think again.
Facebook is wielding influence in the area of business reviews, too. And that influence is touching the primary market for funeral homes. According to Newsweek, Facebook is now “Officially for Old People.” Facebook users include 62% of online seniors, about 20 million aged 62+ are on facebook. A key feature of Facebook is the reviews, and people view them regularly.
Deeper than reputation- reviews influence buying decisions and trust.
In a survey cited by Forbes, 81% report that their decisions to purchase were directly influenced by what their friends recommend. It all comes down to who people trust. Recent research places the online review trust level at 85%. That means that 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as what their friends and family recommend. Not surprisingly, 70% of consumers are more likely to choose a local business that has positive reviews, and 40% of people say they avoid local businesses with negative reviews.
While it is true that people are not “browsing and shopping” during the immediate need response to a loss, they will notice and remember a negative review, or a poor rating on Facebook. Family members who are helping make arrangements will see these reviews too, especially if they don’t have experience with the funeral home. This not only occurs with seniors themselves but also with younger family members, who pay attention at an even higher rate to reviews and ratings.
The best reputation insurance available
Before you jump at the next phone call offering reputation management, consider what you really need.
- You need to build up positive reviews on your Facebook page.
- You need to manage and build up other important social reviews.
- You need an internal policy and a person ready to respond when the inevitable family member, who has a challenging experience, writes unkind things about you.
Both of these things require advance planning and an effective strategy. If you have them, they provide the best reputational insurance that you can get.
An obvious question is, how many positive reviews do I need to counteract the impact of a negative one? But there is a better question: “how many positive reviews do I need so that a negative one won’t reflect on my ranking?” The best answer is about 40. Counteracting two negative reviews will require 80 positives. That is a lot of reviews.
How to build good online reviews.
If having positive reviews is a priority for your business, then having a plan for building those reviews is important too.
- Having a tie between your follow-up customer service approach and your Facebook reviews is probably the best approach. While some people will post without being prompted, most will require an ask.
- Reviews that are authentic are the most valuable, but it’s ok to ask people to respond to a survey which can lead to a Facebook or Google review opportunity.
- Don’t ask every person who receives services to fill out a review.
- [For ways that you can ensure that the most satisfied customers are the ones who are prompted for a review, talk with us about how First Call Advantage can help you increase positive reviews]
How to respond to negative reviews.
In any service business, and especially those that help families during times of high stress, challenges will occur. Funeral homes often get blamed for issues that are actually internal family concerns. Regardless, those problems can get reflected on the Facebook review page of the funeral home, and a response is required. Here are a couple of policies that you should consider:
- Always respond promptly to negative reviews. Never discuss the details of the problem, but answer in a way that expresses your ongoing concern for the family with a request that the concern be discussed on the phone.
- When responding to a negative review, respond with compassion and sympathy, apologizing if appropriate.
- Avoid listing your company name in the response, to decrease the search engine connection between the negative review and your business.