In this 6-minute read:
- How important are online reviews for local businesses?
- Claiming your pet business’s online profile and responding appropriately to reviews
- Delighting your customers and their pets to drive more reviews
- Asking for reviews: the right way and the wrong way
- Making everything easier with reputation management software
If you run a pet grooming business, pet shop, or any other pet-related business, you will get online reviews—whether you want them or not.
No matter how you may feel about them, web-based review sites have completely taken over the conversation about where pet owners should spend their money. In fact, 97% of customers read online reviews for small, local businesses, and 88% of them trust those reviews as much as personal recommendations from family and friends.
Online reviews are incredibly important, even for small, one-person shops, or businesses that don’t actually have a permanent physical location, like mobile pet groomers.
In fact, almost two-thirds of consumers say the online star rating of a business is the most important factor when deciding where to buy.
On the other hand, one bad review can cost you 30 customers. Brutal.
So if you want to grow your pet business, you need to get onboard with the review sites and develop a plan to maximize good reviews and minimize the damage from the occasional not-so-good review you might receive. Let’s get started.
First: realize that all online reviews are good for your pet business
P.T. Barnum reportedly quipped, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” In terms that pet business owners need to understand, this means, “Any review is a good review.”
Of course, if all you get is bad reviews, there’s probably something significantly wrong with your service, products, staff, or facilities. But for smart groomers and other pet businesses, a bad review is chance to engage customers and improve the business.
Large businesses pay huge amounts of money to learn what their customers think. Online reviews give you that information for free… all it costs you is your time.
Second: claim and update your pet business’s profile on all relevant review sites
Here’s something you might not know: online review sites like Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor, and Facebook allow customers to post reviews about your pet business, even if you haven’t claimed your business pages on these sites.
When one of your customers posts a review for your pet business on a review site where you haven’t updated or claimed your profile, the software automatically creates a page for your business, and will group any additional reviews there, until you claim it officially.
So the crucial first step you must take—before you work toward getting more reviews—is to claim your business profile on all the relevant review sites (like Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor, Facebook, and Foursquare. Click the links above for our helpful how-to posts).
Check your profiles carefully, correct any mistakes, and provide all the information you can about your business, hours, location, etc. This immediately starts improving your rankings in local searches and starts attracting new customers.
Also, you have to claim your business pages in order to respond to reviews. Which brings us to the next point.
Third: respond appropriately to all reviews
Posting a genuine reply when someone takes the time to leave you a review shows them—as well as potential customers reading your reviews—that you take feedback seriously and are engaged in improving your business. This helps attract more new customers, builds loyalty in your current customers, and makes it more likely that people will leave you reviews.
Don’t ignore negative reviews, either. Keep emotion out of it, and be the grown-up in the conversation. Click to read our full article on how to respond to negative reviews.
If you’re working to create an excellent customer experience, you will be far more likely to get reviews from your happy customers than from the occasional grump.
Fourth: “Delight” your customers for a memorable experience
Think about any reviews you have left for local businesses. Were they positive? Negative? What made you take the time to write a review?
If you’re like most people, you usually only take the time to leave a review when you are either very dissatisfied, or absolutely delighted. Just providing the good service or product people expect is not enough to get most people to leave a review. You need to go above and beyond.
So, take some time to really evaluate your location, services, and products. Are you creating a memorable experience for your customers? Are you solving a problem for their pet that they have been really stressing about?
Successful pet businesses and groomers understand that everything matters: the look, the feel, the sounds, the smells, and the customer (and pet) service.
Close your eyes and imagine your ideal pet business. What does it look like? What does it smell like? How would you want you and your pet to be treated? Work toward making that environment and experience a reality.
If you have a brick-and-mortar location, you might play soothing music. Make sure everything is kept spotlessly clean. Consider a plug-in air freshener—a welcoming aroma of apple pie or clean citrus is a lot more pleasant than “wet dog” or “dirty kennel.”
Taking the time to provide fun, unique doggie treats can make the experience memorable. Work hard to remember your repeat customers’ pets’ names, and they’ll treat you like a friend, rather than a business.
Holding a “pet fashion show” or regularly posting cute pet images on your website, Facebook, or Instagram page can keep you top of mind and give people the impression that you absolutely love animals and want to keep things fun for both customers and pets.
Fifth: get more reviews by simply asking… in the right way
Be sure you have taken the steps above, and then you’re ready to be more proactive in getting more reviews. It’s really more simple than it might seem. Studies show that most customers will leave a review if you just ask. But remember to ask in the right way:
- Put up signage and official stickers from sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, encouraging customers to leave a review
- Make a verbal request for feedback while the pet owner is at your location (or while your mobile vehicle is at theirs)
- Print a reminder asking for feedback on receipts or appointment reminder cards
- Email or text your customers a reminder or link to review your business after they leave (If you can’t easily get customer contact information, learn about Womply’s “pre-populated” CRM, which automatically completes and updates your client list, even if you don’t have their email addresses)
There are also some big no-nos when asking for reviews. Any of these will get you banned from review sites, ruin your pet business’s brand, and can even get you in dutch with the Federal Trade Commission.
- Don’t offer discounts, gifts, or free services in exchange for a good review
- Don’t ask people to leave you a “5-star,” “positive,” or “good” review. Simply let them know you value their feedback
- Don’t threaten disgruntled customers you think might leave a negative review
- And never, ever try to “buy” positive reviews
Work to keep a 4-plus-star rating honestly and ethically by providing a top-quality, memorable experience, and asking your actual customers for their feedback.
Lastly: consider reputation management software to simplify the process and save time
While getting more reviews and managing your online presence doesn’t cost you anything but your time, it can actually take A LOT of time… which if you’re like most busy pet business owners, you don’t have.
Reputation management software designed for small businesses can be a lifesaver. Womply helps more than 150,000 small businesses across the country thrive in an increasingly digital marketplace.
Womply notifies you whenever you get a new review, and lets you read and respond to all of your reviews on all of the relevant review sites, from one location with one login.
Womply also allows you to automatically send your customers a reminder to rate your pet business, encouraging happy clients to post their reviews online and not-so-satisfied customers to send you feedback directly, so you get more good reviews and can address any problems privately before they turn into bad reviews.
In fact, Womply’s small business clients get an average of 22% more repeat visits, earn 20% more revenue, and save 10 hours of work per week.
Online reputation management is the most effective marketing you can do because people overwhelmingly look for pet businesses like yours online. You need to show up—and show well—in internet searches. You can’t do that if you don’t get regular reviews from your happiest clients.
So, following these suggestions and investing in software that can streamline the process of getting and managing your online reviews is well worth your time and money.
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