This post was sponsored by LetUsRespond.com. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.
The global shutdown brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profoundly negative economic impact on businesses of all sizes and industries.
According to Facebook’s State of Small Business Report, the industries that have seen the biggest impact due to the novel coronavirus are hotels, cafes, and restaurants, with service-based businesses trailing close behind.
These industries largely rely on activities that have been restricted as a result of the pandemic – like traveling and socializing.
But with online tools like Google My Business (GMB) and Google reviews, businesses are able to keep their customers informed and stay in front of them despite stay-at-home restrictions.
Even with many countries opening back up, it’s more important than ever to keep your customers updated about your business and what you’re doing to keep your employees and customers safe.
In this guide, we’re taking a look at how you can leverage your GMB listing and Google reviews amid the coronavirus pandemic.
What Is Google My Business?
Google My Business is a tool that helps businesses connect to customers and grow their presence online.
It’s the go-to place for customers to learn about your business, including your contact information, your location, your website, and more.
Google My Business is one of the best ways of gaining local visibility on Google, regardless of your current website strategy. Users can also leave reviews via Google reviews, which is tied to a Google My Business account.
However, the way people are using Google My Business listings has changed since the pandemic.
No longer are people using this tool to look for businesses in their area to visit; rather, they are looking for other information like updated delivery or pickup options and adjusted hours of operation.
This behavior change is why it’s critical for businesses to optimize their Google My Business listing and monitor their Google reviews if they don’t already.
How Businesses Can Optimize Their Google My Business Listings & Google Reviews During COVID-19?
Customers have questions, concerns, and opinions about the changes brought about by COVID-19. As a result, many turn to Google to express their thoughts.
With as many as 76% of customers trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations, a pandemic is no time to let your reviews fall by the wayside.
Replying to Google reviews in a timely manner is always a best practice from a customer experience perspective, but it’s especially critical during these times.
What’s more, a report from Replypro found that as a result of COVID-19, chain locations are seeing a significant decline in ratings. This is due to complaints about cleanliness, wait times, and deliveries.
Most notably, positive reviews have seen a decline as well, which means negative reviews hold more weight. Therefore, leaving reviews or messages untouched can have a detrimental impact on your business.
Responding to reviews is not only an important part of the customer experience creating a customer-centered experience and maintaining your online reputation, but it also has an impact on your local search ranking.
In other words, even if your website or social media marketing strategy has been placed on the backburner due to the pandemic, responding to Google reviews can ensure customers can find you, thanks to its ranking factor properties.
How to Adapt Your Google My Business Listing
We know how important it is to maintain your Google My Business listing and respond to Google reviews, but what are the best ways to ensure you’re managing each in the best way?
Let’s take a look at a few ways you can maximize your Google My Business account and keep up with your Google reviews.
Ensure Your Company Information Is Always Current
Keeping your Google My Business information up to date is a vital part of optimizing your listing.
Informing customers about any changes you’ve made to your business operations is imperative to maintaining consistent sales.
Though communities are rallying around their local businesses, people won’t be able to find you (or purchase from you) if your information is outdated.
Operational information that should always be up to date can include:
- Hours of operation
- Delays or out-of-stock items
- Temporary closures
- Gift card availability
- Updated contact information (designated phone number for pickup, etc.)
If you run a restaurant or storefront, Google My Business allows you to update your listing to specify your service options, like pickup or delivery.
When customers navigate to your GMB listing, they will see this information clearly on the listing.
For restaurants and other food establishments, attribute options include dine-in, takeaway, and delivery. For retailers, attribute options include pickup, delivery, curbside pickup, or in-store shopping.
This helps customers understand their options and can help them make a decision on whether to make a purchase.
Dedicate Time to Monitoring & Responding to Google Reviews
With COVID-19, people are likely to have more questions about your policies, your hours, any discounts you may be running, and more.
Plus, according to a report from American Express, 7 out of 10 U.S. consumers say they’ve spent more money to do business with a company that delivers great customer service.
A great way to reply to customers as quickly as possible is through the messaging tab within Google My Business. This feature is especially helpful if it’s after hours or if you aren’t able to answer the phone.
You can set an automated welcome message that customers will instantly get after they message you. This is a great feature if you are unable to respond right away.
However, if you find it difficult to keep up with the volume of messages, questions, and reviews you receive, hiring a dedicated online review response team may be the best option.
We’ll touch more on the benefits of outsourcing your review management later in this article.
For Businesses With Multiple Locations, Look for Ways to Streamline
It goes without saying that for businesses with multiple locations, you’re sure to experience an uptick in the number of reviews and messages you receive.
Trying to respond to reviews across multiple Google My Business listings can be exhausting for several reasons:
- Daily monitoring of each Google My Business listing.
- Maintaining consistency across each location.
- Keeping each Google My Business listing updated as things change.
This can be overwhelming, especially to business owners who are trying to maintain safe daily operations.
The best way to approach managing reviews for multi-location businesses is to streamline your efforts.
Simplifying your online review management could look like this:
- Prepare a series of canned responses to your most-asked questions; that way, you have quality responses at the ready each time a customer writes a review or sends you a message.
- Carve out time each day to respond to customer messages and reviews, so you don’t have to worry about an influx of messages or reviews piling up.
- Create an FAQ page on your website that includes your most common questions; direct customers to that page when necessary.
Consider Hiring an Online Review Response Team
Managing customer questions and messages can be overwhelming, especially during a pandemic.
Hiring an online review response team takes the pressure off you and your staff to reply to customers not only within a time frame but also with consistent language.
An online review response team can help in various ways, including the following:
- Respond to all customer reviews and messages across multiple business listings in a timely way.
- Ensure all responses are on-brand and consistent across locations.
- Flag important messages that may require an additional response from a business owner.
- Identify ways to improve your customer experience in terms of Google My Business or Google reviews.
An online review response team can help you manage your Google reviews so you can get back to what you do best – running your business.
The Importance of Responding to Google Reviews
Responding to your Google reviews and maintaining your Google My Business listing helps get your business in front of your customers despite COVID-19.
Responding to reviews shows that your business is customer-centric and that you care about your customers’ experience from start to finish.
It’s important to keep your listing accurate, but it’s equally as important to reply to customer questions, messages, and reviews in a timely fashion.
Outsourcing this portion of your customer experience could be the best – and most stress-free – approach, especially in times of high emotion and uncertainty.
Looking for help managing your Google reviews?
LetUsRespond.com takes the stress out of online review management.
Book a demo with our team today and learn how we can do the heavy lifting for you.
All screenshots taken by Let Us Respond, June 2020