In sensitive or highly regulated industries, such as legal, healthcare, or finance, it can be challenging to create the right strategy to manage your online reputation – especially when it comes to local reviews. How do you ensure you’re adhering to your brand’s guidelines? And, what are the best practices for online reputation management for regulated industries?
Too often, businesses avoid responding to online reviews for fear of potential negative feedback or complications. Additionally, responding to reviews in highly regulated industries may require legal precautions to consider. Multi-location or enterprise brands may be dealing with hundreds or thousands of locations, advisors, agents or other professionals. Creating a cohesive strategy that spans all of those locations and entities is a great challenge.
If these statements resonate with you, you’ve come to the right place. This guide breaks down what’s involved in online reputation management for regulated industries and why it matters for your local search strategy. You’ll find guidance for banks, legal teams, financial institutions, hospitals, and others in these best practices for online reputation management at scale in regulated industries. Let’s get started.
Why Reviews Matter for Your Local Search Strategy
Reviews play an impactful role when local consumers are searching for nearby solutions to their needs.
A review tells potential customers what others think about a business – the experience they had, the impression they were left with, and whether or not they endorse that business to others. Reviews can be a rich source of information for consumers and may contain a star rating, a text review, and even photos from that location. What’s more, 54.7% of consumers read at least four reviews before making a purchasing decision.
Monitoring reviews help businesses gather insight into what they are doing right and where they can improve. However, consumers aren’t just looking for feedback from other consumers when they’re reading reviews. Fifty-one percent said they feel more confidence and trust in a local business when they see them actively responding to reviews.
Of course, this can feel like a minefield for doctors, financial institutions and advisors, legal teams, and others in highly regulated industries. We’ll get into specific tips to help manage those challenges in a minute but first, it’s important to understand the different types of reviews you may be dealing with.
First-Party vs Third-Party Reviews
First-party reviews are left directly with your own company by your customers. They appear on your website and may be solicited by reminders in your offices/clinics, via email or SMS message, etc.Third-party reviews are those left on search engines, social media platforms, and other industry-specific websites. Google is the top destination for third-party reviews in the United States. Fully 83% of local consumers use Google Search to discover and learn more about nearby businesses, making this a key channel for local discovery. Monitoring for reviews here is essential.
Google customers get notifications when you respond to their reviews, which can help further communication with customers by resolving an issue or nurturing the relationship. In addition, responding to reviews can help build trust with your customers.
How Reviews Impact Your Google Ranking
It’s crucial to pay attention to helpful hints Google gives about local search strategy. Google says that to improve your local ranking, it’s imperative to pay attention to reviews and respond. Your star ratings, review volume, recency, and responses all factor into Google’s local search ranking algorithm and impact your visibility in the Map Pack and local search results.
That means that reviews can not only help you win over new customers who have found your listing in search – they can impact whether your listings are visible in the first place. This is why it’s crucial to create and foster an online reputation management strategy.
In general, avoiding unethical activity such as soliciting fake five-star reviews, sabotaging competitors with fake reviews, or other attempts to manipulate your digital footprint is important. It’s essential to the trust ecosystem that independent reviews are accurate accounts of real customer experiences. What’s more, attempts to manipulate the system or sabotage competitors could result in legal action being taken against the brand, and that’s definitely not good for your reputation.
Responding to Local Reviews – Positive & Negative
Businesses must aim to respond to customer reviews in a timely manner, generally within 24 hours. Local consumers want to see that your brand is listening and actively engaging customers.
This is essential in a time when the Edelman Trust Barometer tells us that a growing sense of inequity is undermining consumer trust in government, business, and media. According to the report, “A majority of respondents in every developed market do not believe they will be better off in five years’ time.”
Legal teams, healthcare, and finance are so heavily regulated due to the massive impacts these industries can have on people’s lives. How can you instill trust in consumers considering your brand against others when they’re making impactful, potentially life-altering decisions about their health and financial wellbeing?
Overall Tips for Review Response in Regulated Industries
- Use a local review management solution to automatically monitor third-party and relevant industry-specific review sites, compiling all reviews into one dashboard for triage and response.
- Understand your organization’s review response protocol. Your organization may have specific response templates to respond to negative or positive reviews. And, negative responses may need to be directed to a specific department for further assistance.
- Create a workflow that defines who is responsible for triage, which reviews are escalated or need intervention, how potentially problematic reviews are documented and/or deleted, and who ultimately responds to reviews.
- It’s important to stay professional and polite. Try to think from the perspective of your customers, responding with empathy.
- Be direct and concise when responding to reviews. Most regulated industries develp specific templates to maintain legal compliance in their responses.
- Offer the reviewer an option to contact an appropriate person or department directly to resolve any concerns they may have.
Now let’s dig into specific strategies for positive and negative reviews.
Tips for Responding to Positive Reviews
When a customer leaves a positive review on Google, Yelp, Facebook, your website, or some other channel, it’s important to reply promptly. You can start by thanking them for taking the time to write a great review, enhancing their already positive impression of your business. It shows that you care about what people are saying about your business and want to improve your service.
Templates for review response can help decrease the time it takes for this process. They’re also commonly used in highly regulated verticals. Then, you just need to add additional information to each review, such as their name or mention something from their review.
For example, let’s say Donna leaves a 5-star review saying, “I recently went to their Dallas location and appreciated the help that Beth gave me in choosing a new credit card.”
You could have several templated positive response options for your team to use, including this example:
“Hi [Donna], thank you so much for taking the time to leave a review. We are glad our team was able to help you [select the best credit card for your needs]. We look forward to seeing you next time!”
This acknowledges and thanks the customer while referencing the specific experience she mentions in her review, further personalizing their experience with your business.
Positive reviews can also enable your brand to share non-sensitive information in the response that may influence other searchers. Here’s an example, from the healthcare industry.
Alan leaves a 4-star review thanking his doctor for good service and commenting on the cleanliness and accessibility of the clinic. One example of a templated response could be:
“Thank you for sharing your experience, [Alan]. Our Example Clinic recently completed an extensive renovation to better accommodate our patients and ensure accessibility for all. We’re glad this meets your needs and look forward to continuing to serve your health goals in future!”
This response likely elicits a positive response from Alan and also shares information that future prospects may not know – that the property is fully accessible and recently renovated.
The time spent responding to positive reviews is worthwhile as it helps nurture a long-term relationship with that customer and can also help influence the purchasing decision of every customer who views it afterward.
- Use templates but personalize them to speak directly to the consumer.
- Mirror specific language about the product or service to make it easier for local searchers in the future to find the most relevant reviews for their needs, when possible.
- Find opportunities to share information that may help convert other searchers to customers.
- Stay compliant with your responses.
Responding to Negative Reviews
This is a far trickier area for regulated industries. Concerns can include:
- When should we delete a negative review, and how is that done?
- What do we do if a patient or client shares private, personally identifying information about themselves?
- What if they share sensitive information about others?
- When does a negative review cross over into libel or defamation?
Google mentions that you can personalize the review by signing off with your name. They also mention the importance of honesty when it comes to responding to negative reviews. Specify the steps you can take to resolve the issue, and be clear on what you can and can’t do in a situation.
Responding to negative reviews in an environment where clients’ confidentiality and privacy are protected can help deescalate the situation. They should feel – especially when sensitive information is involved – that they will be able to further discuss the problem with a certain level of privacy.
To accomplish this, you can give the customer an email address or phone number so that you can discuss the situation privately. This way, you can better discuss the details and get to the problem’s root cause.
Important Considerations for Your Reputation Management Strategy
One piece of legislation you’ll want to reference as your team prepares its online reputation management strategy and review monitoring and response workflows and templates is the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA).
Consumer Review Fairness Act: What Businesses Need to Know is a great primer on what the FTC expects of brands in their online review management systems.
From there, it’s important to know the industry-specific regulations you must follow. Depending on your location and industry, you may need to ensure that HIPAA, GDPR, or other guidelines are followed.
Another important piece of documentation is Google’s ‘Maps user-generated content policy,’ which provides regulations around user generated content such as online reviews.
For example, Google states that “…contributions must be based on real experiences and information. Deliberately fake content, copied or stolen photos, off-topic reviews, defamatory language, personal attacks, and unnecessary or incorrect content are all in violation of our policy.” If a user’s review falls astray of that policy, you can file to have the review removed from Google.
Yelp also has a content policy; in fact, every third-party platform will have its own guidelines about what is acceptable. It’s important that you read, understand, and ensure your online reviews policy complies with each one.
There is no one-size-fits-all reputation management strategy for brands operating in regulated industries. Your strategy must take into account:
- The needs and rights of your customers, clients, or patients.
- Regulatory obligations for your industry.
- Consumer privacy and protection legislation in the regions in which you do business.
- The scalability of your program.
All brands need an online reputation management strategy; this is even more important for businesses operating in highly regulated industries.
This is an area where being proactive and having the right processes, technology, and people in place will pay dividends in terms of customer satisfaction, online visibility, and brand reputation and loyalty.
We’re here to answer any additional questions about managing online reviews in highly regulated industries. Meet and surpass regulatory hurdles with an A-team who knows your problems and how to solve them. Reach out to Rio SEO and let’s discuss.