In our recent report, The Road to Reopening, we found that businesses dropped an average of .27 stars in overall star rating. Some industries falling as far as half a star. Now that we’re seeing a second and much stronger wave of Coronavirus cases, businesses are bracing for impact. Brands already have a lot of work ahead of them when it comes to building back up their reputation from the first wave of COVID-19, what’s the best way for brands to protect their reputation during the second wave?
How Did The First Wave of COVID-19 Impact Brand Reputation?
Brands across the country are facing unprecedented changes in reputation. From March to April, we saw the average star rating across ~120,000 locations on Google My Business (GMB) and Yelp drop from 4.28 to 4.01. By May, that rating started rising again but only by .13 points, about half the initial drop in April.
In addition to the drop in ratings, we also saw a drop in review volume, from February to April, local businesses saw a 72.9% drop in review volume. As a reminder, Google disabled reviews from March 20th through April 10th. We started to see review volume rise in May as many stores started reopening. The review volume for May was still half the average monthly count pre-pandemic.
Two weeks ago, California announced that they were closing all indoor activities, leaving several businesses to close down for the second time this year. As cases continue to rise, we can expect to see other states follow in California’s footsteps and many businesses across the country start to close again.
So what now? How can brands rebuild their reputation when review volume is at an all-time low, foot traffic is unreliable, and returning to a pre-pandemic star rating looks like it has a long road ahead of us?
How does Customer Experience Affect Star Rating?
The odds are, if your ratings dropped during the pandemic, so did your competitors. Give yourself a break, instead of worrying so much about your ratings, worry more about creating the best possible customer experience and the positive reviews will follow. There’s not much you can do about new state-mandated safety protocols, but you can make sure the experience customers have with your brand is memorable.
You’ve spent the past three months trying to redefine the customer experience. Now is the time to take everything you’ve learned to create a safe and enjoyable experience that works best for everyone. Look to your reviews to identify areas of success and areas that could use improvement. Tools like our Pulse option makes it easy to identify common topics and sentiment themes in your reviews at scale.
Many brands have implemented new omnichannel services during this time. Now is the time to go back and evaluate how well they’re working. Is your curbside pick up in a good spot? Should you implement more contactless technology options? Is your BOPIS ordering process efficient? If there is anything consumers are prepared for right now, it’s change. Don’t be afraid to make updates to the customer experience in order to make it safer and better for everyone.
While you’re looking through your reviews, you may want to flag some of those negative reviews about COVID-19 that are out of your control. Many review sites are removing reviews related to Coronavirus. Yelp, for example, has “zero tolerance for any claims in reviews of contracting COVID-19 from a business or its employees, or negative reviews about a business being closed during what would be their regular open hours in normal circumstances.” Flagging these types of reviews means they will be reviewed by humans and possibly removed — preventing it from hurting your star rating.
Continue Building Online Customer Engagement
At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw an overwhelming amount of brands stepping up their content strategy and creating next-level content to keep customers engaged through quarantine. You may remember the “we’re all in this together” feeling every post on social media had. Since reopening, a lot of that content has slowed down. Just because many Americans are starting to return to work, doesn’t mean you should stop creating engaging content.
The fear of Coronavirus, political unrest and the fight for racial and social justice has been stressful for all of us. Creating content that helps people break away from the day to day is always a great way to show your customers you still care. Not sure what to create? Check out some examples from each industry here.
Embrace Your Community
It’s not just a quote for social media when we say we really are all in this together. When was the last time your business checked in on its local community? Maybe at the start of the pandemic? Now would be a great time to show your community that you’re still here and still care. Don’t forget that your employees are part of your community too, find a way to lift their spirits and it won’t go unnoticed by customers.
Need some inspiration on ways to give back to your community
Atlantic Self Storage, never imagined that their storage solutions would become so critical in such a short time. Just like many other businesses around the world, they were thrown for a loop when the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 occurred. Suddenly, their days became a chaotic disarray of endless emails and crisis communication plans.
With thousands of college students and other individuals affected by the fallout of the pandemic, Atlantic Self Storage knew they had to act quick. They immediately started planning ways to help individuals in need of storage, coming up with a solution to extend a basic offer of 50% off new storage leases. Within a few short weeks, Atlantic Self Storage has already helped over 300 people in urgent need of storage.
Atlantic Self Storage has been an exemplary model of rising to the challenge, in addition to spreading positivity, cheer, and reassurance. The team got inspired to take part in #904RainbowHunt, in which the staff and their families spread positivity by decorating offices with rainbows and messages of inspiration. Atlantic Self Storage has also been teaming up with local businesses to provide storage solutions for those in need as partners.
As brands start getting comfortable with doing business during a pandemic, it’s important to understand that your customers, your raving reviews, and star ratings will all return. It might just take longer than anticipated. This is new for all of us, but if there is one thing we’ve learned in over 10 years of local brand reputation management, it’s that nothing beats exceptional customer service. Providing a safe and memorable experience for your customers will go a long way when it comes to rebuilding your reputation.
To learn more about how the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted your reputation, request a free brand audit today.