Soliciting and Managing Online Reviews: Do's and Dont's

By: Caitlin Bray
Friday, January 12, 2024

Online reviews, whether on Google, Yelp, or any online directory, can feel like a minefield if you don’t have a strategy for managing them and using them to your advantage. A tough review can leave you with a feeling of panic, anger, or both. Fortunately, you can protect yourself from experiencing those feelings. Let’s discuss how to solicit and confidently navigate your funeral home’s online reviews.

SOLICITING REVIEWS

You might be surprised to learn that three in four consumers left reviews for local businesses in 2022, with the motivating factor being the quality of service. What’s more, 16% of shoppers said they would be “very likely” to leave a review for a business if a staff member asked them to do so in person or in a follow-up message. Funeral service is a different and more sensitive industry than most other businesses. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t ask for reviews. It comes down to the two T’s: timing and tact. The best time to ask for a review from a family is when they are already expressing their appreciation to you. If a family member approaches you to share how impressed they were with your service, kindly thank them and let them know how grateful you would be if they would share their experience online. Most families will find this a reasonable request and take the chance to repay you for the kindness you’ve shown them. If the golden opportunity doesn’t present itself, you can still craft more subtle suggestions to families while still being sensitive to their grief. Leaving links to your Google Business Profile or Yelp page at the end of any follow-up communications is a good way to gently introduce the idea. It almost goes without saying that the way you ask is as important as the moment you ask; in short, be tactful. Begin by sharing your appreciation for them and what it means to have been able to serve them. Let them know that the decision to leave a review is, of course, their own and only to be made when they feel ready to do so.

MANAGING REVIEWS

A collection of positive reviews reflects well on your funeral home, but they’re not the only thing that matters. Just as important as the reviews themselves are your responses to them—both to families and to the search engine’s algorithm. If your firm is interested in claiming the top SEO ranking, you’ll need to actively respond to reviews to show the algorithm that you interact with users regularly. While bare minimum responses may satisfy the search engine, it won’t get you far with the real people reading your funeral home’s reviews. Think of it this way: responding to a review is your chance to demonstrate to a potential family how you treat those in your care. It’s the same as if they walked into your funeral home and witnessed you conversing with someone you have just served. How would you like that conversation to look? What would it say about your funeral home’s standards of service?

WHAT NOT TO DO

Let’s start with what everyone really wants to know—what you should not do when it comes to managing your online reviews. First, don’t ignore the positive reviews. As discussed, responding to as many of your reviews as possible will help with your organic SEO. On top of that, it shows interested parties that you care enough to thank families for their kind words. Taking the time to respond to someone’s positive feedback supports the idea that you view your work with families as relational rather than transactional and that you are genuinely interested in hearing an analysis of your service, not just in protecting your reputation. Second and perhaps most important, don’t react defensively to negative reviews. Pay close attention to how you feel when reading a negative review. If you notice your blood begin to boil or at any point you throw your hands up in frustration or disbelief, do not write your response at that moment. No matter what accusations are thrown at you or your team, it is always in your best interest to respond in a calm, polite manner. If you find yourself incapable of doing so, step away from the computer or the phone until you can center yourself. The very last thing you want to do is take a bad situation and make it worse by leaving a nasty response that incites a full-on public argument. Finally, don’t worry about having a perfect 5.0 rating. Consumer research has uncovered a phenomenon dubbed “The Blemish Effect” in which the value of positive information is increased when juxtaposed with mildly negative information. For reviews, this means that your positive reviews are more meaningful to families in conjunction with a few mildly negative reviews. In fact, consumers trust a business with a less-than-perfect 4.6 rating than one with a perfect 5.0 rating. So long as the negative reviews you receive are few and far between, they shouldn’t do irreparable damage to your funeral home’s reputation and may even help with credibility.

None of this is to say that you can’t stand up for your funeral home. Sometimes it is necessary to dispel misinformation or misunderstandings. When you approach this delicate task, do take a general perspective rather than focusing on the specifics of the situation that the negative review is outlining. For example, if someone claims that one of your funeral directors was rude to them, you can say something like, “It is our mission at XYZ Funeral Home to always treat our families with the utmost respect and kindness,” rather than “Our staff would never do that!” Then follow it up by assuring them that  you are going to get to the bottom of the issue. When a negative review comes in about an incident that you are unaware of, do seek out the full story from those involved before responding. If a problem allegedly occurred at a service you weren’t present for, ask the members of your staff who were there and anyone who may have been mentioned in the review. You can save yourself some consternation by ensuring you have every detail before making assertions in response that may turn out to be false upon further investigation.

Lastly, do take advantage of the positive reviews you receive in your marketing. Word-of-mouth marketing, even when digital, is the most powerful promotion of your services you can use. Feature the nice things your families are saying about you on social media, in print advertisements, and inside the funeral home—really, there’s no inappropriate place to include a heartfelt review. Doing so will comfort new families that they’ve made the right decision in choosing your funeral home.

Caitlin Bray serves as a content specialist for @need Marketing’s creative team. Since the time she could read, Caitlin has harbored a deep love of language that encouraged her to pursue a career in storytelling. Now, she utilizes her bachelor’s degree in English as well as her master’s degree in strategic brand communication to help @need’s funeral home partners craft their brands’ stories and engage effectively with their communities.

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