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The Pet Store's Guide to Getting and Managing Online Reviews

"I love your store - it has everything I need for my pet and all the employees are just so friendly and knowledgeable. I can't imagine going anywhere else!"

Imagine that, just for a second, as something your customer has just told you as they're checking out with their bag of dog food in one hand and a blue leash with a bulldog at the other end of it in the other. She's smiling, thanking you for the transaction, and heading out the door to go about her day.

You feel great - your insides feel warm and fuzzy and you have a smile plastered permanently on your face. This is what you're here for; this is why you own a small pet business.

As great as that feeling is, what if you could have captured that statement online and had the rest of the neighborhood see it when they search for the closest pet store near them? What if you could take your customer's loyalty and turn it into a way to bring more customers like her into your store?

Related Article: Pet Business Marketing Guide - Managing Website Presence

That's where Google reviews come in and why they can be so powerful for bringing business to your store.

Why Are Google Reviews Important?

Believe it or not, Google Reviews for your business do much more than make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. They are often the first impression of your pet business for those who have never been there before.

Let's take a look at an example. Try opening up a new tab in your browser and typing "pet stores near me" and see what comes up.

pet-stores-near-me-google-search

See that section at the very top with a map and the top three rated pet stores in the area? That's where you want to be, and having a high rating and great reviews on your Google Business page will get you there.

Beyond just this, there are other benefits for pet businesses to focus on generating Google reviews:

  • Provide future customers with social proof that what you have to offer is worth stopping by
  • Get found on Google searches more easily
  • Answer your customer's questions up front (i.e. how good is the service? Do they have what I'm looking for? Are the prices fair?)

Related Article: The Top Challenges of Marketing to Pet Owners

Today, more and more people are turning to Google to find the answers to their questions and get their peers' recommendations on where to go for their pet food. Your goal should be to show up and have your customers do the selling for you.

Getting Those Reviews

So, now we all understand why Google Reviews are so important. But how do you get them in a way that's authentic and true to who your business is?

1. Give Them a Great Experience

When was the last time you had an unforgettable experience - one that was so good you had to tell everyone about it?

The first step to getting more reviews on your business page is to delight your customers so much that they can't help but want to spread the word. Make them want to log on and leave a review. Not only will it be easier to ask them to do it, but it's also more likely to be positive feedback.

Remember that the best review is one that is honest and unbiased. For this reason, it's not recommended to provide incentives for reviews. In fact, it's even against Google's guidelines.

Related Article: How to Improve Customer Experience in Your Pet Store

Instead, leave a positive impression on your customers by:

  • Exceeding their expectations
  • Stay positive and helpful
  • Do what you can to help them solve their problems
  • Answer their questions up front with honesty and enthusiasm

Help out your customers and they'll be more than happy to help you. Treat your customers like family and they'll be delighted to support you and your business.

2. Make it Easy, Fast, and Simple

Nothing's worse than finishing a transaction with a company, only to receive an automated email three days later with a 25 question survey on how they did. How likely do they think it is to receive the feedback they're looking for?

No matter how happy people are with your service, if you don't make it easy, fast, and simple for them to leave their feedback, they're just not going to. People are busy these days, and not everyone is willing to make the time to tell others about how wonderful your business is.

Related Article: The Quick Guide to Pet Store Marketing in 2018

The key is to make it so easy and quick that it's impossible to say no to. While the customer is in the store, ask if you can send a quick link to their email or phone that goes directly to the Google review page. You can set this up by following this method:

  1. Search for your business on Google
  2. Find your business listing and click "Write a review"
  3. Copy the URL at the top of your address bar
  4. Optional: Paste the link in a link shortening and tracking service such as bit.ly
  5. Make the link easy to access on your and your employee's phones
  6. Send the link to the customer before they leave the store

3. Respond to The Review

Perfect! Your customer is happy and they have the link on their phone to leave their review right then and there. It's simple, fast, and efficient. What's next?

Now it's time to go back and leave your responses to incoming reviews. This step is crucial because it creates a two-way communication between you and the reviewer. It also shows future customers that you are responsive and care about what your customers think.

Related Article: How to Hire and Retain Pet Store Employees

Note: Before you can respond to your Google reviews, you must claim and verify your business page.

Keep in mind that you will encounter both positive and negative reviews. The negative feedback may be difficult to take in and can often feel like a slap in the face. Remember that it's not personal and there are so many factors that could have gone into why that customer had a negative experience.

In fact, your response to negative reviews, if done correctly, may be the difference between scaring future customers away forever and convincing them that you're doing the best you can.

So, how do you begin to respond to negative reviews? First, check your emotions. If you're feeling frustrated, upset, angry, or anything but calm, take a moment to step away. When you're in this state, it's going to be near impossible to leave a calm and collected response.

Once you've returned to a healthy state of mind, here's a way you can formulate your review:

1. Thank the person for leaving their feedback

Even negative reviews are a form of communication, and they give you a chance to respond and restore your company's reputation. Thank the writer for leaving the review right off the bat.

2. Reinforce positivity

Did they mention anything about your business in the review that they liked? Some reviews will start with, "The store was very clean and organized, but the employees were so rude!" In this case, acknowledge the positive portion - the clean store - and recognize the work you put in to get it that way.

3. Address the negative aspects

Don't work your way around the negative aspects of the review. Instead, address them head-on. Taking the example of the rude employees above, one way you could respond is by explaining that you'll be holding an employee training day to improve the quality of customer service in your store. This shows that you're willing to do what it takes to improve the situation.

Related Article: Why Employee Training is Crucial for Pet Stores

Note: If you say you're going to do something, make sure you follow through with it. Don't lie and say you'll fix something, because then all your credibility will go down the drain.

4. Invite the customer back

Once you've acknowledged what you're going to do to rectify the situation, invite the customer to come back. Tell them you're holding the employee training session next week, so come back after then.

Optional: If you can get their contact information, offer them a coupon for their next visit and a hand-written note with a more personal apology. This is your chance to not only rectify the situation, but also delight them with an unexpected surprise.

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Getting reviews is not only crucial to building up your business listing on Google, but it also builds a two-way relationship between you and your customers - both future and current. Once you have the right routine in place, you'll be able to start gathering these reviews and having your customers do the marketing for you.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ashley Hoffman is a freelance content marketer and writer for the pet industry. Growing up in the pet industry, she has keen insight on market trends and a passion for helping small businesses grow. Her portfolio includes various topics from pet food trends to using technology and marketing strategies to boost pet business sales. When she's not writing articles or working her day job, she's playing with her cat (Chewie), reading a book, or hiking one of Washington's many trails.

Visit her: Website | LinkedIn | Instagram

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