Protect Your Agency’s Reputation

Have you ever seen a Google review that reads something like this? “The décor is really fun, the food was great and our server was so sweet—she even gave us free dessert! Too bad the people next to us were so loud.” Then you notice that the reviewer only gave the café three out of five stars.

Clearly the restaurant did everything they could right—they weren’t to blame for the loud people and probably even tried to mitigate their effect by offering free dessert. Yet the business got dinged. It seems unfair.

Yet it’s going to happen—especially during a time when tensions are increased. People rightfully feel anxious and overwhelmed as we all deal with COVID-19, high unemployment rates, work/family balance, and a long-overdue racial reckoning. All of these factors may contribute to some leaving negative reviews that are unkind, incomplete, and/or irrelevant. Others will write negative reviews that are well-earned and justified, and, thankfully, there are still many who will review your agency positively. As an insurance agency owner or insurance agent, you should prepare for all types.

The first step is to devise a plan for how you’re going to deal with reviews. Choose a strategy that is doable in the long term. For instance, if you’re just starting out and get a few great reviews, you may be tempted to write back to each one with something like, “We appreciate the kind words and look forward to serving your insurance needs in the future—thanks!”

This seems harmless enough except for the fact that you’re setting a precedent. Will you have the creativity and bandwidth to respond authentically to all of your reviews in the future? There’s a good argument to decide yes, since it’s an excellent way to build goodwill and establish your brand as caring and grateful. Just be aware that if you write the same thing each time, it may come off as insincere. And it could eat up a fair amount of time.

Responding to good reviews also makes it harder to ignore negative reviews. There are absolutely instances when a negative review warrants your reply. You can build trust and goodwill by acknowledging shortcomings and offering to make them right. But there are also times when it could do more harm than good to respond—like when a disgruntled former employee chooses to get ugly online or a customer blames you for a decision made by an insurance company that didn’t go their way.

In cases like that, you may be better off trusting that anyone reading the review will understand what’s going on and discredit the reviewer’s comments. Otherwise, you could find yourself embroiled in a nasty tit-for-tat that doesn’t appease anyone.

One strategy that many companies utilize is to try to take legitimate disputes offline with a generic but sincere response. “We’re so sorry that you didn’t have a good experience. Please give us a call at XXX.XXX.XXXX so we can discuss it further.” Notice the use of “we,” which can help to depersonalize a conflict; even if you are an individual agent, this could work since it’s unlikely that the reviewer knows exactly who works for your business.

As you create your review-response policy, be extra aware of the “isms” that my come up like sexism, ageism, ableism (discrimination against people with disabilities), and—especially now—racism. If you find yourself or your agency facing an “ism” accusation, you may also find that, without realizing it, your first instinct is to be defensive.

Reacting too defensively, swiftly, slowly, and/or carelessly to this kind of negative review can cause real pain to current and prospective customers and have serious negative consequences for your business. So don’t be afraid to ask for help from a neutral third party with expertise in a particular area to be sure you handle “ism” complaints as sensitively as you should. Provide a measured, thoughtful response and take responsibility as appropriate.

In order to be able to respond to reviews, you have to know where they exist. Besides looking in obvious places like the reviews that are attached to your Google business listing, add a reminder on your calendar to do some online searching every week or two. Try typing in a few variations of you and your agency’s names such as “Doe Insurance Agency,” “John Doe Agent” and “John Doe Insurance.” You may discover some interesting internet nooks and crannies. Some of them might seem unimportant or too obscure to worry about, but bear in mind that any information that comes up in your search will also come up for other people, so it’s worth evaluating any that you come across.

 No one does everything right all of the time. You are going to disappoint some of your clients, sometimes by saying or doing the wrong thing and other times by not saying or doing the right thing. Reviews are an opportunity for you to learn and grow, reinforcing what you’re doing well and helping you see where you can improve. If you keep this kind of growth mindset about all of your reviews, it will help you react appropriately and protect your agency’s reputation.

Ready for some new prospects? Hometown Quotes has fresh leads for insurance agents all around the country. Give us a call at 800.820.8921 to learn more.

Brendan Sera-Shriar

Brendan Sera-Shriar is the CMO for Hometown Quotes and a Staff Writer for Hometown University.

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