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How AI can boost business reputation

As local businesses, from retailers to dentists and mechanics to tradies, continue to navigate the competitive online landscape, managing their online reputation has become more crucial than ever. 

Standing out online can seem like a daunting process, though. However, local businesses – irrespective of their size, industry or expertise – can use emerging technologies like generative and conversational AI to enhance and streamline the way they engage, acquire and retain customers online. 

But why is online reputation so important for local businesses? And where does AI come in?

The importance of customer management and online reputation

In today’s digital age, customer management and online reputation is more important than ever. A business’ online presence can significantly impact its success, with customers often relying on online reviews to inform their purchasing decisions.

In fact, according to Podium research, 84 per cent of consumers are influenced by Google Reviews. And what’s more, 51 per cent of consumers say that a business’ response to reviews has changed their perspective on the business. Google Reviews, quite literally, are contemporary consumers’ word of mouth.

When a potential customer is searching for, for example, ‘mechanic near me’ or ‘homewares store in Bondi’, the top search results will generally be the relevant businesses with the highest quantity and quality of reviews and the highest quantity and quality of review responses. These reviews are an essential ingredient in the all-important  search engine optimisation (SEO) – so it’s not only crucial to encourage customers to leave them but to respond to them when they do, whether they’re positive or negative.

A positive online reputation can attract new customers and strengthen existing relationships, while a negative one can quickly drive customers away. However, by handling a negative review personally and professionally, you can resurrect that relationship and also appeal to other potential customers who can see you’re genuinely passionate about every customer and the experience you provide them. Responding to reviews might sound like a luxury that requires time, but through AI it needn’t be a burden.

How conversational AI can help do more with less 

Conversational AI like ChatGPT has become a phenomenon in 2023. But it’s more than hype, it’s an innovative and pragmatic tool that can help local businesses in many ways. Small businesses often have limited resources and expertise, which can make it challenging to compete with larger corporations. However, emerging technologies like conversational AI are helping local businesses by automating mundane and time-consuming tasks.

Let’s consider it in the context of online reviews. Our research showed that over half of Aussies changed their perspective on a business based on their responses to reviews. Responding to reviews is time-consuming but with AI, businesses can quickly and easily respond to customer reviews, providing personalised and relevant responses that address the customer’s concerns, praise or questions. 

For example, if a customer leaves a negative review about a restaurant’s food quality, AI can suggest a response apologising for the poor experience, offering a refund or discount, and inviting the customer to try the restaurant again in the future. Through a new integration with ChatGPT, Podium enables local businesses to do exactly this; automating the creation of personalised responses – written in the unique context of the review itself – to any review, whether positive, negative or neutral. This not only saves time and effort but also helps businesses to provide more thoughtful and effective responses to customer feedback.

AI has long been part of conversations about the future of work, particularly its potential to replace jobs. These conversations have only increased in the wake of the booming popularity of ChatGPT. In reality, it is enhancing the way local businesses carry out their work. And by automating mundane, time-consuming or repetitive tasks, it allows local businesses to spend more time carrying out tasks that it could never replace – like enjoying meaningful, human connections with customers.

As local businesses seek to stand out in competitive markets and against the backdrop of challenging economic conditions, their online reputation has rarely – if ever – been more influential. Encouraging and responding to reviews must be a key part of any local businesses customer acquisition and retention strategy.

Doing so can be achieved through conversational AI like ChatGPT, which is now proving its more than just hype, and that it has potential to drive real impact for real businesses.

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Brad Granger

Brad Granger

Brad Granger is the Country Manager, Australia at Podium

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