Online reviews are crucial to your business; although they may seem out of your control, you can still manage them. Whether they're good or bad, they shouldn't be ignored. This may seem like a daunting task but these top tips will help you to create a defined strategy and give you some ‘must-dos’ to tackle this difficult task as best as possible.
There are review sites (e.g. Yelp, Product Review, TripAdvisor) that can give you notifications every time someone leaves a review. These services are free, as long as you ‘join’ the site. To search more broadly, you can use Google Alerts to report mentions of your restaurant in web pages, blogs etc, or alternatively you can use the Twitter search bar to look up your restaurant, searching key terms.
Christine Blake, account supervisor at W2 Communications thinks "since reviews are one of the first things that come up in a Google search, it's important to dedicate someone to tracking and managing them".
You can also consider using a review management software that amalgamates reviews from all platforms and locations into one dashboard. There are a number of these platforms that exist. Here are just a few to get you started:
Birdeye will help you get more reviews from your customers, dominate search results, beat local competitors and grow your business. Meanwhile, Podium offers simple messaging, reviews and insights for local businesses. Trustpilot recognizes that each review has a personal story; their aim is to help your reviews get you closer to your customers and push your business onwards and upwards. Review Trackers uses customer feedback to “act today and predict tomorrow”. They will help you to drive more results, engage more customers and leverage machine learning to understand your customers. Grade Us is the review management software for professionals. And last but not least, Broadly Reviews will help you get great online reviews by providing a five-star customer experience, from the first contact to follow-up.
Claim or create your business page
Claim your restaurant’s page for free; this will help you to control what content is on there. Some sites automatically create business pages to provide complete search listings for users, but some don’t. If not, you can create your own business page on Google MyBusiness. In both cases you’re looking for a button or link on the site concerned that says something like 'For businesses,' 'Claim your page' or 'Unlock your page.'
Claiming your page will improve your listing in search rankings, and often gives you access to special services provided by the review site. For example, tools to track and analyse reviews, and the ability to message reviewers privately.
Follow each site’s rules
Most review sites state that reviews and responses must not contain personal attacks, profanity, breaches of privacy, advertising, or criticisms of the site itself. Other sites (e.g. TripAdvisor) go further and say that all material must be 'family-friendly.' There's no point writing a response that breaks the site's rules because it won't be published anyway.
Keep it professional
Never argue with a person who left a negative review, don’t get defensive. Whenever possible, figure out a solution to the problem and offer a remedy, not an explanation. This may be by showing empathy to defuse the situation and who knows, maybe even s them into a loyal customer.
Try to talk outside of the public forum. For example, you could respond: “I’m sorry that the meal wasn’t what you had anticipated and we would like to make it right. Please contact us at your earliest convenience at 555-333-4242 and we’ll do my best to make it up to you.”
It’s true that every business, big and small, gets negative reviews. But what really matters is your attitude in responding to reviews, which could affect the future buyers’ decisions later on.
Decide who handles reviews
It is imperative that whoever deals with reviews knows it’s their job. There’s nothing worse than bad reviews not being answered! So, decide who will monitor and respond to customer reviews. In making this tough decision, consider the qualities needed to handle reviews. Pick someone who has a friendly writing style, a strong customer service attitude and good judgment about when to pass a review onto a more senior member of staff. Once you’ve found the right person, you can increase your company’s efficiency by providing your employees with a document of pre-written responses to common reviews on your site.
Respond to every review
Always respond to reviews - especially when they are negative. If you don’t reach out and respond, then you’ll never change their opinion of your company, which could lead to problems in the future. If other reviewers see the restaurant engaging with their customers and tending to their needs, it shows that they care and genuinely want to fix any issues.
Michaela Prouzova, community engagement manager at Nimble Inc. states "We make sure that our team responds to every single review—positive or negative.”
Furthermore, a prompt response is imperative. Letting the (especially bad) reviews linger unanswered may make your business look unreliable or like you don’t care about your customers’ needs.
Respond to positive reviews:
Responding to positive reviews is underestimated and often neglected in the marketing world. Some marketers suggest sending a private message to the customer, while others say to respond publicly.
Most experts say not to offer tangible rewards (e.g. gift vouchers) to reviewers, because this could be seen as a bribe for future positive comments. Simplicity is key - just introducing yourself and thanking them is enough. If some other aspect of your business might be of particular interest to them, it's probably fine to mention that too. But use your judgement to read individual situations.
Manage negative reviews:
No one likes negative feedback, they fear it will drive away existing and potential customers. However, as said above in the Keep It Professional section, it is imperative to respond to these reviews in a cool, calm, professional manner. If you want to find out more about managing negative online reviews, head to the Queensland Government website for tips!
Don’t post fake reviews:
Although it might be tempting to boost your company’s positive reviews, or even post a negative review on a competitor’s site, it’s a breach of site rules (and just unethical!) This applies to both business owners and also to staff and to any family or friends who are not genuine customers. Posting fake reviews may also be illegal, so that’s a big no-no!
Encourage positive reviews (dos and don'ts):
You can, however, encourage positive reviews… One of the best ways to get authentic online reviews is to encourage content clients to post positive reviews. But take care how you go about this, so it doesn’t backfire or put pressure on your happy clients.
Provide the review site names and logos in your restaurant and online
Provide physical comment cards in your restaurant (for a suggestion box) and include your website address (so they can post online if they prefer)
Offer a ‘Review us now’ button on your site that takes clients directly to the review site
Aim to add a few new reviews each month
Maintain a high frequency of reviews
Send emails to your entire customer mailing list asking them to post a positive review - this will either irritate them or cause a wave of positive reviews, which will look inauthentic
Offer ‘bribes’ to customers who review you. These will sound disingenuous and will usually be ignored by readers. in addition, it’s not constructive for your business!
Discover also how to manage your restaurant efficiently regarding restaurant bookings.