Reviews can have a dramatic impact on your restaurant’s business. You can see this in our article, “The Value of an Online Review,” published November 2, 2015. Online ratings and reviews have been proven to have as much as a 9% increase/decrease in your overall revenue. Positive reviews can increase your number of reservations by almost 20 percent. There is power here. But what happens when they work against you? What happens when someone has a terrible experience and invites all their online friends to leave you negative reviews. The impact can be devastating. With a proactive review strategy, you can ensure that one of these attacks will not hurt your business.
We suggest a four-part plan to ensure that reviews are always working in your benefit. First, you have to take control of the review platforms that are associated with your restaurant. Then, develop a strong base of positive reviews. Next, continually monitor and reply to EVERY review that is submitted. Finally, direct new reviews to the platforms that need the most support. These four simple steps can help you leverage the power of reviews to grow your brand.
Take Control of Review Platforms
You have to start by taking control of all the accounts on relevant review platforms. If you are a restaurant, this means Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Yelp, FourSquare, UrbanSpoon and TripAdvisor. There may be more depending upon where you are located. Each one of these platforms has a different way to claim your business. For Google and Facebook, it means setting up a social media page on their platforms. For the rest, it is as simple as claiming your business. Then these platforms will notify someone when a review is left. If they are unclaimed, you will not be notified when a review (that demands action) is left.
Develop a Strong Base of Reviews
This is a critical step in this entire process and it is the secret sauce of this article. If you have 20 reviews for your restaurant and something bad happens, 4 one-star reviews can drop your rating by an entire star. That loss of one-star in your overall rating can mean an almost 10% loss in annual revenue. But if you have 200 reviews, it takes 80 one-star reviews to have the same negative impact. So by building a strong base of reviews, negative experiences that spawn one-star reviews mean a whole lot less.
Monitor and Respond to all Reviews
This step takes some dedication. Now that you have claimed your businesses on these platforms, you will receive notifications when someone leaves a review. Whether it’s positive or negative, you have to respond. If it’s a 4 or 5-star review, thank the customer. It’s polite to do so. If it’s anything else, you have to take immediate action with the following steps.
- Start by apologizing for not offering exceptional experience. Your goal should be perfection.
- Ask the person to email, direct message or call you with more details (no matter how graphic they were). It shows you care and it takes the conversation OFFLINE. You want other potential customers to see that you care and are taking the complaint seriously.
- Fix the problem internally and privately.
- Go back online, thank the customer for the review and let them know that you have fixed the issue. (Even if they know that you fixed it, you want the general public to know you have.)
- Finally, if you have built a positive relationship with the customer offline through this process and you think they are happy with the outcome, consider asking them to remove or revise their review.
Dynamically Direct Where Your Reviews Are Left
This is a very practical piece of advice that is typically forgotten. Keep track of your ratings on a regular basis across all of your platforms. Take notice of where your ratings are lowest or where the most recent ratings are worst. Then, direct reviewers to those sites.
For example, your restaurant recently made a mistake and a user and their friends left 5 reviews on your Facebook page. Now your rating is lower on Facebook than anywhere else. All of your most recent reviews are negative. Start to direct all of your reviewers to this site. Ask guests to leave a review on Facebook. Put Facebook on a signage, table tents, menus, etc. This will help to repair those ratings.
This is also a time where ReviCards (http://www.getrevicards.com) are very helpful. The ReviCard system allows you to change where you are directing reviewers at anytime, with only a few clicks. Sorry for the shameless plug but this is one of the situations that this system was built to perfect.
This four step system will help you create a strategy that: protects you against negative attacks; creates a solid foundation of reviews for people to research; and builds your business online. It’s not an expensive process and it can be perfected with some basic tools. Whichever tools or strategies you use, just be sure that you have a strategic review plan for your restaurant.