Online reviews are a difficult beast to tame. At worst, they’re personal sounding boards for miffed customers. When they’re positive, however, they’re perfect guest testimonials that can serve as powerful ambassadors for a restaurant. With research from BrightLocal highlighting a whopping 57% of consumers won’t even consider a business if it has fewer than four stars, here’s a look at how to make sure each review is positive.
Knowing the restaurant’s strengths
Before asking customers to consider choosing the restaurant, it must be at its best. Operators need a solid customer service strategy. Everything needs to work smoothly, from the menu to the workflow and the synergy between front and back-of-house. Where necessary, operators should deploy the relevant technology to automate and pace these processes, ensuring high food quality and efficiency.
To identify specific areas for improvement, operators should consider the restaurants to which they personally would give a positive review. Alternatively, looking at competitors’ negative reviews can help with improvement. Identifying common complaints should help operators ensure their restaurant doesn’t make any of the same mistakes. Knowing what the problems are is already part-way to solving them.
Create channels for online reviews
Operators should make sure they’re present on as many review sites as possible and promote this via social media channels, email campaigns and even printed table talkers in order to drive reviews.
Another way is through landing pages on the restaurant’s own website. Through solid SEO and a clean design, operators can drive traffic directly to the review sites. One simple idea is to create a ‘reviews page’ and embed badges to the review sites on which the brand has a presence. If a customer would like to leave a review, it needs to be as simple and as available as possible.
A net promoter survey can help operators gauge customer loyalty by asking respondents a question such as “on a scale of 0-10, how likely would you be to recommend this restaurant to a friend?” Those who answer 0-6 should be categorised as dissatisfied with the business, customers scoring 7-8 as satisfied customers who could be swayed by the competition, and those who give 9-10 as people who would be likely to promote the restaurant. Once operators have identified some 9-10 scores, they can consider approaching those customers for reviews.
Incentivise online reviews with caution
It’s not uncommon to find operators offering rewards for online reviews. Many customers will expect it and it helps to show the operator’s appreciation. But this approach needs to be taken with care because if the reward appears to be the central point of the exercise, it can undermine the effect.
Operators should avoid statements such as “if you give us five stars, we’ll give you 50% off your next meal”. The idea is not to create the perception that good reviews have been influenced in any way. A reward should be offered as a sincere token of appreciation for the time taken to write it, not as bait.
Spread the good word
When a customer says good things about a restaurant, it carries more weight than most marketing. Future consumers who use these online restaurant review sites will probably find a genuine review from a happy customer more compelling than the brand’s website.
Once a restaurant has built up a bank of good reviews, it’s vital to share them. A simple “see what they’re saying!” campaign not only gets eyes on the restaurant’s great qualities, it can motivate others to get in on the review action. These online customer reviews are powerful ambassadors for the brand. Operators should show them to the world!