Millions of restaurant owners all over the world struggle when it comes to generating a positive image of their restaurant online. Despite their best efforts, they just can’t seem to get momentum behind people expressing positive sentiment.
But one simple strategy can change all that: ask for a review.
Restaurants that consistently ask people to review them after guests come in are far more likely to receive a higher volume of positive reviews. They also tend to get more detailed feedback from both happy and unhappy customers, which can provide the information needed to improve.
Developing a habit within yourself and among your employees to ask for reviews is the most important thing you can do. Doing so won’t just make you look better online; it will also help you genuinely become better thanks to the feedback you earn.
If you are a restaurant owner or a marketer trying your best to improve your online reputation, you can use the following tactics to increase the rate of reviews you get.
Recognize Why Positive Reviews Are So Important Yet So Hard to Get
Understanding why asking for reviews is important helps a ton with motivating your follow-through.
Firstly, people care about online peer reviews more than any other form of information on a product or service.
According to eMarketer, 31% of people 18+ trust the information they receive from online reviews. That’s the highest-rated source, beating out the 23% of people who indicated they trust recommendations and feedback from friends, family, and colleagues the most.
Think about that: 8% more of the population trusts strangers online more than their own family and friends!
Millennials — those 18-35 years old — have an even bigger gap. 40% of them trust online reviews the most compared to 24% who prefer input from people they know personally.
Yet, there’s an even bigger gap between the likelihood of someone reading a review versus leaving a review.
Around half of people say they check reviews either “always” or “most of the time”. But 35% of people say they “rarely” leave online reviews and 20% say they “never” do it.
Making matters worse, people are more likely to leave a review after a negative experience compared to a positive one.
Getting happy customers to review your restaurants is a huge challenge, but one definitely worth doing.
Restaurant owners must recognize the importance of pushing through the uphill battle to earn more reviews. To help them find success, they can use any of the following tactics.
Make Verbal Requests Part of Every Customer Customer Interaction
Employees must be trained to ask for reviews at the end of their interactions with a guest. People are more likely to feel positively towards an individual requesting a review compared to a faceless request bearing a company logo.
“The person-to-person request is incredibly effective, particularly if the requester has spent a lot of time with the guest,” says digital marketing firm owner Brian Patterson. He reveals that in-person requests get seven to eight times more reviews compared to email.
Everyone in your company should make it a habit to ask for a review. Don’t be pushy or directly ask that they say something positive. Just request politely that they leave feedback “if they’ve had a good experience.”
Make It as Easy as Possible for Someone to Leave a Review
How many times have you thought about leaving a review but didn’t?
This happens to people all the time, and they quickly forget that they meant to leave a review in the first place.
Fix this problem by sending helpful digital reminders.
Asking in-person is the first step since it creates intent in the mind of the guest. They promise someone something, so they have more intention to follow through compared to a generic “Review Us!” request.
The second step is to make leaving a review as effortless as possible.
Ideally, you email them a direct link to your preferred review sites, such as Google or Yelp. You can also send out general reminders periodically on Facebook and other social media so past customers can remember to review you.
Some guests may even respond well to links sent via SMS, so take surveys and have customers indicate their preferred option so you can work with their tendencies, not against them.
Emphasize Strong Customer Service Basics
When it comes to positive reviews, consistent service that delivers on baseline expectations is far more important than “wowing” the customer.
According to the Harvard Business Review, many efforts to “surprise and delight” the guests fall short. They write that “89 of the 100 customer service heads we surveyed said that their main strategy is to exceed expectations. But despite these Herculean—and costly—efforts, 84% of customers told us that their expectations had not been exceeded during their most recent interaction.”
Instead of going above and beyond, try to get the ground level right. Hammer home basic customer service practices, such as asking if someone needed help or if they experienced any problems.
Listening to guests during their transaction helps improve their positive sentiment towards their overall experience. If someone has an issue, try to resolve it or offer some way to make it up to them.
Speaking of which, gathering data from older reviews is an important step for businesses looking to improve their online reputation. Find patterns within negative feedback, and work to improve these recurring issues.
Also, make note of any positive feedback so you can explain the importance of certain aspects of the customer journey to employees, such as having a friendly attitude.
Monitor Online Reviews and Respond to Those That Need Your Attention
Respond to a reasonable rate of glowing positive reviews — maybe around 5% to 10% — and try to address issues presented in negative reviews.
When responding to negative reviews, always take the guests’s feelings and experience as gospel. Work on moving the relationship forward totowardesolution rather than making excuses or arguing about what happened in the past.
You want to appear pro-active and eager to resolve conflicts rather than interested in starting publicly visible fights online.
Constantly Collect Guest Review Data to Improve Your Online Reputation
Once you begin your efforts to earn more reviews and improve your reputation, track your results.
Try to look for patterns among the types of guests who are more likely to leave positive reviews. As an example, people who use a specific product or service may come away feeling more positive compared to others. Focus more on these people when requesting feedback.
You may also notice that certain tactics are more effective than others. Sending an email from a named employee email account compared to a generic “customer support” account can increase your positive review rate, for instance.
Over time, data generated from your reviews will reveal a path forward where a higher rate of your customers leave reviews, and a higher percentage of those have something nice to say.
Keep asking for reviews, and maintain focus on providing great experiences, and you should be able to improve your online reputation in no time flat!