Secrets of Bad Restaurant Reviews and Cheery Customer Service
- Genevieve Babineau
- 3 Min Read
Unfortunately, customers are more likely to punish bad service than reward a superior one. On online customer review sites, you’re more likely to hear about a restaurant’s slips—the fish was dry, service slow—than about the time the hostess lent an umbrella to diners on a rainy day. It just takes one spectacular stumble, one negative review, for a business to suffer the aftermath. That’s why encouraging guests to share their positive experience could become your business’s most powerful marketing tool.
Ahead we’ll explore how diners rate your restaurant based on customer service. We’ll also talk about the best ways to respond to negative reviews and to harness the marketing power of good ones.
Reviews Hold all the Power
Did you know that review forums like Yelp are important to your bottom line? Check out these stats, which suggest that customer reviews, like the ones diners share about your restaurant’s food and customer service, are extremely important.
- 82 percent of adults say they read online ratings or reviews before purchasing products or services for the first time.
- Under certain conditions, consumers are more likely to choose a product with more reviews to one with less.
- A product with just five reviews has a 270 percent greater chance of being purchased than a product with no reviews.
- 93 percent of consumers use online reviews to determine whether a local business is good or not.
Don’t Fear the Review
Restaurant operators may feel hesitant to establish an online presence for fear that it opens the door to negative customer reviews and publicity. But Experian, a business analytics company, says businesses that embrace the internet tend to build better credibility, reach more customers, and influence buying decisions better than those that stay offline. Make feedback part of your business model so that managing your online reputation and responding to reviews doesn’t overwhelm. Make it easy for customers to write a review on websites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, and Zagat. Delegate to a marketing manager or social media specialist to monitor the information flow.
Asking for reviews (the right way) is not an unreasonable request. Display your website links on table menus or other point-of-sale displays. Restaurants with an email newsletter can ask for reviews or incorporate the request into conversation when someone compliments your business.
When you receive compliments from guests, direct them to Yelp, or another website of your choice. Just make sure you’re not overly solicitous or that you wait too long with your request. The likelihood of a review diminishes as time goes by.
You can win a guest for life if you handle guest recovery well. Responding to both negative and positive reviews will help you stay connected to your people, encourage top-notch restaurant customer service, and influence future service experiences for the better. Never ignore an angry customer.
Comb through all online reviews and respond to complaints in a professional manner. Customers who go through the trouble to submit a comment expect a response. Convince and Convert, a digital marketing advisory firm, says that 42 percent of customers complaining on social media want a response within 60 minutes. While this request feels somewhat unreasonable, this commitment should remain top of mind when responding to negative reviews.
Find the right balance
When responding to negative reviews, acknowledge your customer’s concerns. Place yourself in the shoes of the customer before firing off a rash response. Echo words and phrases pulled from the review to prove you understand the issue at hand. Let them know your expectation for guest experiences. Take the opportunity to win back their trust by inviting them back to the restaurant for a tasting or a dinner with their family. Let them know you’ll be there personally to ensure a phenomenal time.
Get proactive with retention efforts
Avoid negative reviews in the future, and engage in crisis management. Look for trends in customer responses to see what steps you can take to improve your restaurant’s customer service. Though rarely an ego booster, negative reviews can highlight flaws in restaurant service. Use this opportunity to coach your team on gracious and attentive service. If a line cook struggles at lunch rush, have him work shoulder to shoulder with a star employee to see if his work improves. Reward team members who get mentioned in positive reviews. Run shift contests that reward servers to encourage their regulars to leave reviews.
Opt-in to instant notifications
Opt to receive instant notifications every time a review is posted about your restaurant’s food or customer service. Though it doesn’t catch every single review, creating a search query in Google Alerts will email you every time something is said about your business on the web. Restaurants with many locations might consider enrolling in a reputation management service like Main Street Hub or Heartbeat to chase down online “mentions.”
Everything you need to know about restaurant marketing 101.