Did you know that an astounding 94% of diners choose restaurants based on online reviews? And that they tend to prefer reviews written by actual customers rather than food critics? Online reviews are the digital equivalent of word of mouth, and consumers are always more inclined to believe someone’s experience than any other form of marketing. That’s why having a robust online review program is a must in this increasingly crowded and competitive space.
However, getting diners to leave a review, even if they’ve had an excellent experience, is easier said than done. Here are four steps to take to encourage more online reviews. You don’t have to do them in any particular order, but if you do them all, you will have covered all the bases.
Know Where Your Audience Hangs Out
Find out where your customers generally read and post reviews. Google, TripAdvisor, and Yelp are the most well-known, especially for restaurants. Begin by creating pages on the well-known review sites, such as:
- Yahoo Local
Over time, you’ll see which review platforms your customers prefer and use it to fine-tune your strategy. Keep in mind that Facebook is still the top place for positive reviews.
Manage Your Online Presence
Now that you’ve created your profiles, you can start directing people to those pages. You’ll need to create an online presence for your business. This means you need:
- A website
- Landing pages
- Online menu
- Social media profiles
It can be a process to set these things up, but it is well worth it. You’ll get much more engagement and reviews. Be sure to link your review profiles to your website or landing page so that customers can find them quickly and easily when they want to write a review.
Feature some of your best reviews on your website and offer an incentive to leave a review, such as a coupon for the next time they visit your restaurant. Note the wording here. You are asking them to leave “a” review, not telling them to leave a positive review. A good way to ask is something like “Love it, like it, or hate it?” it is crucial to make it easy for your customers to find your restaurant and write a review.
Comment on Every Review, Good or Bad
As you start to get more reviews, you’ll see that they range in quality. And sooner or later you’ll get a bad one or two. It’s essential to respond to all reviews, even the bad ones. If they had a stellar experience, you can engage them further and build trust, not only with the reviewer, but also with the people who read the reviews.
No one likes a negative review, but they do happen. In fact, 30% of consumers believe that reviews are fake if there aren’t any negative reviews. Negative reviews are a valuable opportunity to remedy the problem and turn the experience around for the diner. And, you’ll get meaningful feedback.
Poor restaurant customer service is one of the main reasons diners leave negative reviews, and poor food quality is a close second.
Follow these guidelines when responding to reviews:
- Read the whole review and put yourself in the diner’s seat
- When you respond include words and phrases from the review, so they know you actually read it and understand the issue.
- Apologize if necessary – saying you are sorry goes a long way towards fostering good will.
- If the problem can be remedied, offer to give them a credit on their next visit.
When you respond to every review, you show your clientele that you value their opinion and take any criticism seriously. It is better to acknowledge any negative reviews and any mistakes than to ignore both. Handling them quickly builds trust while ignoring them looks disingenuous.
Ask for Reviews (The Right Way)
Sometimes, just asking is all you need to do. It’s surprising how often people will do something just because they are asked. The key is not to be too solicitous when you ask.
If they had an awesome experience, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask them for a review. Timing is also a factor, so it’s best to ask them fairly quickly, so they don’t forget or get side-tracked. The chances of a diner writing a review go down over time.
Another way to ask for a review is to mention reviews when customers compliment your restaurant. If someone posts on Facebook about their experience, you can respond by thanking them and ask them to leave a review on Yelp, Google, or TripAdvisor. If your restaurant has a self-service kiosk, you can program it to ask for a review when your customer pays their bill.
There are many reasons why a customer might not write a review. However, if you find that you are having a hard time getting reviews, examine the process and make sure it is easy and uncomplicated. The easier and simpler you make it, the better.
Although there is some set-up required, once you get your online review program going, you’ll quickly see its value. These steps can help you consistently get reviews and your excellent service and food quality will ensure that they are, for the most part, positive ones.