Meet Andy. Andy just worked up the nerve to ask Angela on a date. Angela reluctantly agreed but warned Andy ahead of time that she has a slew of allergies and dietary restrictions. Andy, always prepared, Yelps, TripAdvisors and Googles the city clean, reading reviews and picking apart the menu of every gluten-free, vegetarian joint with a Mexican spin he can find. (He doesn’t want to mess this up!) With every negative review, every missing star, a seed of doubt is planted… Should he risk it?
While Andy might be a little overeager, the age of the digital restaurant review has changed the way customers choose where they dine. Customers often peruse menus online before looking up directions. Even within these searches, they’ll likely come across online ratings - the good and the bad - which can color their decision.
Yelp hosts a whopping 71 million unique visitors on their site every month. A few years ago, it was reported that a whopping 88% of survey respondents read reviews to determine the quality of a local business.
More and more restaurants are using reviews as part of their marketing strategy; to have a profile on Yelp, Google My Business and TripAdvisor is to exist. Plus, studies show that “a ‘one star’ increase in Yelp rating (based on Yelp’s five star rating system) leads to a 5-9 % increase in revenue for your restaurant.”
Yes, reviews are powerful... but they can make you or break you. With that in mind, here is one key strategy - and three hacks to action it - that will optimize your customer reviews and ensure a positive experience, both at the table and online.
The #1 Strategy to Great Reviews: Inspiring Customer Loyalty
“71% of customers who ended a business relationship did so because of a poor customer service experience. That mass exodus totaled $83 billion in the United States alone or $289 per customer in annual sales.” - Forbes
The key to success when it comes to generating positive reviews is customer loyalty. Think about it. We all know negative reviews are usually composed as a knee-jerk reaction (or for some, a fit of rage) to a negative customer service experience that wasn’t recovered. But positive reviews are a whole other ball game. If you leave a restaurant pleased, sure, you’re likely to recommend it to a friend. But would you immediately hop on Yelp and give a digest of what occurred? Perhaps less likely. Positive reviews are more often written up because of impeccable customer service, from the server and restaurant on all fronts, which establishes a strong connection. So how can you determine whether a customer has a strong degree of loyalty and turn that into a review?
1. Ask in-person
Servers have the best gauge of a table’s experience. Did the evening go smooth as silk? Did they feel more like they were serving friends than strangers? Did the table rave about the food? Are they on their way to becoming regulars? Make it known among your staff that if they feel they’ve given a table a really positive experience, that they can suggest the guest leave a review.
Asking digitally is also an option. Use your mobile POS to collect emails tableside- as you would for marketing and promotions. Then send an email shortly after the guest visits encouraging the customer to provide a review while their visit is still fresh. The more time that passes, the more they’ll forget. With that said, having a server ask in person provides a personal, relationship-based ask that would be more likely to result in a positive review.
A crafty way to position your ask for a digital review is by sending a feedback survey to your guests. But as we know, using a spray fire approach to reviews could end up harming you. What kind of questions should you ask to determine who would be likely to give you a positive review? Here’s a few examples:
In the last three months, how many times have you visited?
On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your last visit?
On a scale of 1-10, how likely is it that you'll recommend us to a friend or colleague?”
Essentially, you want loyal guests, those who’ve frequented your restaurant, who had a positive experience, and are willing to pass that experience along. While in a true customer experience survey, you could also probe into the details of their last visit - How was the service? How was the food? Was there anything you’d change - for the purposes of collecting reviews, these three questions can be your indicator of a highly invested, highly loyal customer.
3. Promote your presence on review sites
Shout it from the rooftops! Include a link on the digital or physical receipt guests receive and have your server circle it. Promote the review site on Facebook and make it known to your followers. Likes on Facebook and other social media sites indicate an investment and some loyalty to your brand. Research shows that 49% of people who ‘like’ a brand’s Facebook page do so because they consider themselves to be a loyal customer. Even if you have a blemish or two, you can see our guide on how to handle negative restaurant reviews to turn that smudge into a shining example of owning up to an error. When addressed correctly, your response to a negative review can showcase your dedication to repairing and improving the guest experience. (Plus, it happens to everyone.)
Customer loyalty- it’s the only way to inspire a positive conversation around your brand. If you don’t believe us, remember Steve Jobs’ assertion, “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.” Or Katherine Barchetti, who said simply, “Make a customer, not a sale.” Or Valeria Maltoni, who said so poignantly, “The way to a customer’s heart is much more than a loyalty program. Making customer evangelists is about creating experiences worth talking about.” Lucky for hospitality, you’re in the experience industry. Make it one worth raving about.
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