Is it Necessary to Respond to Positive Online Reviews?

Restaurant reviews are easy to come by these days – diners, whether delighted or disturbed, are willing to give their unsolicited opinions on public forums. There are plenty of platforms to post an evaluation on, like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Google, just to name a few. As a business owner, it’s wise to keep tabs on what people are saying about your restaurant in order to maintain an impressive reputation online.

I’ve already discussed the importance of responding to negative reviews in an earlier article, but is it necessary to respond to positive online reviews as well?

Below, I discuss the etiquette and best practices for responding to positive online reviews about your restaurant.

Yes, You Should!

The answer is simple, yes, you should be responding to positive online reviews just as often as negative ones. Of course, it can be argued that addressing negative feedback should take top priority because a scathing summation of a customer’s experience can cost you business. But, positive reviews are just as important to your online and in-house reputation.

Appreciation Warrants Appreciation

A satisfied customer took time out of their day to praise your restaurant and detail the experience they had dining with you. They didn’t have to recount their positive experience with readers, but they did. The least you can do as the restaurant owner is to acknowledge your appreciation of their kind response. You can keep your reply simple, thanking the customer for their words and hoping that they’ll join you again.

Showing that you appreciate the effort a customer put into writing a positive review makes your restaurant seem more human. It can also help establish long-standing relationships with customers and inspire loyalty.

It’s Free Advertising For You

Leaving a positive review isn’t the only kind of a customer to do, it’s free, favorable advertising for your business.

According to BrightLocal research, 60% of people read online reviews for a local restaurant or cafe. Further, 73% of consumers trust a local business more after reading positive reviews. Positive reviews clearly matter to hungry diners thinking about visiting your restaurant.

When people see a large number of high-star reviews for your restaurant, they’re more likely to dine with you. Personally, when I’m looking for a place to eat, I take into account the number of positive reviews. The more negative reviews I see, the less chance there is that I’ll dine there.

If people are reading your restaurant reviews, which they will (consumers read an average of 7 reviews before trusting a business), they’ll notice that you’re putting the effort into responding to them. Again, this further establishes a personality for your brand and shows that you care about customer service.

So, How?

You know you need to respond to positive reviews of your restaurant, but how should you begin? Of course, you’re busy and can’t dedicate hours per day just responding to criticism and praise on different review sites. But, you still want to maintain a presence and rapport with your customer base. We’ll outline how you can achieve it.

Create a Boilerplate Response

Come up with a generic response that you or your staff members can use when replying to an online review. It will help to set the voice and tone you want to convey for your business. However, providing canned responses for every review won’t look good on your part. Of course, you’ll want to tailor each reply, but having a solid example response is a reference point. It ensures that whoever is handling review responses has a starting point they can refer to and utilize along the way.

Address Them By Name & Use Yours

Most times, you’ll be able to see the name of the person who left the review. Use it! Personalization goes a long way. A simple “Hello Mary” or “Hi Peter” can help build the connection between you and your customer. Again, it establishes that human voice behind your brand and shows that you care about your customers’ opinions.

You can even sign off using your name to end the response. If you’re the owner of the restaurant, or even another employee, use your name when wrapping up your reply. This further shows that the response was made by a real person and not just an automated system.

Get Specific

As mentioned above, canned responses won’t reflect well on your business. You want to address an individual’s comments when applicable. If someone mentions that they loved your chicken noodle soup, say something about it in your reply. For example:

“Hi Samantha, We’re so happy that you had a memorable dining experience at Westside Bar & Grill. Our chicken noodle soup is one of our specialties, we use my grandmother’s recipe to get it just right. Thank you for your feedback, we look forward to having you join us again soon! – Bill”

Going the extra mile to mention a highlight not only makes the interaction more conversational, it shows that you read the review and that you, again, appreciate it.

Carve Out Some Time

A restaurant business is hectic, unpredictable, and fast-paced. At times you probably feel like you don’t have time to breathe, let alone time to respond to reviews online. But, it’s essential, and designating some time to the task will help you stay on track.

Create a weekly calendar block when you know your schedule isn’t as busy and use that time to responding to feedback. Things may come up and priorities will shift, but you’ll at least have a helpful weekly reminder to check in on your online reviews. Making review response part of your routine ensures you will keep it top of mind.

Reviewing Your Reviews

Reviews can be found on an array of websites and apps. It can be time-consuming to have to keep up with every review on each platform. Here at SinglePlatform, we strive to make your life as a restaurant owner easier. That’s why we created our Review Intelligence and Review Monitoring tools. With these tools, we aggregate all of your online reviews from the essential sites into one easy-to-use platform.

From there, you can drill down on reviews by star ratings for different categories. Quickly identify what makes your business stand out from the crowd and what areas you need to make improvements in. It’s review reviewing made easy with SinglePlatform!

In Closing

Responding to positive reviews is just as crucial as addressing negative comments about your restaurant. Providing a personalized, well-executed response will help to establish a synergy of sorts between your business and your customers.

Utilize these tips to become a master at review responses to lift your restaurant up to the next level of customer interaction and care.

You Got a Bad Review – Now What?

Picture this: it’s Friday night. A couple, Samantha & Jeff,  just left their kids with the babysitter and for the first time in months they’re headed out for a well-deserved anniversary dinner. After extensive online research, scouring menus for the best food options, they decide on a place in the center of town with great reviews and a wide selection.

Although excited for their night out, the night starts off poorly. The babysitter shows up late, Samantha spills wine all over her new dress, and due to a car accident on the 405, traffic is a nightmare. Due to this series of events, the couple shows up 30 minutes late to their reservation.

When they finally get to the restaurant, the place is packed and the next available reservation isn’t until 10 pm. Luckily, although unhappy about the situation, the hostess manages to squeeze them in at a table in the corner next to the kitchen. It’s not ideal, but it will have to do.

After waiting for at least 20 minutes for their waiter to take their orders, they are assured that the food will be out right away. But of course, with the way things have already been going, it doesn’t arrive any time soon. The entrees finally arrive and they’re as delicious as Jeff & Samantha had hoped. However, they still find themselves waiting for a long time after the meal ends to get the check. Although the food is good, Samantha just can’t see past the less than impressive service. With all the events of the night replaying in her mind, she decides to write a critical review about the restaurant once she arrives home. As the restaurant’s owner, you immediately get a notification email about her negative response. Now what?

The truth is, receiving a bad review is bound to happen. Although it may seem like the end of the world, one bad review does not mean you’re going to have to shut your doors tomorrow. However, how you choose to take action will affect how you’re perceived. With 92% of people reading reviews, your online reputation is crucial. In this article, we’ll highlight easy ways to handle those negative reviews.

Separate Your Response from Your Emotions

Although you may take personal offense to an unfavorable review, it’s important not to get defensive. Trust me, I know it’s hard. This business is your baby. You’ve put blood, sweat, and maybe even a few tears into making sure it’s successful and now someone has criticized every detail. But, you should be careful about letting your emotions show when responding to unhappy customers.

In today’s world, online reviews are a popular word of mouth, so comments are unavoidable. We get a lot of questions from our customers about deleting reviews. Restaurant owners want to know if they can delete reviews or if we can do it for them. In extreme cases, they even consider suing the person who wrote the comment. When it comes to removal, reviews are like wallpaper, once they are up, they’re extremely difficult to take down. Of course, people are entitled to their opinion, and although freedom of speech is a privilege, we understand that backlash can be difficult to face. The First Amendment makes it difficult to remove unwanted comments.  Still, some people have had success contacting the website where the review is posted to ask for removal. This instant deletion definitely isn’t guaranteed, so you should focus your energy not on removal, but on making the situation better with a timely response.

Showcase the Positives

Don’t panic. Keep in mind, reviews are written to give other potential customers an idea of one person’s experience, but this doesn’t mean every online researcher is going to turn away from your business. In reality, most people will read multiple reviews about your restaurant before making a decision. It’s possible that the good will outweigh the bad, making the negative review less detrimental.

You can bolster the online reputation of your business by having a solid social media plan, showcasing high-quality photos of your restaurant and food, and interacting frequently with your customers. Highlight the things you’re great at and creatively show your customers what you have to offer. You can even use positive reviews to your advantage by repurposing them for testimonials on your website. How you choose to showcase your own business can influence the perception of potential customers.

Address the Situation with Grace

The most important action to take after receiving a negative review is to respond quickly and professionally. Although it may take a little while for the shock of a bad review to wear off, you don’t want to wait too long to address the situation. Of course, although Samantha didn’t have the greatest experience the first time, you don’t want to lose her as a customer. Addressing her concerns can help to show you care and also gives your business credibility.

When responding to a review, the best thing to do is be emphatic and try to see the situation from their perspective. Was it just that Samantha was having a bad day or was there something that could have been done differently by your staff?

In this instance, Samantha experienced long wait times, a less than favorable table location, and impolite service. There are multiple areas for improvement here and it’s important to address that in the review. Start by explaining that you understand where she’s coming from. This will make her feel like you have empathy and concern. Next, let the customer know that experience she had is not reflective of your entire business and that you hope she will return to give your restaurant another chance.

Please note to stray away from offering a discount on a public platform. This may cause even the happiest of diners to post a bad review in hopes of getting a coupon. However, offering an unhappy customer a reason to return is a great idea. Try contacting the customer directly and offer them a free glass of wine or 10% off their next purchase. If someone is willing to write a bad review, chances are they are willing to write a good one later if they change their mind about your business.

Getting Started

After considering the beneficial reasons to respond to reviews, you may have some work to do. Need some inspiration to start? Consider these examples:

“Samantha, I want to apologize that you had a negative experience at my restaurant. As the owner, I strive to offer the best food and service to every customer.  I would love the opportunity to contact you directly to discuss how we can improve and make your next experience with us better. Thank you for your feedback, we will definitely take your thoughts into consideration.”

Once you have been able to contact your customer directly, attempt to get them back in the door.

“Hi Samantha, As mentioned, your opinion means a great deal to us and we would love the opportunity to give you a better experience at our restaurant. If you do decide to return, we want to offer you a free bottle of wine with next your meal. We hope to see you again soon. Thank you again for your feedback!”  

It’s important to stay professional, no matter how critical a review might be. The only thing worse than a bad review is a snarky response from the business. If potential diners see rude responses from restaurants, chances are they won’t give you a chance either. Always make sure to be conversational, understanding, and genuine. And of course, follow through with any promises you make.

Being a business owner can be tough and even something as little as a customer having a bad day can lead to a bad review of your restaurant. When addressing a negative review, it’s important to stay level-headed and remain professional throughout the process.  Although you may want to just have a negative review taken off the internet, it’s better to address the situation directly with the source. This will show your restaurant’s empathy and credibility to both the reviewer and other potential customers. Empathize with the customer, apologize, and try to change their mind. You’re not going to receive positive reviews 100% of the time, but having a strategy to address the negative will help you in the long run.

About the Author: Meghan Bradley is an Account Manager at SinglePlatform where she helps on-board customers by walking them through training and welcoming them to our platform. In her spare time, you can find her at a local sports bar, cheering on her favorite teams or at a new restaurant, on the hunt for the best burrito NYC has to offer!


Manage Customer Reviews: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

For the average small business owner, reputation is important. What customers think, write, and say about your business can easily influence the decisions of others. Thanks to the internet, critics are not the only people talking. Between social media, blogs and review sites, your customers are speaking out whether you like it or not. Yes, we have all encountered the detrimental 1 star review from an irrational unsatisfied customer. But customer reviews are not all bad, and if handled properly, they could actually help your online reputation. Here are a few tips:

1. Don’t Neglect Bad Reviews

Whether it’s a good or bad review, customers love to know that they’ve been heard. If a customer has left a negative review for your business, be careful of how you respond. Even if you don’t agree with the commentary, acknowledge their concern and offer an opportunity for redemption. In addition, try to respond internally to the root of the problem. What went wrong? How can you prevent this issue from upsetting another customer?

2. Encourage Positive Reviews

If the customer is leaving a positive review, respond to it! Let them know how happy you are to hear from them and encourage them to come back. Customers love to connect with local businesses on a personal level. This type of communication is the foundation of customer retention. Even better, repost their review. For example, if someone had left an outstanding review on your Yelp page, copy and paste it in quotations onto your Facebook wall for others to see.

3. Enhance Your Listings

Add your menu, photos, and other informative details to your online listings so that your customers are getting more information about your business. When surveyed, the majority of consumers said that when deciding where to eat they look for a menu online. Put your menu & photos online and start taking control of your online content.

SinglePlatform can help you take control of your online presence. Learn more abut how we can help you get discovered everywhere that matters online.

Make Time to Review Overtime

Several companies have come under fire for not properly compensating employees for overtime hours. Starbucks, for example, has dealt with many overtime lawsuits, totaling almost $18 million in fines. While managing employees and their schedules is a necessary task to keep business running smoothly, it has also been a source of legal trouble for many companies who aren’t accurately accounting for employees’ hours.

Although lawsuits are a consequence of improper compensation, there are ways to avoid it. For starters, companies should ensure that employees are fulfilling tasks solely related to their job description. For example, employees in the managerial role should not be running food to tables or bartending when short-staffed.

When employees are tasked with duties unrelated to their job titles, they may decrease their overall productivity as they have to direct their energy elsewhere. Any task the employee might have to fulfill that is unrelated to their job description should be discussed upon hiring and before a contract is signed. Regardless, employees should always be compensated for their time spent working at your business.

Besides the legal complications of accounting for overtime hours, there are many aspects to consider before allowing your employees to clock out later. Burning out as well as developing physical health problems are just two downfalls of working overtime. Studies have also shown that the possibility of developing depression doubles when working long overtime hours.

From a business standpoint, there are several liabilities that could lead to lawsuits if the appropriate amounts are not paid out which would add up to much more money over time.

The logic many companies have behind an overtime policy is the belief that the company will be more likely to meet its financial and production goals with the extra work, which will result in a higher return on investment. Companies feel they are able to deliver more products and services, create more advertisements, and ideally gain more profit.

Considering there are many instances where employees are doing extra jobs to keep business strong, they are oftentimes staying longer than their scheduled 40 hours per week to get everything done. By having an overtime policy that everyone understands, you eliminate the possibility of legal action while simultaneously satisfying your employees.

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Best Practices for Review Monitoring for Local Businesses

Internet review sites have gained steam in recent years; Yelp and Foursquare both support millions of daily users. These review sites and many others have changed the way that consumers find local businesses. 88% of consumers say that they trust online review as much as personal recommendations, which means that your online reviews are just as important as word of mouth referrals. Many business owners know they should be setting aside more time to monitor their reviews, but once you have the time, where do you start? Below are the best practices for review monitoring to help you and your staff through this delicate process.

1. Claim Your Listings
Most review sites require you to claim your business listing before you will be able to respond to your business’s reviews. Check out our handy guide that will help you claim your listings.

2. Monitor Your Reviews Regularly
Make sure that you or a staff member is consistently monitoring popular review sites for new reviews of your business. If a review requires a response, you’ll want to be able to respond as quickly as possible.

3. Don’t Ignore Positive Reviews
While there is no need to respond to every review, responding to a handful of positive reviews helps you engage with happy customers too. Appreciating customers who already have a positive view of the company can turn them into regulars.

4. Read Carefully
When you find a negative review, read the full review carefully so that you understand the issue fully. Decide if the review merits a response. If the main complaint in the review is an issue of personal preference such as too much garlic in my marinara sauce or this fitness center doesn’t have the barre class I like, then it might be best not to respond. There is nothing for your company to defend or fix. If the complaint stems from a service issue or a faulty product, you should consider responding.

5. Look into the Issue
After deciding that a negative review is worth a response, gather as much information about the incident as you can. Ask your staff what happened from their perspective and if they remember the specific customer. Do the complaints in the review have merit? Is this feedback that you can use to better your service?

6. Private or Public Response
Once you have gathered your information, you have to decide whether or not to respond publicly or privately. Often it is best to respond privately; this often can de-escalate the conflict and makes the customer less likely to get defensive. Many review sites allow users to update a review, so if you are able to smooth things over in a private message, users may update previous reviews to reflect your efforts.

7. Apologize
Always start a response to a negative review with an apology, even if the issue wasn’t your fault. A customer walked away from their experience with your business unsatisfied and an apology will make them feel heard.

8. Explain How Your Business Has Improved
Show others reading this review that you are constantly striving to be better. If you address the issue raised and explain ways that you hope to avoid this issue in the future, that reviewer and other readers may be inspired to give your business another chance.

9. Say Thank You
Always thank a reviewer for taking the time to give you feedback. Feedback is a gift for business owners and if utilized productively can help you improve your business. Saying thank you will make you seem professional and foster good will between the readers and your business.

Following these steps will help you manage this aspect of your online presence and maintain a positive reputation amongst consumers who are active on review sites. To enhance your online listings with the information that customers are searching for, check out SinglePlatform.

Negative Customer Feedback: 4 Mistakes to Avoid

Receiving negative feedback from angry customers may seem like a customer service nightmare. In today’s connected world, one unhappy patron is all it takes to permanently damage your business’s reputation. However, negative customer feedback is actually the most valuable kind you can receive. Without critics, how would you know what improvements you should be making to provide even more value to your customers?
It isn’t easy to interact with someone who’s angry or aggressive, but there are a number of things you can do—and not do—when your business comes under fire. Here are 4 mistakes to avoid when handling negative feedback.

Mistake #1: Don’t Wait to Make Improvements Until People Complain

If you think you’ve got your customer service strategy perfected, think again. No matter how great your program might be, you can always find things to improve. Assess your efforts on a regular basis, and you’ll start to see the number of complaints drop as you address issues upstream.

Mistake #2: Don’t Delete Negative Comments or Reviews

No matter how quickly you stumble across a negative comment or review, there’s bound to be at least one person who’s already seen it, and they’ll notice if it suddenly disappears from cyberspace. Consumers perceive a deleted comment to be some kind of cover-up, and the user who made the original post is likely to become even more vocal about his or her complaints if they feel like you’re trying to brush something under the rug.

Instead of pretending the negative feedback never happened, address is head on. Even if you don’t feel that the customer’s claim is legitimate, you can at least let the person know you’ve heard them, appreciate their feedback, and will take steps to make things right. At some point, you may transition the conversation offline for a quicker resolution, but the initial response should happen in whatever forum the user provided feedback.

Mistake #3: Don’t Ignore Negative Feedback

Ignoring negative feedback isn’t quite as bad as hiding it, but it is a lost opportunity for your business. If you respond quickly and sensitively to someone’s concerns, they’re more likely to change their mind about your business, or at the very least stop sharing negative feedback with others. If you just ignore them, they’ll add being ignored to their list of complaints and will likely continue to voice them to their peers.

Mistake #4: Don’t Retaliate

When a customer unfairly attacks your products, services, or staff, it’s tempting to lash out in return. Resist the urge to sink to that person’s level. If you have nothing helpful to say in response to a comment, then say nothing. If you can soothe the person’s hurt feelings or ask for additional clarification while remaining neutral, that’s even better. Just remember: How you respond to an angry customer’s tirade says a lot more about your business than what the customer is saying about you.

The Bottom Line

Negative feedback is bound to happen periodically. When it comes your way, consider it as an opportunity for growth and learning instead of an unpleasant downside of doing business. Be proactive in making improvements you know are needed, and engage with critical customers in a way that will benefit them and your business. If you do, you’ll come to embrace negative feedback instead of dreading it.

Online Review Forums and Customer Service

These days, customers aren’t just picking up the phone, shooting you an email, or coming into your store for support. As review forums such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google Local have grown in popularity, consumers have begun to use them to voice complaints and questions.
Most small businesses monitor review forums solely for the purpose of maintaining their brand image, but you can also use online review forums as another customer service channel. Here are 2 dos and 2 don’ts when it comes to responding to online reviews.

DO Take Action to Right Wrongs

If a customer writes a negative review, investigate the claim with your staff. If your business was at fault, take the appropriate action to right the wrong, whether it’s writing an apology, offering a replacement item, or extending an offer for a free or discounted product or service. Don’t be afraid to admit that you made a mistake—but be quick to make amends for it. The vast majority of customers will still keep doing business with you if you make an effort to address their complaints in a timely fashion (within a week).

DO Respond to Inquiries and Suggestions

Often times, customers will include questions or suggestions in the course of their review that they won’t take time to share with you personally. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to gain valuable insight into what your customers want and what you could be doing better. You don’t have to reply to every reviewer, but you should make an effort to answer any specific questions that come up and respond to users whose suggestions you’ve implemented. These kinds of interactions will make customers feel valued and involved in your process.

DON’T Take Negative Feedback Personally

Most patrons won’t take the time to review your business unless they’re exceptionally pleased or exceptionally displeased with their experience. Reading angry reviews, especially those that seem unprovoked by a real grievance, can be upsetting. Keep in mind that none of the comments consumers share are directed at you personally, and no single comment is representative of your entire customer base. While it may be challenging to remain calm when it feels like your business is under attack, replying with a heated or nasty comment will only fan the flames and draw more attention to that particular review. Keep your replies professional at all times, and as the old adage goes: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

DON’T Let Yourself Be Exploited

Every system can be exploited for personal gain, and this includes review forums. The goal of most reviewers is simply to share their experience with others, but there are always a handful of people whose goal is to take advantage of businesses. Competitors may pose as patrons in order to publicly critique your business; users may write reviews of your business without having been a patron; others may purposely post harsh comments in hopes that you’ll offer a little something to make amends. For this reason, you need to be careful when it comes to online reviews. If a review seems fishy, it probably is, and you shouldn’t waste your time engaging with it.

The Bottom Line

In general, online customer service follows the same rules as phone, email, and in-person customer service. If you reply promptly, stay professional, and treat people with generosity, you’ll be able to grow your customers’ loyalty. The added benefit of doing so on a public forum is that your actions can have an impact on a larger audience who isn’t directly involved in the conversation. Let your actions speak volumes of good things about your business, and others will notice.