With the holidays in full swing, there is no time more important than now to fill up your Yelp, Google and social media with up-to-date ratings and positive reviews. Today we will be discussing why you should request online reviews, what you can do to cultivate more positive reviews, and how to respond to them.
Why do positive reviews & ratings matter?
When a customer is deciding where to eat, a lot of times the first place they check is the reviews. On smartphones, the GPS search results will have stars on a scale of 0 – 5 listed right underneath the name of the location. So, if I find 2 Mexican restaurants that are equally distant from my current location, naturally I will pick to eat at the one that has the best reviews. If a location has no reviews yet, it is likely that you will lose out on a new customer because they may think:
- “This business must be disappointingly average, they haven’t been worthy of a review yet.”
- “Nobody has been here before.”
- “Is this a front for money laundering???”
Not only does it matter to HAVE a review, but the quality of these reviews matter too. You want your customers to write 3+ sentences about a meal that they LOVED, a specific employee who made their experience stand out, or about the environment your location offers (it’s all about the vibes these days).
Besides the specific message your customer writes, the quality of their review is elevated once an image is included… Especially for restaurants!
Customers want to see the food they’ll be eating, social media influencers want to see if there’s any cool art or photogenic spots in your store, and the cleanliness of the location can be noted by these images too. It establishes a foundation of trust before they’ve even stopped by your store yet.
How can I encourage my customers to leave positive reviews?
There are a couple of things you can do to encourage more reviews. A lot of these solutions revolve around incentivising it (give them something in return) and making it easy (make it worth their time). Here are some ideas we’ve compiled:
- If you have a loyalty program, offer to give them free points or a reward in exchange for the 4+ star review.
- If they leave a positive review before paying, you can take off a few dollars from their subtotal.
- You can create a photo wall with printed pictures of all your “cheerleaders”
- Create a tiered system, where each level grants them a better reward in return:
- Basic Review: 4+ stars with up to 1 positive sentence.
- Good Review: 4+ stars with 3+ positive sentences
- Better Review: 4+ stars with 3+ positive sentences and an image
- Best Review: 5 star review with 1+ positive sentences and an image
It’s important to keep in mind, these reviews will generate new customers for your store, so you can expect a return on your investment. Giving a couple of dollars off their next purchase is a small thanks that will set you up for success.
How do I respond to the reviews?
Your response should be personal, and quick! If you wait too many weeks or months before responding, there’s a chance your customer has already forgotten about the review they left. On your least busy day/time of the week, you can set aside 30 minutes to respond to as many reviews as you can from that previous week. To save time, you can skip replying to the ratings/reviews your customer(s) left without a comment, and just reply to those that took the time to write a note & include an image.
A great rule-of-thumb is to break up your response into 3 sections:
- Start with a Thank You
- Give a shout-out to something/someone they specifically mentioned or one of the photos they published in their review
- Invite them back
On Google: You can either respond via your desktop or on a mobile device through your Google My Business account.
On Yelp, you have 2 options. Here is a quote from their help center: “You can respond to individual reviews in two ways: by public comment or direct message. A public comment can be viewed by anyone who is looking at your Yelp Business Page. Your response appears directly below the review you are responding to.”
What if I get a negative review?
You should still reply following the previous template! But *pause* evaluate their feedback with your team before you start typing…
Here are some tips:
- Your reply should be made publicly, with transparency about any mistakes your business may have made when serving this customer
- Empathize and apologize
- Ask questions if clarity is needed
- Provide an incentive to invite them back as a token of appreciation for their feedback… Hopefully your team won’t repeat this mistake again and you can turn a negative into a positive!
- Include your name and/or contact information so they know they’re speaking to a human who is committed to right this wrong
With this strategy in mind, you can accomplish 2 objectives: (1) You show other readers that your business takes this kind of feedback very seriously and that you are dedicated to making things right and, (2) You give the reviewer an opportunity to return and hopefully they can become a loyal customer after a better experience.