In the fast paced world of write-what-you-will-when-you-want internet blogging, reviewing, and all around tom-foolery, you’re able to find varying opinions on just about anything. From bashing faulty restaurant equipment to condemning an establishment’s service, it would seem that opinion makers particularly enjoy targeting the restaurant world. Inhabiting an industry that’s so inherently subjective, restaurant owners need to be in the know when it comes to how customers, and the public in general, view and talk about their eatery. Not monitoring your online reputation, or worse yet ignoring the opinions you do uncover, can lead to customers not coming through your doors and eventually those doors closing for good.
Social media, review sites like Yelp, and literally any random person with a voice wanting to be heard, can be both an excellent way to spread positive feedback or negatively criticize a restaurant for poor quality. With 84% of American consumer’s decisions affected by online reviews being on top of the pulse in terms of watching what people say about you is crucial. Here are a few tips for staying ahead of the naysayers and building relationships with your optimistic fans.
Actively listen. All too often people are just waiting for their turn to speak rather than actively listening to what’s being said. If you take this approach when reading negative, or even positive, reviews you can really miss the message and come across as ignorant and inattentive. Open up those ears and take it all in, one disgruntled customer at a time, and realize that the opinion surrounding your restaurant can’t and isn’t molded by your hands alone.
Start with the social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and branch out to more specialized review sites like Yelp, UrbanSpoon, OpenTable, and the likes. Additionally, you can comb the entire internet with Google Alerts and have it scour the web for mentions of your restaurant’s name. The tools are out there, you just need to use them.
Interact. If you’re not responding to your critics and formally thanking your fans you should be. With an internet era that’s all about conversation it takes more than listening to truly understand where consumers are coming from and what they’re expecting in regards to your restaurant. Make sure to create a dialogue with both your critics and your regulars and let them know that you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say.
Just remember to follow a few common-courtesy rules during the conversation and you’ll be in good shape:
- Don’t insult people
- Avoid acting defensive
- Don’t pat yourself on the back
Have a voice. Instead of letting those who talk negatively about your restaurant form your online reputation you need to take action and do more than simply notice the public. Saying thank you can go a long way, but offering an alternative viewpoint for people to weigh when making a decision is important. Rather than letting your potential customers believe a non-flattering review they come across, use discussion and interaction to provide an inside look into how your restaurant operates. Offer blog insights and helpful tips (Facebook & Twitter are invaluable when it comes to spreading information) and you’ll be surprised how many people will tune in.
Customer research. Knowing your customers is the key to providing them with the best service possible and exceeding expectations. In line with actively listening, once you’ve established a conversation it becomes easier to cater to needs and discover trends. If you see social media and active response as an opportunity to know customers better than they know themselves (in terms of what flavors suit their fancy) you’ll be miles ahead of your competition.
Monitoring feedback and staying in-the-know when you’re being talked about is easier than ever. Whether you’re trying to attract a new customer or attempting to turn a bad experience into a second chance prospect taking the initiative by managing your online reputation is step in the right direction. Granted, living up to a positive reputation requires dedication, but learning the habits of your customers is satisfying when you can take them from trying your food through having their expectations exceeded. Often satisfied customers are more than happy to help you spread a positive word!