Reviews could be the first encounter any potential customer has with your restaurant. When people look for places to eat out or are selecting their hotel options, they frequently turn to sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp. They would rather rely on the advice of a stranger instead of opening themselves up to a negative experience. This means that your response to negative reviews matters.

How can you make a positive first impression?

1.) Understand Your Options

Make yourself familiar with the merchant responses allowed on different review sites.  Many sites offer different options ranging from responding to reviews to even editing or deleting them.

By understanding what options you have on all available platforms, you will be able to respond effectively in every situation.

2.) Don’t Ignore Reviews

Once you are familiar with these sites, respond to reviews regularly.  As unwarranted as you think some reviews are, potential customers are going to be referring to them on a regular basis, and making assumptions about your restaurant.

Four out of five consumers have changed their mind about a purchase based solely on negative information they read online, according to a study by Cone Communications.

Don’t let your business lose potential sales because you do not take the impact of a negative review seriously.

3.) Hire a Social Media Manager

If you do not feel you have the adequate amount of time to respond regularly, hire someone to be your social media manager.

Make sure that this person knows your brand image.  Occasionally monitor their posts to ensure the social media manager is following through and upholding this. This person is your connection to the public, and anything they say is a representation of your restaurant. 

4.) Reviews are like Free Research

Every review, positive or negative, is a free glimpse into your customers’ experience.  Keep a record of what is working in your restaurant and what is not.  If one thing keeps coming up, make sure you address it as soon as possible.

See this feedback as a way to make every experience better.

5.) Always Stay Positive

Be sincere and positive when responding to criticism. 

People are not looking for perfection online. What they’re really looking for is humanity and a genuine response,” says Shama Kabani, author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing and CEO of The Marketing Zen Group.

Show that you care about their experience, and that their review has been taken constructively.

6.) Have a Game Plan for Responses

Know how you are going to respond and take responsibility. Put yourself into the customer’s shoes, and offer to fix the issue if at all possible.

7.) Be Brief

Keeping the previous point in mind, keep responses short and sweet.  The customer has shared the facts they feel comfortable making public.  Do not put any further information out there that you do not have the right to share.

If the conversation needs to go further offer your contact info for the customer to be in touch with you.  Make sure this response is personal and genuine and shows you care what has happened to your customer, and that you want to make it right.

8.) Remember That Everyone Can Read Your Responses

The most important thing to remember in all of this is that everything posted is public.  Address concerns appropriately and demonstrate that your business is engaged in fixing any potential problems.

Whether people are writing reviews or just reading them, how you respond could directly impact your business’ financial success.

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