A recent study revealed 78 percent of consumers appreciate management responding to reviews. Replying to reviews, positive and negative, can bump up your customer conversion rate and revisits. 9 out of 10 customers now see online reviews. Cone Research found that 4 out of 5 customers reverse their decision after reading a negative review. By addressing your reviews, you ensure to minimize the damage of your negative reviews and maximize the benefit of your positive reviews. In this article, we will go through the importance of responding to reviews and a few best-in-class response strategies.

Positive Reviews

While initially it might seem responding to positive reviews wouldn’t help, there are several key advantages of doing so. In fact, unlike negative reviews, responding to positive reviews is fairly risk-free and only has significant upside.

Reasons to respond to positive reviews:

1. Increases chances of a revisit. By responding to the review, you are appreciating your customers and building a lasting impression on their minds. Suggesting other food items to your customers could also whet their appetite and earn you another visit from them.

2. Improves search rankings. By replying to your positive reviews, you are improving their SEO.

3. Opportunity for subtle marketing. Responding to your reviews is also a chance to speak with your potential customers.

4. Its the nice thing to do. Appreciating an online review is the digital equivalent of thanking people who give us a compliment in real life.

5. Focus on the positive. You want your customers to read your positive reviews rather than negative ones, right? Well, responding exclusively to negative reviews will simply bring more attention to those reviews. By responding to your positive reviews as well, you ensure people read what customers love about you as well, not only what they dislike about you.

Use the following 3 step strategy to respond to positive reviews:

1. Thank the customer.

Ex. Thanks for the awesome review – Will pass on your message to the chefs. It will make their day.

2. Reinforce the positive comments about the specific food items mentioned by the customer.

Ex. I’m glad you liked our chicken enchiladas – they’re the best!

3. Add in subtle marketing by asking the customer a question.

Ex. Have you tried our beef enchiladas? I think you will love them too!

Negative Reviews

Responding to every negative review is not necessary and doesn’t always help. It might be better to not respond to angry customers as that would only make things worse. However, you should respond to reasonable customers who have genuinely made a mistake, or haven’t provided enough information in the review to warrant the poor rating.

Reasons to respond to negative reviews:

1. Show you care. Remember that 9 out of 10 customers now see your online reviews. By addressing your negative reviews, you show your customers you care about what they have to say.

2. Rectify incorrect information. Occasionally, customers would have genuinely made a mistake. In a best case scenario, rectifying their mistake could also encourage them to change their review. Regardless, it would be good to ensure your potential customers aren’t misled by bad information.

3. Better understand their issues. If the reviewer hasn’t provided enough details and just left a line or two, asking for more details would help you understand the issues the customer faced in more depth and also show that you care about your customer experience. This information would also help you fix their issues in order to prevent similar negative reviews from reoccurring.

Use the following 3-step strategy to respond to negative reviews:

1. Apologize.

Ex. We apologize for your bad experience. This is definitely not what we are about.

2. Add in some marketing.

Ex. We believe quality service and delicious food are the 2 pillars of a great restaurant experience but it looks like we have not succeeded in this particular instance.

3. Let them know you will take certain actions to resolve the issues raised.

Ex. Will meet up with my chefs to further look into this.

Until recently, restaurants had to either spend too much time responding to reviews personally or spend too much money hiring marketing firms to respond to them. Another drawback with hiring a marketing firm is the responses they post would be generic as they wouldn’t have first-hand knowledge of the specific issues faced in the day-to-day activities of running your restaurant.

Fortunately, Reputicity, a Silicon Valley startup, has developed new technology to automatically give restaurants suggested responses that help promote their positive reviews and mitigate their negative reviews. This allows restaurants to post the ‘marketing firm’ responses after incorporating their personal experience without spending a lot of time or money. The only disadvantage of this approach is that restaurants might have to spend about 10-15 minutes a month posting the suggested responses to their profiles.

Considering the fact that 92% of consumers read online reviews today, reputation management is no longer an option for restaurants, it is now a necessity. With fierce competition, a solid reputation can be the factor that differentiates the winners from the losers. It is no surprise that an eMarketer report found 68 percent of restaurants already actively manage their reviews. Considering the significant gains that can be made through responding to reviews without having to spend too much money or time, wouldn’t you agree that it makes sense to do so?

Guest author bio: Tejas Mehta is the founder of Reputicity – a Silicon Valley based startup building an Online Reputation Management Platform for restaurants. He has significant experience solving difficult business problems through strategic thinking, and building innovative products through highly scalable, powerful software solutions.

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