3 Rules for Replying to Negative Online Reviews
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Guest sentiment is shared in a lot of universal ways, showing how we feel about an experience:
Thumbs up or thumbs down.
Five stars or a 1-star rating.
But for the restaurant operator who has delivered the experience, this is only half of the equation.
Part of it is about knowing how you did. The other part is knowing if there is anything you can do better next time.
The word “sentiment” can be broken down into two pieces of feedback or feeling:
1. A general feeling about how an experience went compared to expectation.
Question to ask: Did your expectation align with the reality of your experience?
Yes → I’m happy.
No → I’m dissatisfied.
2. A commentary or thought on how things could have or should have gone better.
The question asked here needs to be open-ended, so that respondents can include more information and give specific examples of what you did well or where you could improve.
Your guests are already sharing their experience at your restaurant on third-party platforms. But you should be proactively asking them about how their meal went, too. Here's why:
First, you intercept negative feedback from going to a third party platform.
26% of Americans research a restaurant’s social media before booking. When you don't survey guests, you risk receiving negative reviews on platforms like Facebook and Google and losing 1 in 4 new guests because of it.
Second, you can follow up with a guest before they share their negative feedback with friends.
Here’s why this matters:
54% of Americans base their dining decisions off of recommendations from friends and family.
Following up with unhappy guests can change their perception from negative to positive. In a study, when consumers with a negative experience received follow up from the company they complained about, 1 in 3 actually turned around and posted a positive review.
So for the half of Americans who base dining decisions on what their friends and family have to say, you're able to make sure that they're hearing more positive things about your restaurant. And for those who research online before booking, you ensure that they see more positive reviews.
Okay, so let’s talk about how the actual surveying of customers. An easy way to do this is to send an email to your guests using the contact information they shared with your during booking.
That covers how to get the survey out, but let's talk about what to ask.
At a bare minimum, your survey needs one quantitative and one qualitative question.
Once you lay out the questions that you want to ask, you need to think about two things:
How will I make sure that this feedback survey gets sent on a regular basis?
How will I act on the feedback that I receive from customers?
Many businesses overlook these questions and end up with a process that falls apart over time. Or, their guest's answers go into a black hole instead of being replied to and validated.
All types of sentiment — from an individual consumer having a terrible experience with an Amazon order, to a group dining at a restaurant and having a great one — have a commonality:
They all require a feedback loop that does the following:
Automation can tie together each task into a feedback loop.
The one piece of the feedback loop that cannot be automated is agreeing on solutions to act on, and then acting on them, at your restaurant. That has be done by your staff. It requires a discussion and then a process to implement changes at scale.
The secret ingredient to success with sentiment is finding a sustainable, scalable way to have your staff agree on and make changes based on negative feedback.
Below are common situations that make it difficult to truly keep a pulse on guest sentiment.
Many restaurants rely on third-party sites to keep tabs on guest experiences. This is great if reviews are positive, but it means that negative reviews are seen by other consumers and could be deterring them from dining with you. 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they would a personal friend.
Solution: You should have a proactive process in place to ask your guests how their experience was, and to do so immediately after they’ve dined with you. This intercepts negative reviews before they go public, and it shows that you care. A guest would rather hear from you; it feels personal.
9 in 10 consumers are less likely to purchase from a business that ignores complaints.
Whether it’s a negative review on a third-party platform or directly to you in a feedback survey, you need to follow-up.
Here’s why: Giving negative feedback and never receiving follow-up angers a guest even more. Receiving a heartfelt apology, on the other hand, leaves a guest with a more positive impression of you than if they hadn’t had a problem in the first place.
In fact, following up with a negative experience has this effect interesting on the guest:
While following up may seem time-consuming, it’s worth the two minutes to create an advocate out of an opponent.
When you send a guests a survey and they have rave reviews for you, take advantage of it.
What you should do: Ask those guests to share their experience on a public review site like Google, TripAdvisor, or Yelp. Having a positive experience means they’re more likely to come back. But sharing it on a third-party platform has a network effect, helping draw in new guests.
Remember for a second that no restaurant is perfect. Imagine a cup of water with tiny holes, causing it to leak. Those are your negative reviews. When you ask for feedback from guests and/or monitor third-party review sites, you find out exactly where those holes are so you can fix them.
What to do: Set a regular meeting with your staff to discuss reviews, identify causes of issues, and come up with a plan of action to address each theme. It could be a monthly meeting, twice a year, even once a year. As long as it’s scheduled, and there is a set cadence. Otherwise you can bet that solution execution will be overshadowed by existing operations.
Any time you have a manual process in place, it requires human resources, time, and a process being upheld for it to be sustainable.
In other words, you risk it dropping off over time.
Replacing this with automation ensures that it runs consistently and smoothly over time, and it takes a task off of your staff’s plate.
What to consider: Find a restaurant reservation system that sends feedback emails for you. It should do all of the following:
The best way to find the right audience for your feedback emails is to monitor table status in real-time and trigger the email to send on a delay once guests have left their table (i.e. send next day at 10AM).
7X by SevenRooms is a package that sends feedback emails to your guests for you and automates follow-up based on positive or negative sentiment from the owner or whoever you choose. It also aggregates third party reviews from Google, TripAdvisor, Facebook, and other platforms into a dashboard. You can pull reporting based on the date range and star-rating you choose, and search reviews. You also get a daily summary of new reviews, right in your inbox.
Did you know? SevenRooms offers everything above. Get your personalized demo today.