Hospitality, lifestyle and travel industries have been dramatically impacted by social mediums. One of the most conspicuous impacts is the rise of reviews on sites like Yelp, Facebook and Google. They are incredibly easy to access, entirely subjective and extremely influential – and a perpetually thorny subject in the hospitality industry. Nevertheless, these reviews can make headlines if handled poorly (as everyone in Austin recently witnessed). Ergo, strategic digital management is key to imprinting a controllable brand image in tandem with uncontrollable peer-to-peer content.
The reality is that reviews – good, bad and preposterous – are here to stay and heavily utilized by potential customers (it’s estimated that 85 percent of potential customers will consider reviews before securing service). This means business owners have a [free] opportunity to market quality customer service and build positive community relations. When handled correctly, reviews are a helpful tool to identify tweaks which can strengthen and improve your business. A good engagement strategy also helps establish a positive image. However, businesses – especially hospitality establishments – are easily spurred to frustration over complaints easily frustrated with complaints that are relative and misrepresentative of a typical experience or dining experience. This is complicated by the emotional lens that owner/operators read through and can lead to mismanagement which negatively impacts brand image.
Many of our clients either rely on us to execute their engagement strategy or seek advice on how to handle it in-house. So, we’ve decided to share the best practices that we share with our clients. Check ‘em out.
Do or Do Not?
- DO establish a consistent pattern of engagement for reviews. Choose how you will (or won’t) respond to positive and negative reviews.
- DO check your ego. It does not matter how ridiculous or nit-picky a review is, the ‘customer is always right’ is the expectation you must meet.
- DO keep responses professional and respectful. Acknowledge the client’s experience and thank them for their insights. Examples:
- Positive Review | We are thrilled that you enjoyed your experience and hope to serve you again soon.
- Negative Review | We’re sorry to hear that your experience was sub-par and thank you for your insights on how we can improve. We hope for the chance to satisfy you in the future.
- When there is a particular, out-of-the-norm occurrence, DO address the review by expressing a desire to discuss the matter further, provide contact information and thank the reviewer for their comments. Reserve detail for private correspondence.
- DO NOT blame the reviewer or make excuses for the issues. People paid good money at your establishment, they don’t care what your circumstances are. Responding defensively hurts your brand image.
- DO NOT offer free meals/drinks/gift certificates in a public forum (though DO be open to compensation if the situation is handled and resolved privately). Once you set the expectation that negativity is rewarded with free incentives, it will be hard to placate additional negative reviewers with words.
- DO NOT respond rudely or defensively. It does not matter how annoyed you are with the review, your response is public and you are the only person a rude review will hurt in the long run.
- DO monitor the reviews for common denominator issues and do your best to implement positive changes. Examples:
- Service to slow? Implement changes to improve flow and wait times.
- Rude staff? Implement changes in employee protocol and training.
Always remember that your response to a review gives insight to your brand. If people feel attacked or offended, or even if they just feel the response is not authentic, they are easily disinclined from patronizing your establishment. Ultimately, your response as an opportunity to acknowledge the reviewer and to save them as a customer, which is easier than attracting new customers. According to LinkedIn, “it costs between 4 and ten times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one.” Strategically and financially, it’s best for your company to work on the upkeep of your existing customer relationships actively.