The World of Reviews

The hospitality business is a tricky area with an incredible amount of competition. If you own a café, bar, restaurant or hotel in a major city you are likely to be in close competition with your neighbours – and doing seemingly small things better than them can make a large difference. In this post we’ll talk about how to make a difference by getting reviews – something that many owners and managers have given up upon a long time ago, often concluding either a) that customers simply don’t want/have the time/are excited enough to write reviews or b) reviews don’t really matter that much, and the risk of a bad review is not worth the effort.

But although the consumers of the twenty-first century are “busier” – whatever that means – and most often equipped with unbelievably short attention spans, it is possible to get customers to give their input and make a difference for your business.

But, you’re thinking – why should I even care about reviews?

77.3% of online shoppers say reviews highly impact their decision to make a purchase – and with the internet looking as it does today, reviews are easier than ever to find. Who doesn’t know Tripadvisor, Yelp, Facebook – and with Google as the right hand of every potential decision-maker, playing online hide-and-seek won’t get you anywhere.

Apart from the data, however, here are a couple of less statistical pointers as to how embracing reviews can improve your business

  1. You hold yourself accountable
    The risk of getting negative reviews will automatically put you into the mindset of providing great service. Being aware that you may get a bad review works the same way as the principle of “what gets measured gets managed” – where there’s an obvious risk, there’s a need to hold yourself accountable.
  2. You get a chance to make the experience you provide for your guests even better
    Encouraging guests to make reviews will force you to become even more conscious of the service you provide, becoming more pro-active and better at reacting to whenever a potential bad experience may arise for a customer.
  3. You get a chance to improve
    By encouraging reviews you also risk getting bad reviews – but bad reviews are not necessarily bad for your business. View them as a chance to improve both your current service and your relationship with the unsatisfied customer.
Alright, I’m in – but where do I start?

There are many ways to get better ratings, and many shapes of those ratings – whether on Google, social media or specific review sites such as TripAdvisor or Yelp. Let’s go step by step.

Good reviews

 

 

Step #1: Decide on which platform to put your focus

Which platform(s) to focus on depends on your target audience. If you are placed at a central spot and tourists account for the majority of your income, it’s a good idea to focus on the fora that are specifically for travellers. If this is your case, TripAdvisor or Yelp are both good places to start.

If, on the other hand, your business is either located outside the center of the city or if locals are the main source of income, it might be a better idea to focus your efforts on your Facebook page – this page will most often be in the local language, and locals are more likely to search on Facebook than to go to Tripadvisor. If a local customer checks in at your place on Facebook, there’s also a better chance that his local friends will take notice of your place and consider visiting.

If you’re looking to improve your local search engine optimisation, it’s a good idea to focus on reviews for your Google Business account.

Step #2: Decide how to ask your customers

If you show how engaged you and your employees are in your business, customers are likely to like your business more – and engaging in conversations with them about what good service is, asking them how their experience in your place was or any other questions related to improving your business will also make guests more likely to leave reviews for your business on your desired platform.

Good reviews

There are three main things to keep in mind when you want to ask your customers:

 

1. The psychology factor: You need to establish a wanting to leave a review 

However simple it may sound, it’s a common sales technique to ask people questions and listen to what they have to say; most people like to hear themselves talk, they like to express their opinion in the hope that they will make a difference or that you will like them more. Asking a simple question such as “how did you find your experience in our café today?” will spark a natural interest in them to express their opinion. And from their side, if you care so much about their opinion, they will automatically like you more.
Most often, engaging with someone about their experience and telling them how proud they would make you if they would take the time to leave you a quick review will in itself prompt a positive review, and is a better alternative than compensating visitors for reviews (which is also against certain platforms policies – such as TripAdvisor).

 

2. The convenience factor: It needs to be easy for them to leave a review 

Unless your customers are mostly yoga-fanatics with a marvellous zen-factor, your customers are likely to have a very short attention span, to be busy and to not feel that helping your business is a priority in their life. You basically need to make it easy and convenient for them to leave a review. Convenience can have several factors by itself – accessibility, time and device type.

 

3. The timeliness factor 

To encourage customers to leave reviews it is important to ask neither too early or too late. On the one hand, you need to make sure that your guests will have had the full experience you have to offer – and on the other, it can’t be too late after this experience as otherwise the initial sense of having had a great experience may have faded.

How you make it convenient for your customers depends both on your business and on your customers. If your clientele is young and the type of people that will spend five minutes filling up their Instagram feed with new food pictures before they start devouring their freshly heated carrot cake, they are probably more likely to want to leave a quick review immediately on their phone – or they will forget all about your amazing blueberry whipped cream as soon as they’re out the door. An ideal solution for this tech-savvy audience could be to simply ask them when paying to go to your Facebook page and leave a quick comment and a review – your page will be easily accessible through their Facebook app on their rose gold iPhone 7. If your customers are mostly young travellers, they are more likely than locals to have the TripAdvisor app on their phone already, so you can do the same with this travel audience.

If, on the other hand, you mostly serve your high-class French food to an older audience, they are less likely to want to spend their time at the table with their loved ones struggling with technology. For this audience you can ask if they would like to subscribe to your newsletter where they will get good discounts and offers, and in the same sentence squeeze in a question about leaving a review. This way your customers can sit in the comfort of their homes and leave your business a well thought through review. If they feel like going immediately to leave a review, use a URL shortener (such as bit.ly) to make easy links that will redirect to your chosen platforms for your customers to leave reviews.

Good reviews

In terms of your online channels there are a couple of things that will improve your likelihood to gather some good reviews:

  1. Encourage people on your website and social media accounts to leave reviews
  2. Make it easy to access your reviews on all your channels – by linking to your preferred platforms whenever you ask for reviews
  3. Integrate your reviews in your email marketing – take advantage of the opportunity that your newsletter presents to you and use it to ask people to leave reviews
Step #3: Ready, set, go!

And now all that’s left is to get off your computer/phone, and literally just to go out and ask your customers. What do you have to lose? Stop reading, start doing!