Why you should respond to online reviews

By Austin Verner

When it comes to reading online reviews, every restaurant should leave no stone unturned. Today, the question for restaurant owners shouldn’t be, “do they find me online?” but rather, “what do they find when they find me?”

Online review management has become integral to running a successful restaurant, and restaurants should evaluate how responding to their online reviews affects their business. Why? Because 97 per cent of consumers look at online reviews before making purchase decisions. That’s a lot of eyes on your review responses!

Negative reviews: why you should respond

Responding to a negative review allows you to seize the situation, mitigate negative influence, and show potential and existing customers that you care. Your response can also give context to the problem for readers. Using this opportunity to prompt actionable steps in resolving the issue privately is the best way to approach this issue.

It may not seem like it, but it’s possible to turn negative reviews into revenue, and turn a 1-star review to a 5-star review. When handled properly, you can turn a potential loss of hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars in revenue and loyal customers.  

Negative reviews: how you should respond

When responding to negative reviews, remember the 3 C’s: collected, compassionate, and call to action.

Collected: Reviews should not be taken personally and it’s important to respond with professionalism. Remember, the only thing worse than a 1-star review is a 1-star review with an immature response from the owner beneath it. This can reflect badly on your business and turn potential diners off.

Compassionate: Try to understand your customers’ perspective and never dismiss their experiences. Everyone makes mistakes – it doesn’t make you a bad restaurant! Once you’ve acknowledged their experience without trying to defend yourself or justify the mistake, be sure to include a brief apology.

Call to action: Refer them to a number, email, or webpage where they can provide additional, private feedback. Make sure they know their voice will be heard and action will be taken to improve their personal experience moving forward.

With negative reviews, it’s most important to respond calmly, empathetically, and to present an action plan.

RELATED: Minimizing the effects of negative reviews on your restaurant

Positive reviews: why you should respond

The primary purpose of responding to positive reviews is to deliver a human thank you and let guests know you care and are listening. Beyond that, engaging with satisfied consumers creates trust and conversation, builds SEO (search engine optimization), and even attracts new customers.

78 per cent of consumers say that seeing management personally respond to their online reviews makes them believe that the business cares more about them. Not only that, but when you respond to a review, the reviewer gets a notification and a reminder to come back in.

Positive reviews: how you should respond

When crafting your response to a positive customer review, it’s best to start with the client’s name and a quick thanks for their feedback. You can also include company values in your response to reinforce your brand, but always keep responses brief and free of advertising –online reviews are a place to be heard, not sold to. Keep your response to three to four sentences long and allude to something specific the customer mentioned in their review to reassure them you read it and heard them.

Did you know that 52 per cent of customers expect to hear back from brands within seven days of writing an online review? So, be prompt! Successful businesses know that even positive reviews need some positive engagement.

Austin Verner is the Canadian Account Manager for Ovation, an omnichannel guest feedback solution for restaurants that gets more 5-star reviews and retains dissatisfied customers. Reach him at [email protected].