Restaurant Review
Small Business & Productivity

How to Respond to Online Reviews in 10-ish Minutes Per Day

Last week, I went to a fancy restaurant with my husband for a nice dinner.

I put on a dress, a little makeup, and (gasp) actually did something with my hair. So this was clearly a special occasion.

When we got to the restaurant, we were told that there would be an hour wait, even though we had a reservation. An inauspicious beginning, but these things happen. So we found a place to wait.

After an hour and 15 minutes, we were finally sat. And we sat. And sat. And sat. For another 20 minutes before we were approached to place our drink order. Which came out wrong.

Then we placed our dinner orders…which came out cold.

Then we placed our dessert order…which never came out at all.

Finally, we’d had it. We asked to speak to a manager.

When she reached the table, we explained our frustrations. I said that I understood staffing issues and busy nights, but that we’d had a terrible experience.

The manager just stared at me. Didn’t say one word. She just stood there, absorbing nothing I said and doing nothing about it.

Finally, we got up and left, resolving never to go there again and to tell anyone who would listen about how awful that restaurant was.

Psst…That Story Wasn’t True

We did go out to dinner recently, but we actually had a lovely time and the food was great.

However, when a customer does have a bad hospitality experience and no one bothers to address their negative feedback, it sure feels like they’re talking to an indifferent manager.

Responding to online customer reviews is a simple way to make people feel heard and valued. It even has a fancy name: online reputation management. Well la-dee-da.

Why Respond to Reviews?

Because customers want you to.

53% of people say they expect brands to respond to critical reviews. And 45% of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews. Plus, a whopping 78% report that seeing responses to online reviews makes them feel that the business cares about them. Responding to reviews shows potential customers that you take customer service seriously.

There are companies that you can hire to respond to online reviews for you. But when you do it yourself, you get the benefit of keeping abreast of what’s happening in your hotel, restaurant, or event venue. You can keep track of customer feedback and see where your service standards are falling short.

The review is part of the user experience that the hospitality owner or manager should not miss or delegate.

The Big Four

Here’s a fun stat: 88% of all online reviews from four places:

  • Google My Business (73% of reviews)
  • Yelp (6% of reviews)
  • TripAdvisor (3% of reviews)
  • Facebook (3% of reviews)

Foursquare? Citysearch? Forget ’em. When you stick to these four, you’ll get the most bang for your review buck. We’re not trying to respond to every single review across the entire internet.

And if you’re really pressed for time, drop the site that gets you the fewest reviews. If you’re a restaurant, that’s probably TripAdvisor. If you’re a hotel, it’s probably Facebook. But check your business profiles to be sure.

Responding to Online Reviews FAST

You’re a busy person, so you don’t have all day to hunt down customer feedback and type out massive review responses.

Fortunately, this process can be systematized and optimized.

In 10 to 30 minutes per day, I respond to reviews for five different hotels for a marketing agency client. This isn’t a service I offer on its own, but I was happy to add it on to this client’s other copywriting services.

The slowest part of responding to reviews is pulling up the websites.

Honestly!

Here’s how you can access all of your business profiles in one step.

  1. Open your business review pages on Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Facebook.
  2. Create a Bookmark Folder called “Reviews.” (In Chrome, you can just right-click on the Bookmark Bar at the top of the browser and click “Add Folder.”)
  3. Create a bookmark for each review page, saved inside the Reviews folder. (In Chrome, you can click the little star on the far right of the search bar and choose the Reviews folder from the dropdown tab.)
  4. You should now be able to see your Reviews folder in the Bookmark Bar at the top of your browser.
  5. You can open all four of your review profiles at once! Just right-click the folder and click “Open all (4).” Now you have your four review sites ready to check.

How to Respond to a Positive Review

Responding to a positive review is incredibly simple—especially when you have a formula. Don’t reinvent the wheel or start from scratch every time.

Here’s what your formula could look like:

  • Thanks/appreciation
  • Acknowledge something specific
  • Invitation to return

It’s that simple. In practice, it could look like this:

“Dear Happy Customer,

Thank you for sharing this wonderful review. (Thanks/appreciation) I’m delighted that you chose to spend your anniversary with us. I will be sure to let the chef know how much you enjoyed that special dessert. (Acknowledge something specific) I hope you will come back to Our Excellent Restaurant for your next celebration. (Invitation to return).

Warmly,

Name”

Your formula may look a little different. Maybe you want to acknowledge the star rating or inform them of an upcoming event. You can (and should) play with the order of the elements in your formula to prevent it from getting too…formulaic.

But when you know the elements you want to include, it makes the writing fast and simple.

How to Respond to a Negative Review

Negative experiences happen. They’re a reality of the hospitality life, just like line cooks that drink too much and coworker romances that end badly.

You can create a similar formula for bad reviews. Some helpful elements to include:

  • Gratitude for the feedback
  • An apology for what went wrong
  • What you will do to make it right/prevent it from happening again
  • Invitation to return

Here’s what it might look like:

“Dear Unhappy Customer,

Thank you for sharing your recent experience. Learning where we fell short is how we get better. (Gratitude for feedback) I’m so sorry for the wait that you encountered during your recent visit. (Apology) I will be revisiting our seating policies with the host stand to prevent this from happening in the future. (What we’ll do to prevent it in the future) I hope we will get another chance to welcome you to Our Excellent Restaurant so we can provide a better experience. (Invitation to return)

All the best,

Name”

Here’s what we’re not doing when we respond to poor reviews:

  • Getting bogged down in the details. It is unnecessary and unhelpful to address every point that the reviewer raises with a paragraph. I’ve seen review responses that look like essays, and they come across as defensive. Methinks the restauranteur doth protest too much.
  • Arguing with the reviewer.
  • Calling the GM or manager immediately to raise a fuss. We’re trying to get through this task quickly, not draw it out into an all-day affair. Make a note of the issue and address it during your next sit-down with whoever was on duty that day. 

Dealing with False Reviews

There are good reviews, there are bad reviews, and then there are baloney reviews. The kind where a customer didn’t get what they wanted so they invented a fake story to try to damage your reputation.

The best approach is to get these removed entirely, if possible. You can flag them for removal on most review sites. If you can’t get it removed, I suggest explaining as simply as possible the truth of the situation. You’re unlikely to convince the liar-liar-pants-on-fire to remove their review. But adding additional context will help potential customers who stumble on the review to see the situation more clearly and can mitigate the damage.

Delegate the Final Step

To save another minute or two, you could delegate the actual posting of your responses.

Logging into your review sites and double-checking spelling and grammar are extra steps that you don’t have to do yourself. Instead, set up a spreadsheet where you can copy-and-paste each review, list where it came from, and write out your review responses. Ask a trusted employee to double-check the spelling if that’s not your forte, and then they can share the responses on Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook.

It won’t save a ton of time. But by limiting your involvement to only the most important tasks, you’ll free up more of your time for the work that only you can do.


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