Everyone’s a Critic – making the most of customer reviews

Customer reviews, whether good or bad, are important for building your business. Positive reviews not only encourage more customers, but also elevates your business in search engine rankings such as Google and heightens awareness about your establishment. Crucially, reviews offer insight to prospective customers before they actually make a booking. As Jane Pendlebury, CEO, The Hospitality Professionals Association (HOSPA) says “Prompting good reviews should be a priority as no opinion is more valuable than that of consumers who have used your services. The more reviews you have on platforms such as Trip Advisor or Google Review, the more transparent your business becomes.”

Regularly monitoring reviews on a daily basis is imperative so you can respond accordingly. Felicity Read from Leapfrog PR says “Business owners need to be on top of reviews on a daily basis, making it easy and straight-forward to review and rate the venue after a visit. Ensuring you have regular good reviews will keep the positive appearing at the top of the review timeline, which is what you want potential customers to see.”

The main platforms include TripAdvisor, Trustpilot, Google Review and Booking.com, although social media also needs to be checked including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

According to Emily Lockwood from Excelerate Consulting, customer reviews should always be seen as a great opportunity. “OpenTable offers a great platform where all reviews can filter through one channel making it easier to respond while not missing any.”

Angus Grill + Larder, Brechin, Scotland responds to all public reviews. Will Macpherson says “This shows guests that we appreciate the feedback and demonstrates to the public that we engage with our guests. The two main ones we look at are Google and Facebook as they are super easy for guests to leave reviews. If a guest takes the time to leave you a review, then engage and respond.”

For The Hungry Plaice, a mobile catering business, feedback is pivotal to the company’s success “they can mean the difference between taking a booking and missing out on an opportunity altogether,” says Georgina Lee-Price, owner. “We always follow up with our customers with a direct email and encourage them to leave feedback either through our booking platforms or on social media and once received, they are put onto our website for all to see. It’s important to take on board all feedback, whether positive or negative, to learn from any mistakes that may have been made and to continuously improve your business.”

TURN A NEGATIVE INTO A POSITIVE
The way you respond to negative reviews is important. Jane Pendlebury says “You should always avoid standardised responses to negative feedback and approach each example promptly and honestly. People pay attention to how you respond. Don’t take negative reviews to heart. Although your offering might appeal to many, preferences vary.” Inviting customers who have complained back for a second experience can also help you to restore their faith in your business.

When handling negative reviews, try to take the issue offline as soon as possible by switching to an email conversation. “You also need to spot the serial fakers – those using the review platform to seek a refund or compensation. If they are genuine, they will usually accept your response. Otherwise, you must report them to the platform to prevent further damage to your business or someone else’s.” Says Felicity Read from Leapfrog PR.

Whether reviews are good or bad, the person behind them is a potential ambassador in the making, by transforming your attitude to all reviews, you could reveal a huge opportunity for your business.