Word-of-mouth has always been the most trusted advertising business could get. Today, that word-of-mouth has become influential on a much grander scale than it ever was in the past thanks to the increased popularity of online ratings. This is especially true in the hospitality industry.
Most people will pull up reviews on Yelp, Google, or their preferred social media app when making plans for a trip or a night out. Having plenty of five-star reviews for potential customers to scroll through can do as much or more to drum up new business than promotional advertisements on Facebook or Twitter. So what can you do to make sure that you both get plenty of online reviews and ensure that the lion’s share of those reviews are positive? Here are a few tips.
Focus on Customer Service
This seems like it should go without saying, but having a staff that does all the little things that matter to a customer goes a lot farther than you might think. So many industries rely on impersonal interactions through online sales that when someone comes out to your restaurant or stays in your hotel, simple, positive human interactions can make them feel great. When a customer feels great, they’ll tell their friends and they’re more likely to put those feelings online next to their name.
Incentivize, but Don’t Buy Reviews
If someone knows they can get something special for leaving a review, it expands your online presence and encourages repeat business. The problem is that when you only give future discounts or raffle entries to positive reviews, your business can come across as desperate. Desperation is not attractive. Letting customers know that they will get 10% off their next meal or that they’ll be entered for a monthly prize drawing no matter how positive or negative their review is – it encourages them to leave reviews. As long as you’ve trained your staff to follow the best customer service practices, most of those reviews will trend towards the positive.
Make Leaving a Review Easy
It’s one thing to give 5-star worthy service and to provide a good incentive for reviews, but if leaving a review is too complicated, most customers will just give up. So make sure you link to review sites/apps on your website and social media. If you want reviews that are native to your own website, make sure your site is optimized for mobile viewing. Our culture moves quickly, and a review site that doesn’t have a good user interface on a mobile device or a difficult to find social media/review app presence can kill any momentum you’ve built up.
Provide a Unique Experience
Give your customers something they can’t get anywhere else. That might mean crafting a unique cocktail or adding seasonal dishes to a menu. Maybe you can use acoustic panels in your hotel rooms’ decorations. They’ll look nice and improve sound for guests that want to Skype or Facetime with their families or podcasters that need to do a quick recording of an add-read before their next episode drops. Adding those little flourishes on top of everything that’s already expected of your business can be the difference that leads to that five-star rating.
Reputation Management Tools Are Your Friend
With so many options out there to review a business, you can lose track of your reputation pretty easily. Even if you work to funnel your reviews toward one or two outlets, you need to know what’s being said about you elsewhere. A reputation management tool can do the heavy lifting for you so you can monitor your name without spending more time than necessary trying to find reviews.
Use Your Reviews
Use the information you get from customers in your reviews to improve your business. Highlight positive behaviors to encourage more of the same. Learn from negative comments to make sure that your next customer doesn’t have a repeat of someone else’s less than stellar experience. Just because reviews can drive new business doesn’t mean they can’t also be valuable tools to improve your day-to-day operations.
Remember: no matter what you do, you’ll never be able to satisfy every single person. But by using these tips, your online reviews should trend positively by a significant margin. Online reviews are tools. They help get the word out about your business and help you improve the experience you offer to future customers. Use this tool to the best of your ability and, hopefully, your business will thrive for many years to come.