To Check You Out

New hires, just like your new customers, do this first before they do anything else. Before they go to your website, before they fill out an application, before they come in for an interview.

What is it?

They check your online reviews! And if you’re not careful, online reviews could be killing your chances of attracting that next superstar employee and getting the lions share of new customers in your local area.

As an independent business owner, you know that online reviews are important. But did you know how important it is to attract new customers and new employees? They can make or break your local business.

A recent study by SearchLocal found that 92.4% of consumers now read online reviews before going to new business (vs. 88% in 2014), and 88.6% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Why Is It Important To Take Control Of Your Online Reviews For Your Business?

Online reviews are important for local businesses because they help customers make decisions about where to spend their money. A good review can convince someone to visit your business, while a bad review can drive customers and potential new employees away. Additionally, online reviews can impact your business’s SEO, as search engines take them into account when ranking results. That means that bad reviews could keep potential customers from finding you online.

In today’s digital world, your online reviews are one of the most popular ways new customers and new employees get information about your business before they decide to use your services. The yellow pages are long dead. Even if a potential new customer heard about you elsewhere, they will still go online to learn more.

Maintaining a positive online reputation is crucial for any business. It’s important to manage online reviews sites regularly and respond to any negative and positive comments quickly and politely. By taking care of your online reputation, you’ll attract more new customers and keep the ones you have happy.

Your new potential customer and new employee want to see that you care about your business and your existing customers by showing the world that you read, listen, and respond to your reviews. Your customers just want to be noticed and heard. Respond to them one-on-one, and you’ve got a customer for life. And makes you look like a great business owner.

What Is Reputation Management?

Reputation management is the process of monitoring and managing your online reputation. This includes tracking reviews of your business on review sites, social media, and directories, as well as responding to any negative comments quickly and politely.

Maintaining a positive online reputation is important for any business. A bad reputation can drive away customers and hurt your business’s SEO (search engine optimization). By monitoring your online reputation regularly, you can take care of any negative comments before they have a chance to damage your reputation.

There are five key elements of reputation management that you need to focus on:

  1. Claim and monitoring of your review sites daily.
  2. Responding to reviews promptly and politely (48 hours for negative reviews and 72 for positive reviews.)
  3. Addressing any negative feedback constructively.
  4. Encouraging customers to leave positive reviews.
  5. Use your reviews in all your marketing

Step 1: Claim Your Review Sites

This is the first step because if you don’t do it, Google will surf the web and fill in the blanks for you, and they’ll likely get some information wrong. Unclaimed listings could show the wrong hours, the wrong map location, old photos, and get basic details about your business wrong. You want to be in control of what the listing says. It doesn’t cost anything to claim it, just the time it takes to sit down and do it.

  • Manage your Google My Business account: This is the easiest way to track all of your reviews in one place. You can see how many people are viewing your profile and how many reviews you’ve received. If a customer leaves a negative review, you can respond to it right away!
  • Manage your Facebook page: This is another way to track all of your reviews in one place. You can see how many people are viewing your profile and how many reviews you’ve received. If a customer leaves a negative review, you can respond to it right away!
  • And don’t forget others that may be utilized in your industry, like Yelp and Trip Advisor. If you do a google search for “(your industry) in (your town),” you’ll see on that first page where customers are likely to check you out.

Step 2: Monitor And Respond To Online Reviews

Positive reviews can help attract new customers and new employees.74.2% of people say positive reviews make them trust a local business more. Negative reviews can hurt a business’s reputation and cause customers to go elsewhere.

Unfortunately, a negative one is inevitable once in a while, but you want them to be outweighed significantly by the positive ones. When a negative one is written, you want to respond proactively, hopefully resulting in them getting a resolution and updating the review.

Responding to reviews is good for customer relations, showing that you care and pay attention to what your customers are saying about you. 78.6% of potential customers say that seeing management respond to online reviews makes them believe that the local business cares more about them.

Having fresh content and up-to-date information about your restaurant is how you move up the rankings on sites such as Google, Yelp, and Trip Advisor. Answering your reviews is a great way to keep information fresh and current about your restaurant. Google and the review sites love that!

Track your progress up the rankings. Write down the date, how many total reviews you have, and the star rating for each of the sites. Then watch the change over time, so you can see how your efforts are impacting your online reputation.

As you improve, when someone searches for “(your industry) in (your town)” you’ll come up higher and higher within your relevant search results.

Step 3: Dealing With Negative Reviews

Negative reviews are frustrating for everyone. It feels like a personal attack. Why didn’t they tell you when they were IN your business instead of going online?! Posting a review feels like a “safer” thing to do, it’s hard voice a complaint or concern to some in person. Back in the day, though, you’d never know about it, and the customer would complain to all their friends and never return. Now at least, you have a forum to respond.

When you get a negative online review, the first inclination is to defend yourself, but remember that your words will be permanently documented!

Here are four tips for dealing with negative reviews:

1. Don’t panic. One negative review does not break a business.

2. Respond professionally. This is not the place to argue, point fingers or not accept responsibility. Your comments and behavior here will be seen by many people. Make sure it is a positive, respectful exchange.

  • DON’T start a fight (you won’t win this one).
  • Wait 24 hours to cool off before responding.
  • Have someone else read your response before posting.

3. Acknowledge the reviewer’s concerns – regardless of whether or not you agree, they have a legitimate issue, and you want to hear what they are saying.

4. Offer a solution. How can you help, improve, make up for their frustration?

If you follow these tips, you’ll be able to handle negative reviews in a way that protects your business’s reputation and shows that you care about your customers.

The reviews themselves are important and can make or break a business, especially a small, independent one. But how you are perceived in dealing with the challenging ones can quickly impact your business. That’s why it’s so important to monitor your online reputation and take steps to protect it.

Step 4: Encourage Customers To Leave Positive Reviews

Encouraging customers to leave positive reviews is one of the best ways to improve your online reputation. A negative review can be damaging, but a series of positive ones can help attract new customers and new employees and quickly push a negative one far down the list. People are quick to discredit a few negative reviews if they are outweighed by positive ones.

So how can you encourage your happy customers to leave a review? Well, there are a couple of things you can do:

  • Make it easy for them! With just a few clicks, they can be on one of the major review sites leaving a rating and review. Put the review requests into your email communication and social media posts – and include a direct like to the review site you want then to post to.
  • Ask them! Politely, of course. When they are paying their bill, or after they give you a compliment, or say thanks for your help. Let them know that you would really appreciate a review. It can be as easy as saying, “Would you mind posting that to our google reviews? We’d really appreciate it.” You could even follow up with a personal email with the link.

One caveat: Make sure that you’re not asking them to write a good review, but an honest review. All the review sites have different criteria for what’s allowable when soliciting reviews. Make sure you understand their rules before you start because they can remove any reviews they deem unworthy.

By following these simple steps, you can encourage your customers to leave positive reviews and help improve your online reputation. And who knows, with a little luck and some great customer service, those negative reviews might just start to disappear!

Step 5: Use Reviews As Testimonials In Your Marketing And To Attract New Staff

It’s always been a challenge to get written testimonials about your business, and now, they are eagerly awaiting you on your review sites. Because people have posted them publicly, they are available for you to repurpose. Turn their positive comments into a testimonial and use it on all of your social media channels. In addition, think about how you can use them in these key areas:

  • Highlight them on your website
  • Use them in your print marketing
  • Post them on your Business Facebook Page
  • Post them on a wall near your entrance
  • Feature reviews on the bottom of your emails
  • Use them to help manage your staff

You can search your reviews for ones about specific products or services – so when you are marketing those same items – you have a testimonial to link to it in your marketing.

What others say about you is far more powerful than anything you can say about yourself, so maximize those reviews and start using them wherever you can.

Manage Your Reputation And Sales Will Grow

Online reviews are a powerful tool in the marketing arsenal of any company, big or small. That’s why it’s so important to use your online reputation management efforts wisely and monitor what people say about you on review sites.

They provide potential customers with information on what others have thought about their experience with your company- both good and bad. While a negative review can be damaging, a series of positive ones can help attract new customers and new staff. Quickly push a negative one far down the list. Use your online reputation management efforts wisely – and reap the benefits with more new customers and increased sales.

To find out 13 other successful ways to Find, Attract, and Hire A Superstar Staff For Your Restaurant in 45 Days or Less, register now for our upcoming FREE Live Web Presentation this Tuesday!

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Michael Thibault
Michael Thibault

Michael Thibault

Known as “The Done For You Marketing Guy for Restaurants.” International Speaker on Restaurant Marketing. Published contributing author of 4 Marketing Books. Industry expert on Google Searches and Review Sites. Recovering Independent Restaurant Owner and Caterer of over 21 years. And, all-around good guy.

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