As I discussed in my last post, a restaurant generates its reputation by its quality of product and customer service. How does this reputation reach the general public, though? The answer is simple: your customers.
At our core, we are social creatures that love to share. (There’s a reason ‘word of mouth’ is one of the most powerful marketing tools out there.) Living in a digital age, the Internet and social media act as virtual megaphones, broadcasting our every thought, like, and dislike to the world.
While we often rely on recommendations from our friends, family, and coworkers, an increasing number of us are also looking to websites like Yelp, the world’s largest and most powerful user-generated review site.
Marketed as an “online urban city guide,” Yelp encourages the general public to be vocal about their experiences with local businesses. With tens of millions visiting the site each month, it’s important that you do all you can to make your business shine amidst a sea of competitors.
The impact of even a one-star increase on Yelp should not be understated. Whether you’ve noticed a decline in your Yelp review ratings or you’re interested in transforming good reviews into great ones, here are a few no-cost, low-risk tips that will help you get the recognition, reach, and revenue you deserve:
1. Make a Strong First Impression
Hopefully you are already active on Yelp; if not, it’s time to stake your claim. However, adding your business to the Yelp directory is only your first step.
What’s next is to transform your page into something visit-worthy and that drives traffic and sales. The idea here is to prime your audience for a delightful in-person experience that will lead to a positive review on Yelp.
TIP: Be sure to include high-definition photos of both your menu items and the interior/exterior of your building, and keep your hours of operations updated.
2. Filter the Filter
Yelp operates using a complex algorithm to hide (filter) reviews perceived as fake and/or without value. Glowing reviews from real customers can become stuck in the filter and, as a result, will not factor into your overall ratings.
Be proactive by monitoring filtered reviews – found at the bottom of your profile – and using the system’s messaging platform to give filtered Yelpers tips on how to boost their “authenticity” (e.g., add a profile picture, virtually “check in” to your location during their next visit, review other businesses to boost account activity, etc.).
3. Turn to Customers and Contacts
Yelp’s FAQ section discourages business owners and managers from soliciting reviews from customers and clientele, but the reality is that encouraging someone to review your restaurant on Yelp is the modern day equivalent of saying “tell your friends!”
Studies have found that consumers are more likely to post negative customer service experiences on social media, so source out those who enjoy your product and/or service and ask them to share their positive experiences with others online. The key here is not to force, but to encourage your customers to write reviews that are both honest and transparent.
4. Be Responsive (Literally)
Your Yelpers are helpers. Whether a reviewer casts your restaurant in flattering or not-so-flattering light, you will stand out from the competition by engaging with those who have taken time to post a review of your restaurant.
Whether you leave a public comment to say thanks, clarify a misconception, or ask questions about how a customer feels their restaurant experience could have been enhanced, it’s important to capitalize on Yelp’s direct messaging and comment/response tools. When you do, you are making a statement about how much you value your customers’ experiences and feedback.
Of course, there are other, paid ways to boost your Yelp exposure (e.g., Yelp advertisements, Yelp Deals, etc.), but these four tips will get you well on your way to a five-star restaurant review.
Remember: although you can’t control what people will say, you certainly can influence it.