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Business Observer Friday, Feb. 14, 2020 7 months ago

How to handle online reviews

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Respond to every review from a customer, negative and positive.
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

A popular restaurant group like Gecko’s Hospitality gets dozens of reviews a week — reviews that take time and thought to address.

Tracy Knight and Dick McNeely of 3 Knight Communications work with Sarasota-based Gecko’s to manage reviews on Yelp, Google, Facebook and TripAdvisor for six of the company’s Gecko’s restaurants and one Dockside Waterfront Grill restaurant.

They use the subscription service Operation Reputation, which allows them to monitor and reply to reviews. The technology helps, McNeely says, because it notifies him when there’s a new review, so he can respond quickly.

‘It’s huge for us to have engagement outside the restaurant. We want that input from our guests on a daily basis.’ — Fiona Farrell, Gecko’s Hospitality Group

If it’s a good review, he thanks the reviewer and offers a response relevant to the comment. If it’s a less-than-positive review, or what they refer to as an “opportunity review,” he determines whether it needs to be escalated to someone up the Gecko’s chain.

“It is absolutely a best practice to respond to reviews, positive and negative,” Knight says. “When you do not actively manage them, not only are you not taking advantage of incredible opportunities to grow your business, you also could be causing reputational damage.”

Every morning, McNeely does an audit of each platform to make sure every review has received a response. He also gets to work after the lunch and dinner rushes, when there are waves of reviews to address. “People look at restaurant reviews when they’re making a decision about where to go,” he says. “It’s a statement to everyone who is going to be looking at the review in the future about how we handle the personality of the brand and how valuable the customer is.”

Courtesy. Gecko’s Hospitality COO Fiona Farrell says the company examines data from reviews to find opportunities for improvement and chances to become more efficient.

Gecko’s Hospitality COO Fiona Farrell says the company examines data from reviews to find opportunities for improvement and chances to become more efficient. Reviews are also an important part of customer relations. “It’s huge for us to have engagement outside the restaurant,” she says. “We want that input from our guests on a daily basis.”

Jaime Marco of Evolve Business Consulting in Lakewood Ranch says that in responses, businesses should start by thanking the person who left the review. Answers don’t have to be long, and companies can have some standard responses ready. “If you do use templates, you want to still customize to the person’s comment if you can, so it doesn’t look like you’re just copying and pasting,” Marco says.

If someone shares a negative experience, Marco suggests offering the person an opportunity to discuss it further by providing an email address.

One approach Marco warns against? Getting into a “battle of wits” with a reviewer. “Business owners should never try to prove to a customer why they’re right,” she says. “Just make the situation right.” Instead, she suggest writing something like, “Based on your feedback, we will do this moving forward,” or “We will address this at our next team meeting.”

Marco encourages companies to assign handling reviews to someone who is trained and well versed in communicating with clients. “I recommend that my clients respond to every single review they have,” Marco says. “It shows it matters to you.”

 

Being better in business sometimes requires a road map to figure out some thorny issues. Click the links below to read more from the Business Observer’s annual how-to guide:

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