The Golden Ticket: Online Reviews for Small Businesses

The Golden Ticket: Online Reviews for Small Businesses

Do you have that sinking feeling in your stomach when you turn on your computer and go to your website anticipating what others have said about your business while you were sleeping? It’s not a good feeling.

I never use to pay much attention to reviews because something is always going to upset someone, but I have found myself paying a little more notice to reviews, especially if I am spending significant coin, or going someplace to eat.

The food and beverage business knows exactly how important reviews from their clients are. In fact, recent data indicates that Quick-Service Restaurants (QSRs) are now the most reviewed businesses in existence today, along with hotels and other hospitality industry entities, according to Yext Food Service Head of Industry Lee Zucker. In addition, between 2015 and 2018, the world experienced a 600% increase in such reviews and most of it went to QSRs.

This all leads to the question that many in the industry are currently discussing, which is whether or not to respond to the plethora of negative feedback. Ironically it is the larger players that say yes to providing a response. Jack in the Box, with over 2,200 locations, says that the answer to that question was unequivocally to respond. In fact, the brand has even hired a third-party company to help them handle that massive task.

According to Zucker, “One of the best actions a brand can take is a personal and respectful response, as the data shows that 75% of brands that do so, even if they have not before, see a 1 1/4 star rating increase, with a total of 4 stars being the Holy Grail.

Franchises need to pay attention to reviews as well. While the national franchise advertises nationally, you have the responsibility to provide customer feedback locally as it applies to your location. Chicken Salad Chick, a franchise provider, contracted to help build its image through customer reviews, and is now registering an enviable 4.9 to 4.96 in star ratings. “It’s a very important part of what we do,” said vice president Tom Carr. “All our managers respond to them (reviews) on a local level. … They know their communities best so they respond to them. … It’s such a key part of the business, there’s really no reason not to.”

Thus far we have only discussed the deleterious aspects of bad customer reviews. However, one must remember that just under half of all reviews are favorable, so why not use them to reward your employees. “On an ongoing level, with the reviews themselves, you have such a great opportunity to celebrate people in your restaurant. We even go and fish for all those great reviews about team members,” Carr notes.

Try not to foster an environment where employees are reprimanded when a critical review is posted, but use it as a learning experience to better handle the situation the next time around. Brands that turn a blind eye to this part of their businesses face a very real risk of losing out to competitors whose eyes are fixed on this feedback and learning the value of the right response.