By Anthony | June 1st, 2016
A positive online review from a happy customer can boost your business’s reputation and drive more customers your way. Conversely, negative reviews can deter customers from choosing your services, and therefore have a definite impact on your bottom line.
As a catering business or a local restaurant servicing customers on a face-to-face basis, you are more likely than other business (such as those in the B2B sector) to have online reviews written about you. Just how important are these reviews, and what can you do to attract good ones while minimising the impact of negative ones?
Here, we look at the approach catering businesses should take when it comes to online reviews.
Just how important are online reviews for the bottom line?
Research shows that online reviews have a significant impact on businesses by influencing consumer’s preferences or decision making process1.
Impact on major purchase decision
67% of customers agreed they are impacted by online reviews when making a major purchase, such as when acquiring a phone, appliance, or car. 54.7% said online reviews ‘fairly, very, or absolutely’ are an important part of their decision making process¹.
Impact on trust and amount spent
One study revealed 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business. 88% of consumers said they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation². Reliability, expertise, and professionalism are the most important traits for local businesses. Two-thirds of Internet users said they would trust a business more because of positive online reviews³, and 86% of consumers stated they would hesitate to buy from a business if it had negative reviews².
While 3% of consumers need just one positive review to trust a business, 24% need two or three such reviews, and 32% need to read four to six. And 18% of consumers require seven to ten positive reviews before they can start to trust a business².
Action taken after reading positive reviews
One study has found the most common action after reading a positive review is to visit the business’s website (48% of consumers³), which suggests websites are critical for successfully marketing local businesses. 23% said they would visit the business as the next step. Others would call the business immediately (9%), or keep shopping around (21%)³.
Quantifying the impact of negative reviews
One study found just one negative review can cost a local business 30 customers, while a positive review could lead to a 5-9% increase in revenue². Another study found businesses risk losing 22% of customers considering buying their product when customers find a negative review. This figure jumps to 59.2% when customers find three negative reviews, and 70% for four negative reviews¹.
Managing reviews and responding to negative reviews
While in most cases you can’t ask for negative reviews to be removed for the sole reason that they are negative, there are many things you can do to manage the impact of negative reviews. Part of this involves encouraging positive testimonials and monitoring all reviews written about your business.
Monitor and manage negative reviews
Most of a consumer’s attention is focused on the first five results of the first search result page¹. Negative articles tend to log higher click-through rates, so they can climb search engine pages fairly quickly. Monitor popular review sites such as Google, Facebook, and any industry review sites for catering. Set up a Google Alert to be notified whenever your catering business is mentioned.
If during the course of monitoring you find a negative review, you might respond to the specific post with an apology and explanation for poor product or service quality. Alternatively, you could extend an invitation to have the problem rectified (such as a refund), or suggest something else that may be appropriate for the particular situation.
Always be totally honest when responding to customers, and correct any inaccuracies or misrepresentations quickly. Check the review website’s terms and conditions, and contact them about having inaccurate and libelous reviews taken down if appropriate. If it’s a blog post, contact the blogger and ask them to correct or take down any inaccuracies, and invite them to retry your services and post an updated review.
Proactively encourage positive reviews
Another strategy in your review-management toolbox is to proactively encourage positive reviews to create buzz around your business. Other than hiring a PR representative or marketing firm to do this on your behalf, you can take measures yourself to generate more reviews and favourable feedback online.
Start by understanding what makes customers unhappy in order to stop the number of negative reviews being posted about your business. For example, research has found having to explain a problem multiple times to multiple people topped the list of things that make customer service bad, with 72% of those surveyed nominating this4. The key is to listen to your customers and act quickly to rectify any issues.
Another way to reduce the impact of negative reviews is to offer discounts or even free services for blog posts. Find key influencers in your niche sector that you think will like your product and service, and offer them free catering or meals in exchange for coverage on their blog and social media accounts.
Contact existing customers and invite them to post a review on your website. After every purchase or order, make it a standard procedure to contact them, or to direct them to a dedicated part of your website that features customer testimonials. You can use applications such as Yotpo, Trustpilot, and Freefo to encourage customers to leave a positive review on your website. Use email prompts or follow-up text messages to remind customers to participate. If customers are hesitant to write reviews, provide a free gift or hold a draw to reward those who post positive comments.