Caroline McCarthy in an article in CNET mentions how restaurant and cafe owners are angry about their customers (or former customers, I guess) complaining about them in Yelp.
Yelp is a business reviews site with a very vocal user base willing to be brutally honest about the quality of their local restaurants and bars (among many other businesses).
Nowadays, only few people go to restaurants after looking at the ads in the Yellow Pages (for more information about the Yellow Pages as a marketing vehicle for your restaurant, please read my previous blog).
So what do web savvy customers these days? They use Yelp (or other websites like Citysearch.com, Zagat.com or Restaurants.com) and read the comments and reviews in these sites from other people’s experiences before deciding to go to a new restaurant. Negative comments from angry customers have a big (negative) impact in local restaurants.
Yelp.com, being a for profit business as it is, doesn’t want to get the business owners alienated and rioting againts it, so they have just launched a new service so that the business owners can interact with the site’s users.
The service is called “Yelp for Business Owners“. This is a special section in Yelp.com site that lets business owners register for special Yelp accounts, which they then need to verify by phone.
Once registered, restaurant owners and managers (just like you), have access to some analytics (namely to see how many people have been viewing your restaurant page), receive e-mail alerts when you have new reviews, update useful information like your hours of operation, contact information, special menus, etc. You can also send messages to the users who have already reviewed your business.
Yelp won’t charge you for these special accounts.
Caroline mentions that this service will likely have its biggest splash in cities like San Francisco, where Yelper is based and where “Yelper” has become a pejorative among some restaurant and cafe owners.
If you are familiar with my thinking (you can read my previous blogs or the Introduction to my Seminar to get some more information), you know by now how much importance I give to a total client satisfaction strategy.
You shouldn’t need to wait for your clients to leave your place disgrunted and write bad reviews about you or your place in Yelp (or any other online site for that matter).
Your job is to make your clients 100% happy with their experience in your place, even if you have to give them a partial refund (or a complete free meal if the situation so requires, to make them happy).
And believe me when I tell you that, although you are doing this to please your clients, there is something on it as well for you. There are several benefits for you if you follow this policy:
- The (now) happy clients won’t write bad things about you in the online forums (no need for you to lose your precious time doing spin control, think how much do you value your time).
- They may even write positive comments about how you turned a bad experience into a good one.
- These clients would probably go back to your place to try again, therefore giving you again your money back (and perhaps if their next experience is excellent, becoming regular clients).
- One negative comment about your place will make you lose tens or even hundreds of potential customers that would’ve (otherwise) decide to give you their patronage. After all, who wants to try a restaurant full of negative comments? Not me for sure.So you see? All of the sudden a full meal refund doesn’t look so bad, does it? Think about it as a small marketing investment that it will pay you many times over instead of a loss.
In these times of free access to information, the customers are in control. There is nothing (or very little) that you can do to mitigate the damage, once the customers leaves your place unhappy. They will tell the whole world about their experience. You can count on it. The only thing that you can do is when they are still in your restaurant.
Offer them a free meal, give them a discount coupon so that they can go back and try again. Do whatever it takes to mitigate their annoyance. Above all, don’t let them walk away unhappy. You will regret it.
Please let me know what you think. I love to hear from you. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading and happy sailing,
Jose L Riesco