Coffee News: from Seed to Cup

The Marketing Magic of Online Reviews & How Cafés Should Respond

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Many café owners have a love/hate relationship with online reviews. But regardless of your feelings towards them, they matter. According to the BrightLocal 2016 Local Consumer Review Survey, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

The good news is that you can use these online reviews to improve your coffee shop marketing, attracting new customers and building stronger relationships with existing ones.

Let’s take a look at why reviews really matter. And after that, we’ll go over what you can do about them, with tips on how to get more reviews, deal with bad ones, and get more from good ones.

SEE ALSO: Café Life: 5 Ways to Get Your Customers to Return

coffee shopSome people will leave reviews while still sat in your café. Credit: Ana Valencia

Why Online Reviews Matter

Not only do your online reviews have an influence on the opinions of potential customers, but they also have an important impact on how many people find out about your coffee shop in the first place. For example, the number and quality of reviews on Google is an important factor contributing to a cafe’s ranking position for nearby searches (things along the lines of “coffee shop near me”). Since most people go for one of the top three or so results, you want to rank well.

Another behemoth in the world of online reviews is TripAdvisor. Again, love it or hate it, people who are new to the area or just looking to find somewhere different will often search online or in the app. And again, where your place appears in the search results will be influenced by reviews.

So, there are two key benefits to having lots of good reviews:

  • More people find you because your café ranks higher in Google and review results
  • People who find your café are more likely to visit after seeing positive reviews

coffee shopReviews affect your position in search listings. Credit: Luke Milbourn

Where Should I Be Checking My Reviews?

The top places to watch out for the latest good (and bad) reviews about your business include Google, TripAdvisor, and Facebook. Don’t forget, people can also publicly post and send messages reviewing you on Twitter, Instagram and in local directories. Keep on top of the buzz about your venue by Googling your café’s name or subscribing to review monitoring software that will email your latest reviews to you.

reviewA review monitoring service can save you time. Credit: Luke Milbourn via alloymarketing.co.uk.

How to Get More Reviews

While just sitting around waiting for reviews to pile up may work, you can also be proactive about it.

  1. Ask. Online, on social media, on flyers in the café, on a notice board, or in person.
  2. Use your WiFi to your advantage. Ask for a review on your landing page or via an email addresses capture form.
  3. Make it easy. Create a link that goes straight to a review site. Use short URLs that people can type into their phone whilst sitting in the café.

coffee shopCreate an online presence, including photos and reviews.  Credit: Patrick Tomasso

Why You Should Reply to Reviews

The other part of dealing with online reviews is responding to them once they’ve been left. Especially any bad reviews.

No one likes a bad review, especially café owners who have invested their blood, sweat, and tears into a café. An unfair review can be truly heartbreaking. However, by responding to a bad review you are showing other potential customers that you care about their experience and hopefully showing that the bad experience was in some way exceptional.

It’s also worth taking the time to reply to good or mediocre reviews too. Showing your appreciation is a great way to encourage further visits and feedback.

Just remember: you can’t please all the people all the time!

coffee shopAlways thank people for positive reviews. Credit: Hanny Naibaho

How to Respond to Bad Reviews

Unfortunately, customers are more likely to leave a review after a bad experience than a good one, so chances are you’ll experience a negative review at some point. However, if a 1-star review and plausible-sounding complaint goes unanswered, it won’t send a good message to other people using the website.

There’s a good way and a bad way to respond to negative reviews. Keep these guidelines in mind to leave the best possible impression on other potential customers.

  • Keep It Professional

It’s so easy to be defensive or even aggressive when criticised. It’s a natural human response. And a bad review can really hurt. However, it’s important to stay professional.

Start off by replying publicly and promptly. (Perhaps not straight away if you’re feeling emotional, but within 24 hours!) Use your judgement to explain what happened as reasonably as possible. You’re educating and informing potential customers by doing this. If needed, take the conversation private by providing contact details or letting them know that you’ll be sending a direct message.

  • Focus on The Facts

Separate what happened from how the reviewer feels about what happened. While you are likely to be responsible for what actually took place, it’s much harder to control how people feel.

coffee shopEncourage people to leave reviews while still in your coffee shop. Credit: Chiara Pinna

  • Think About The Reviewer’s Expectations

If the facts of what happened were acceptable in your opinion, but the reviewer’s response was very negative, the issue probably comes down to their expectations. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are a bad person! This can be a common problem in specialty coffee, especially if people are used to paying very little for a huge bucket of beverage. Or perhaps they’re used to super hot drinks, or expect to be served food in 10 seconds flat.

Were the reviewer’s expectations appropriate for your business? If not, is there anything you can do to let more people know what is in store from them at your café? A note in the menu or on your price board, or a comment from the cashier about waiting times, can go a long way towards managing expectations and increasing customer patience.

  • Admit Mistakes That Were Made

They do happen. Maybe someone had to wait a bit too long, or the drink simply wasn’t up to scratch. It’s painful to admit, and it’s not the case that the customer is always right, but sometimes mistakes do happen. And if you’re new, then teething problems are almost inevitable.

If mistakes did happen, explain why you think they happened, why that customer’s experience was unusual and what you’re going to do to ensure they have a better experience next time. What’s more, if you start spotting a pattern in bad reviews, make sure you do something about it! Is it the repeated mistake of a particular individual, or can you avoid the same mistake by changing your workflow?

coffee shopA bad review could reflect service, products, prices, or ambiance. Credit: Nafinia Putra

  • Educate

This is a great way to deal with people who have different expectations. Explain why it takes longer to make a drink or why you serve it in a smaller cup. There are plenty of people out there who think Starbucks is the pinnacle of coffee excellence. However, when customers realise that you have put a huge amount of thought, effort, and money into your products, they should feel less like they were ripped-off – even if they’re never going to be a fan of a well-made flat white!

  • Ask for Forgiveness

This can cut a lot of ice with someone who has left a bad review. If you can persuade someone that they will probably have a better experience next time, they may well come back. A refund or discount on the next visit may be worth offering.

That said, try to remember that throwing money at a bad reviewer isn’t the answer. In many cases, people simply want to be listened to. Whether their expectations were reasonable or not, hearing them out can go a long way.

coffee shopA free coffee could make up for a bad experience. Credit: Jakub Kapusnak

How to Respond to Good Reviews

Okay, this one is much nicer to talk about! It’s great to get an appreciative review from someone and it’s also great to share it. Good reviews can act as conversion tools, helping to convert uncertain potential customers into enthusiastic visitors who will happily go out of their way to try your offerings.

  • Respond Quickly & Publicly

Simply liking a nice review on Facebook shows you care. A quick message with a “thank you, see you again soon” is even better. It takes a couple of seconds and could turn a one-off visitor into a lifelong customer.

In some cases, you can amplify a positive review. For example, you could share the post on Facebook or regram a cool picture on Instagram. Obviously, it’s a bit self-centred to do this all the time, but if someone has pointed out something specific or left a particularly amazing review, display this to your followers.

  • Make Suggestions

If someone liked the food or a particular drink, point out other things on your menu that you think they may enjoy. Just like dangling a carrot for your customers, you give them something new and highly recommended to try next time they visit.

coffee shopA potential Instagram post of your café. Credit: Luke Milbourn

The most important thing to remember is to be proactive. By quickly and publicly dealing with online reviews, you can dramatically improve the reputation of your café. It can help nip problems in the bud before they escalate and attract new customers too. Make responding to reviews part of your regular routine and you can help encourage sustained growth for your business.

Written by Luke Milbourn of Alloy Marketing Ltd.

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