While they can be a tough pill to swallow, negative reviews should be seen as an opportunity to connect with customers.

Peer restaurant reviews arguably play one of the most critical roles in purchasing decisions; in fact, 90 percent of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business and 88 percent trust them as much as a personal recommendation. Ten years ago, it was common to visit a businesses’ website to find little to no reviews, but now more than ever, consumers view peer reviews as a trusted source of information before making a decision to visit any quick service restaurant or bar. That said, almost three-quarters (71 percent) of U.S. consumers agree that a good Trustpilot score makes them more likely to buy from a brand or service.

As consumers tighten their wallets with inflation trending upwards, ordering to-go and an evening dining out are on the chopping block. The customer experience needs to completely impress for consumers to make the decision to spend money on “extras.” It is also largely built on trust between the customer and the business. To better understand what is driving consumers to spend on the restaurant and bar sector, businesses must first analyze online reviews data, pinpoint the trends within that data, and finally, evaluate the changes that need to be implemented to create a stellar experience.

Take customer feedback seriously

Recent studies show a 4 percent uptick in negative reviews and a 3 percent decrease in positive reviews across U.S. businesses, with restaurants and bars noted as one of the top four industries to be affected. Through analysis of online reviews, mistakes with orders were flagged as one of the top two most significant customer pain points. That said, insights from Trustpilot’s internal database also show the biggest themes within positive reviews in this industry link directly back to customer service and delivery service, revealing two key areas businesses should be focusing on.

While it’s no surprise that businesses are facing hardships, this insight shows customer service needs to be a top priority to not only maintain customer trust but vastly increase it.

Acknowledge solutions through personalized communication

While they can be a tough pill to swallow, negative reviews should be seen as an opportunity to connect with customers. A business should always be looking for ways to create additional touchpoints and acknowledging the customer directly can be an extremely valuable way to do so.

Dining is viewed by many as a personal experience, which could contribute to the higher volume of reviews seen in this industry. With this in mind, business owners and operators of restaurants and bars should have an established protocol for consistent, proactive and effective communication with customers who may have had a poor experience. While there may not always be an actionable solution, acknowledging the customer’s feedback and showing intent to resolve can make the customer feel heard and understood.

It all starts with asking reviews from all customers and taking every review seriously to learn from them to shift the customer experience to be more positive. Transparency and authenticity should be at the forefront of any customer feedback strategy, and both, along with honesty are key to developing a rapport with customers that goes beyond an online interface. Businesses that understand this will set themselves up for success this year.

Mieke De Schepper is the Chief Commercial Officer of leading online reviews platform, Trustpilot, and is responsible for developing and delivering Trustpilot’s global commercial strategy through sales, customer success, and commercial partnerships.

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