How to Use Online Reviews to Create the Ultimate Guest Experience

By Megan Wenzl, ReviewTrackers.com

The customer experience is not just a marketing buzzword.

A determining factor for success, customer experience is a series of interactions between a restaurant and its customers from the beginning to the end of their relationship. It’s the experience a customer has at and with your restaurant.

That’s why it’s important for restaurants to identify sources of guest feedback and monitor those sources – one of them being online reviews. Guest feedback on websites like Google and TripAdvisor are crucial to managing the guest experience – and here’s why:

  • 33% of diners will not choose to eat in a restaurant with less than a 4-star rating on online review sites, according to ReviewTrackers research.
  • When loyal customers have positive experiences, they are worth 10 times more than first-time buyers, according to Marketo. Returning customers spend 67% more than first-time customers. 

Restaurants today are not just competing with each other; they’re also competing with grocery stores and stores that offer prepared foods, according to a report by Nation’s Restaurant News and market research firm The NPD Group. We’re in an era of the groceraunt.

In a Nation’s Restaurant News article, restaurant industry analyst for The NPD Group Bonnie Riggs said that the restaurant with the ability to meet consumers’ needs in the best way possible is the restaurant that will succeed in the competition for market share.

“We may not be able to afford to go out as often, but when we do, we expect to get what we pay for,” she said.

She is referring to the slow growth of the economy.

“Consumers still feel they’re recovering from the recession,” she added.

Restaurants need to understand and engage with their guests to create the ultimate guest experience.

Here’s how you can use online reviews to improve the guest experience:

1. Test Analytics & Sentiment Analysis

To understand how a customer feels about a business, use text analytics and sentiment analysis.

Text analytics is a set of linguistic techniques that model and structure textual information — in this case, text from reviews and feedback — for business intelligence, research, or investigation. Sentiment analysis is the process of understanding how a customer feels about a business, and is usually part of a larger text analytics effort. 

How can these techniques help? You can analyze the text in reviews and gain insights that can be used for customer intelligence, research, or investigation.

The results from analyzing unstructured data through text analytics and sentiment analysis are also useful for customer engagement. And when customers feel connected to your brand, they are more likely to become loyal customers.

2. Be a Customer-Focused Restaurant

It will be difficult to take action on the results from text and sentiment analysis if your team is not focused on the guest. 

To become a customer-focused restaurant, you should first decide what direction you want to take your restaurant if you haven’t already.

Second, all departments within your group should focus on the guest. And all leaders should understand what the guest wants.

Third, you have to get employees excited about the guest experience. Tell stories. Share positive customer reviews or feedback from a survey with your team.   

3. Response Times

The online experience is just as important as the in-restaurant experience. Although you should respond to both positive and negative reviews, as part of the online experience, customers expect you to listen and respond to their negative reviews.

At least 51.7% of customers expect a response in seven days or less, according to ReviewTrackers research. On the other hand, 48.3% of customers don’t even expect a business to respond to their online review. 

These results show how important it is for businesses to not only meet the customers’ expectations, but to exceed them.

4. Use Online Reviews to Improve the Guest Experience

Analyze patterns in your data from online reviews. Look for trends and issues that your diners mention without prompting. Are most reviewers saying that the soup is too hot? 

Or maybe multiple reviewers are talking about inconsistent service.

You can use this information to know that there’s an issue, improve service, and maybe cool down the soup.

The point is, you can see patterns within online reviews and other sources of customer feedback (like social media, guest satisfaction surveys) to uncover service, product, or operation issues. 

Conclusion 

If you learn anything from this article, know that in order to be competitive in today’s restaurant industry, you need to create a positive guest experience and exceed customer’s expectations. Building the customer’s ideal experience begins with the analysis of customer feedback. 

 Megan Wenzl, ReviewTrackers

About the Author
Megan Wenzl is a content writer for ReviewTrackers with a background in journalism. She has written about a wide range of topics including customer experience, art, the automotive industry, small businesses, root beer floats, and the local event in town. Megan holds a bachelor of arts degree in history from Western Michigan University, and a master of arts degree in journalism from Columbia College Chicago. 

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