Managing Your Online Reputation
As restaurateurs are all too aware, online reviews in concert with social media can cause a groundswell of chatter about a brand, good or bad.
Designed to ease the pain of reputation management, or at least streamline the process, Reputology.com is a monitoring and reporting platform that alerts restaurants anytime a new review is posted, allowing the operator to respond quickly to both negative and positive posts.
Reputology.com lets restaurants monitor all review activity from the various review sites from one platform, explains Jack Yu, co-founder of the year-old startup. For a multi-unit brand, this could prove a big timesaver. It sends out email alerts whenever there is a new review, ensuring the operator doesn’t miss a posting. Its analytic capabilities include tracking how key metrics are trending, compared across a brand’s different locations. Owners are able to see which actions worked, and which didn’t.
The program aims to puts the management of the restaurant’s reputation back into the hands of the owner, says Yu. He reports that customers will change their negative reviews 70 percent of the time when a restaurateur reaches out to them.
In December, Yu announced Reputology’s partnership with HootSuite, the popular social media engagement tool. With the addition of the Reputology app to HootSuite, restaurant owners will have access to social media and review sites through one dashboard.
Flagship Restaurant Group, a growing operation that owns seven restaurants in Omaha, Nebraska, one in Denver, and one in Fort Worth, Texas, was an early adopter of Reputology.com. The platform is used across the company’s four concepts, which include Blue Sushi Sake Grill, Roja Mexican Grill, Plank Seafood Provisions, and Blatt Beer & Table.
Like most current successful operations, Flagship is a major social media and online review participant. “We are active on Facebook and Twitter, and each of our restaurants has its own Facebook book and Twitter account,” says Megan Longo, director of marketing. “We also engage with customers through review sites, such as Yelp and TripAdvisor.”
Daily monitoring of reviews and social media is a critical element in Flagship’s operating strategy.
While Yelp and TripAdvisor do provide review notifications, having all its reviews organized one on platform streamlines the monitoring process, says Longo. Also, not every review site automatically sends out notifications.
“With this many locations, and with at least three or four sites where customers can leave reviews, it becomes cumbersome to manually check all these website to see if we got a review,” says Longo. “Now, we go to one site to monitor all the reviews for all of our locations.”
Having this level of instant access allows Flagship to respond to customers in a timely manner, says Longo. “We are able to respond quickly—this keeps us relevant and still fresh in the customer’s mind,” she says.
“Reputology acts as a gauge on how are doing, letting us know whether or not employees are doing their job well. It helps point out key areas where we are—-or aren’t—doing well, based on customer responses,” says Longo.
Customer feedback is used to make real time changes to the operation, says Longo. “We were able to tap into that customer feedback before we started using Reputology, but the process took forever, or we would miss reviews or key information because there were so many sites to monitor,” she adds.
The company responds to negative comments with a public response on the review site, so anyone reading the review sees that the issue has been addressed. “We keep it short and sweet, and make a mention that we will reach out privately to the disgruntled customer,” says Longo. “We also have a lot of back and forth internal conversation. We'll talk with the location's general manager. If it's about the food, we'll also talk to the chef."
Flagship makes sure to follow-up with the guest. “We don’t assume the issue will just disappear,” says Longo. “We always try and make it right for that guest.”
The unhappy customer is sent a gift card, and after the restaurant visit, Flagship reaches out again. “Nine out of ten will have a better experience, and will amend, edit, or delete the review,” says Longo.
Yu notes that following through with the customer is a key element to successfully managing your reputation. “If you reach out to a customer or reviewer, it is important to follow through on that discussion,” he says. “I know at least one instance where the business responded, and the reviewer came back, but the manager wasn’t there that day. The reviewer re-posted with another negative review. Whatever you do, you don’t want to make it worse.”
By Joann Whitcher