Social media is a contact sport. The sooner that concept is embraced, the better prepared any restaurant business will be.
Restaurants are a tough business for many reasons. One underrated issue is word of mouth – reviews are what can provide a boost as well as what can sink a fledgling restaurant. And more likely than not, the one person who has a bad experience at a restaurant will shout the loudest – louder than most satisfied customers.
While grappling with this issue, VSAG Founder Dan Simons developed a methodology which he later coined: the Social Media Neutralizer.
Creating a winning guest relations/social media playbook will help you successfully run interference for any negative impacts, interactions, and reviews (+eventual word of mouth) that the vast network of social media outlets can have on your business.
Dan Simons provides some guest relations savvy to help put a winning, tactical plan in place:
Get Out in Front. Leverage not only reservations + table booking technology (i.e.OpenTable, Yelp, Twitter) to up your positivity factor, but also utilize your biggest social media asset – your restaurant’s website – to manage your online profile, drive and guide guest interactions, as well as redirect guest experiences, recover, and gain new favor if needed.
Neutralize Social Media Risks. Find out what triggered a guest’s issue, then filter it down to the root of the cause: What was the catalyst that drove a guest to air their grievance? Ah, good question. Removing emotion, the Social Media Neutralizer is designed to filter through the hyperbole, strip it down-address it, then use the feedback to fix the problem.
Use the Feedback to Your Advantage. Keep a Guest Recovery Log, including:
- restaurant dine date-time-contact info
- original review summary
- if/what return incentive was offered
- note to manager on duty if guest returned with recovery
- …all pertinent information
By maintaining all of this information, it will make it so much easier to fix and repair future negative situations, and customers will be pleased by the restaurant’s efficiency.
Follow Up. Neutralize the negative. Protect your brand and reputation, improve guest loyalty and operations, and increase revenue:
- with guest…acknowledge, address, and apologize to guests for their frustration or disappointment with your company, your staff and/or your service. Be genuine. Thank them for getting in touch. All within a timely manner (i.e. 24-48 hours).
- with operations…seek to understand the situation and coach your team accordingly. Closing the circle allows staff to effectively navigate and neutralize a situation, learn from it, and apply the knowledge – today, and in the future.
When following up with upset customers, make sure to reach out on a personal level, but in a public forum. There is nothing worse than a negative review on Yelp on Facebook that goes unanswered. This is for two reasons:
- It makes the establishment look culpable. Otherwise, the restaurant/establishment would have a perfectly acceptable excuse as to why a customer had a bad experience.
- It gives off the impression that the restaurant doesn’t care, or is too lazy to respond. Even if they are guilty in said situation, it could go a long way by reassuring the customer, apologizing, and offering them a future discount – all in a public form on social media so that other readers can see.
The Social Media Neutralizer method offers establishment’s a proven tactical technique to combat potentially harmful bad feedback. We live in a new age, where one public and loud complaint can sink a business. Make sure that you have a process in place to fight this problem, by protecting your online reputation in a smart preemptive as well as reactive manner.