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“Customer service starts at the door.” 

Managers and owners have long known that to establish a great relationship with their customers, service and courtesy have to be extended right away. But, in this era of constant information, social media, and web presence, what are you doing in your restaurant to really ensure that customer service starts soon enough? Have you made sure that your digital footprints lead customers to your door?

 

What is your digital footprint? It’s not another fancy term for social media. Hundreds of articles can be found on how to tame the beast known as social media. Your digital footprint represents the methods that new or returning customers follow to reach your front door. It’s the customer service you provide long before you realize they are a customer and continuing it well after they leave. The key is to educate, encourage, and respond.

 

When customers are searching for potential restaurants, the restaurant that educates that customer has the upper hand. Services such as Urbanspoon, yelp, 10best, and even Google make it easy for an individual to find lists of possible restaurants, but many restaurants allow these sites to remain passive relayers of information.  To successfully guide customers to your door, you must actively take charge of your own digital footprint. Taking charge of your own digital footprint can be done with minimal effort and a little planning.

 

1. Be the primary supplier of information.
Urbanspoon allows customers and restaurants to upload images of their menu. It is surprising the number of old, outdated menus or dark grainy photos of to-go menus that are posted on a restaurant’s Urbanspoon site. Some restaurants allow a link to their website to be the portal to information about the restaurant, but with a growing number of diners utilizing mobile media and apps to gain their information, you will be at an advantage to give that user as much information in a single site as possible. Don’t force the user to leave a site or service to go to your web page to get menu, price, or location information. Take it to them!Don’t give
them a reason to hit their back button when the information isn’t where they seek it. Have a photographer take high quality photos of your food and post it to those sites that allow food images. Make sure images of your menu are clear and readable, and if possible, include menus with item descriptions. Most importantly, don’t intentionally leave out price information! 

 

Diners use services like Google, Urbanspoon and Yelp to gain information about your restaurant. Leaving it out is deceptive and creates an instant barrier. Give potential customers as much education about your restaurant as possible by ensuring it is clear, correct, and enticing.

 

2. Encourage Good Publicity
Every restaurant has members of the community that form a loyal following. If a customer returns to your restaurant on a regular basis, maximize on their satisfaction and encourage them to help you improve your digital footprint. Review sites can make or break a new customer’s view of your restaurant long before they leave their office or home, and often restaurants are fearful of asking their customers to leave feedback. The approach of asking all customers to review is rarely beneficial. Often you will end up with single line, uninformative reviews that give potential customers little information and are easily ignored. But identify those repeat customers who enjoy their food and ask them to review your restaurant. Offer them free entrees in exchange for a well written review and take the time to tell them that you have specifically asked them because of their patronage. A little flattery can be act as a mirror which will help bring customers to your door.

 

3. Respond to your bad press
If you are going to utilize social media options such as Facebook or Twitter, make sure that you are not simply using these options as a means to bark out information, but as an extension of your management’s customer service toolbox. Restaurants that have successfully leveraged social media are the ones who recognize that for it to be successful, it has to be a continuous stream of information and assistance both to and from the restaurant. Make it a point to respond to bad reviews and complaints when you see them. Even if you cannot rectify the situation with the original poster, it shows to other users that you care and made an effort. An unanswered complaint on a social media site is more damaging than a yelling, screaming customer inside of your restaurant because it’s reach is multiplied and magnified.

 

Making sure your digital footprints lead to your restaurant’s door can be easily guaranteed with a few simple steps. The key is to make sure that you send the same signal and provide the same customer service both inside and outside of your doors. Great customer service in your restaurant with poor follow-up outside can be just as detrimental as a great web and online presence and lousy service at the table. With education, encouragement, and courteous responses, you can ensure that you always put your best footprint forward.

 

Shawna Simpson is the President and Co-Founder of Diner Connection.  Shawna has 15 years of experience in management and consulting in the hospitality industries, specifically in the area of implementing successful technology solutions.  

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Comments

  • Hello Shawna, 

    From now on, I will exert every effort to respond to both types of reviews.

    Thank you so much for the quick and prompt response to my question.

    All the best.

  • Rene - 

    For positive yelpers, a simple thank you goes a long way. If you are working to build a brand, you might consider reaching out to them.  For example, contact them and thank them for the positive review and offer to have them try a new menu item in exchange for a follow up review.  

    For negative reviews, keep in mind that there are two types of negative reviews.  There are reviews that you cannot do anything to prevent or help and those that you can rectify.  A reviewer not liking your particular style of food, a seasoning that you use, or how you make a particular food item, while difficult to take, is not something you can necessarily help.  For example, I have never had a bleu cheese dressing that I've liked.  If I don't like your bleu cheese dressing, that doesn't mean that the next customer or next 500 customers won't.  They may love it.  In cases like that, if you feel that their dislike is truly not any fault of your own, you could respond by offering a suggestion for another menu item, but you have to pick your battles on this front.

    However, if the complaint is about something you can fix, fix it.  If they received bad service, poorly prepared food (over salted, cold, etc), or were offended in any way, it is in your best interest to first privately reach out to them and offer to rectify the situation, and then publicly comment - "I hope you have received my private message.  I am sorry you had a bad experience.  Providing great customer service is our goal and there is no excuse for poor service.  Please allow me to apologize and correct the situation."    Something like that lets the reviewer know that you have seen their complaint, and also serves to soften the negative review.  But the key is, follow through.  Don't tell them you want to talk to them and ignore them or not respond!

  • Great information. 

    Please help. 

    How would you respond to yelpers (Yelp.com),  both positive and negative reviews.

  • Thanks for sharing. There's no doubt about it...great customer service is the root of any establishment. Nowadays, with digital advances, it's easier for customers to express their frustrations to the masses with just a click of a button, taking customer service to a whole different level. Whether inside a restaurant or any establishment, or in cyberspace, acknowledging customers and their concerns is a must. Here is another article similar to this topic, http://bit.ly/vzaOa2. It focuses on being proactive and protecting your online reputation.

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