Last week, I was at lunch with a friend in a popular restaurant in town.
The place was packed and the staff were clearly struggling.
When the waitress eventually came over she apologised, mentioning that they were short staffed. This wasn't a problem for us - we had plenty of time.
It dawned on me later that many others in there might not be so forgiving, and how easy it would be for them to go home and leave a scathing review on TripAdvisor, all because of one sub-par shift. The food was still great but bad service and long waits can sour the experience.
TripAdvisor is in a unique and powerful position. It has the ability to boost a business or kill a business overnight.
This is particularly the case for those in the food and hospitality industry. That's why you need to be doing everything you can to keep that all important rating at four circles or higher.
Now, you may be thinking that you can't control what people say or think about your business.
To some extent that's true, but you'd be surprised at how easy it is turn the tide back in your favour.
The obvious answer would be to provide the best possible service or product so your customers can't wait to get home and rave about you.
Let's assume you are already doing this (if you're not, pull your finger out!) and your reviews are still languishing.
Ask and you shall receive
The most simple solution is to ask. Those who are proactive about soliciting reviews are much more likely to reap the benefits later.
For every bad review and unhappy customer, you are going to have many more happy ones. People love to vent their anger and frustrations online but are much more reluctant to share their positive experiences. It is your responsibility to snag these customers and persuade them to talk about you.
When the time is right
The crucial time for soliciting reviews is just after their meal or check out. Ask your customers "How was your stay?" or "How was your meal?".
Now here's the important part: if they raise an issue with the meal or any aspect of their stay, don't ask for a review. Take any complaint very seriously and sincerely, whenever possible coming to a resolution then and there.
This way you are filtering out the people who would usually run home to write up a bad review and letting them express their views to you - instead of the entire world. Additionally, you get a chance to fix the problem before any other customers might experience the same thing.
To the customers who had an enjoyable experience, thank them for their business and ask if they'd mind sharing their experience on TripAdvisor. Many will be willing to do so but simply hadn't thought to.
And that's it! By making an effort to prompt happy customers to review your restaurant, pub or hotel, you can boost your TripAdvisor score with very little effort.
If you already use this approach, give yourself a pat on the back, if not, start now.
Next week, we'll discuss the factors TripAdvisor use to rank hotels & restaurants and how you can manipulate them to get better rankings.