Online reviews can be a powerful tool to entice future customers to your business. They’re also a great way to get direct—and free—customer feedback to improve business operations, products, services, and the overall customer experience.
At Think Greek in Port St. Lucie, Florida, a two-time winner of Yelp’s Best Bite on the Beach, General Manager Rosanne Leo knows there’s more to a restaurant than a great bite of food. She always keeps customer service top of mind, regularly reading and responding to Yelp reviews to engage with Think Greek’s customer base.
From the other side of the counter, Yelp Elite reviewer Andi P. puts just as much energy into crafting Yelp reviews, leaving thoughtful feedback she hopes will help the businesses she loves succeed. After a memorable visit to Think Greek, she was inspired to leave a detailed review about her experience.
Dive into the thinking process of a reviewer to discover the multiple ways online feedback can help your business.
Uncover the standout elements of your business
If you’re great at something, customers will talk about it—and you should too. Use their feedback to boost visibility of your strong points to attract potential customers and build brand recognition.
Andi said she tries to be thoughtful in her feedback to benefit both Yelp users and business owners. She employs a standard format in each review and starts every one with her main takeaways about the business and what stood out to her the most.
“I don’t know if some people scrolling on the app are going to see my entire review, so I think having that little pro tip at the top is good,” Andi said.
When reading reviews, determine what customers find to be the most memorable aspects of your business. Using this information, you can emphasize and market these features or products the most in the future. For example, if there’s a memorable food item multiple customers mention, you can highlight it on your Instagram or offer a deal on the item to garner more interest and keep people talking.
Use constructive feedback to strengthen product or service offerings
Not all reviews will be 100% positive. Some might contain constructive criticism. When this happens, take a step back and think about how you can use this feedback to improve and grow your business.
For example, while Andi gave Think Greek five stars, she still had notes on how the food could be even better. She included this advice in her review, hoping the restaurant team would take it into consideration for future customers.
“We had this amazing pita and this incredible hummus that was chunky and clearly homemade, but the eating experience was a little bit difficult,” she said. “We wanted to spread the hummus throughout, and it was a little bit awkward. So I believe in giving feedback. I believe in giving it with love and with the idea that they can take it or they can leave it.”
Whether reviews are critical or encouraging, they can serve as learning opportunities that help you grow as a business owner. Read reviews thoroughly to see what customers think you’re doing well (and should keep doing) and if there are changes to products, services, or processes you can implement to improve the customer experience.
Increase employee morale and customer service
A restaurant experience is not only about the food. Even if your products are flawless, interactions with staff can change customers’ perspective on their visit as a whole.
Andi recognizes the importance of customer service and makes sure to include a note about restaurant staff in all of her reviews, sometimes mentioning specific team members who made her experience special.
“If I have a great staff interaction, if I’m able to get their name, I will shout them out,” Andi said. “A lot of businesses, when they see a certain employee mentioned in a positive light, they will give props to that employee. I definitely believe in positive reinforcement and giving love to whomever I can.”
In any industry, it’s important to focus on offering personal customer service and making customers feel special so they want to come back. Positive experiences inspire them to write reviews and recommend your business to their social circle, which is free word-of-mouth advertising for you.
Build relationships with customers
After reading reviews and taking in the feedback, don’t stop there. Write a response to show how much you care and respect customers for taking the time to share their thoughts.
Andi said review writing makes her feel more connected to a small business, but she feels even more connected if she receives a response to her reviews. She said seeing a response from Rosanne showed her that Think Greek is going to take her feedback into account.
“You can see at the bottom of [my] review that the business manager sent me thanks,” Andi said. “Even when I do have a bad experience, I’m always writing it like I’m writing directly to the business owner because most times, they are reading these reviews.”
Regularly responding to your Yelp reviews is a mutually beneficial process for you and your customers. You can show your customers how much you care, and in return, you can learn how to better serve them in the future. While this response can be a simple “thank you,” try to add a personal touch by using these review response tips.
These lessons come from an episode of Behind the Review, Yelp & Entrepreneur Media’s weekly podcast. Listen below to hear from Rosanne and Andi, or visit the episode page to read more, subscribe to the show, and explore other episodes.
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The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.