The restaurant industry is one of the most popular for online reviews. This especially true of pizza restaurants. People love pizza and love leaving reviews about their pizza online. Okay, we’ll admit it. We love pizza (and review it) too!
That’s why we reached out to our friend Jeff Jacobbi, owner of JJs Casa Di Pizza. It’s one of the oldest independent pizzerias in Buffalo, NY. We wanted to get his thoughts about online reviews, how he handles and uses them inside of his business.
Earlier in this lesson, you learned that customers trust online reviews just as much as their friends and family. This means that anyone who is looking for a new place to grab a great slice of pizza is likely to be influenced by what others are saying about the restaurant in their reviews. For restaurant owners like Jeff, online reviews can make or break their business.
However, online reviews don’t always tell the full story of what one can expect when they eat at a restaurant.
“Sometimes, it seems like people are writing reviews based off of boredom or are looking for attention and a free handout,” Jeff started. “I’ve seen reviewers ask for a free slice or other compensation to leave a review. I’ve also been asked for the same in exchange for them changing or deleting their review.”
With hundreds of online reviews and an aggregate rating well above a 4.0, Casa di Pizza is clearly delighting customers on a daily basis. Yet Jeff’s comments point to the trickiness of getting positive reviews in a service industry, and the hurdles one must navigate when managing their reviews.
“People tend to focus on the negatives of their experience instead of the bigger picture,” he said. “For example, if their wings were too crispy, but the pizza and dessert were great, they’re not going to mention the latter. They will only point out the wings were too crispy.”
People do tend to focus on the negative more than the positive when it comes to unsolicited reviews, but they can also be highly subjective. Since everyone’s personal tastes and expectations are different. This can lead to two people having completely opposite reviews for the same product or service.
“Reviews are hard to go by a lot of the time,” he said. “Reviews are based off of personal feelings and everyone can feel differently about something. For someone, there may be too much cheese on their pizza while someone else could try that same slice and love it. As a business owner, it’s tough to know which review to trust. It all seems so subjective.”
It’s easy to see how Jeff (and others) can feel this way about online reviews. For every 9 raving fans, there’s bound to be one critic. You may not be able to keep all customers happy all the time, but you can learn a lot from their complaints.
There is no such thing as a perfect business. Mistakes happen. We’re all human. Unfortunately, customers are not always that understanding. one likes to be told they’re not doing a great job.
According to Jeff, “Even though there are some bad actors, you can get good feedback from reviews. We’re not perfect, we do make mistakes sometimes, so it’s nice to hear about it. I also can’t be everywhere at once, so reviews help bring attention to things I may have not caught myself. “
Of course, no one likes to be told they’re doing a bad job, or they made a mistake. Instead of thinking of a poor review as a bad thing, think of it as an opportunity to improve. Remember, it’s what you do after the mistake that counts.
One of the main things we endorse at ReviewU is making online reviews a part of your business operations. This means creating a routine that supports active management and monitoring of your review profiles.
While there are many ways to accomplish this, Jeff sticks to the basics. He has claimed all of his review profiles (with our help), and has any new review alerts come through to his email. He’s also set up an email alert through Google News, so if there’s a mention of the business or a review on a blog, he’s aware of what’s being said.
If someone takes the time to leave an online review, they obviously wanted to be heard. There’s no better way to let the reviewer know they’ve been heard than to respond to them. This is no different for JJs Casa Di Pizza, as Jeff makes sure to respond when appropriate.
“A customer left a review that their pizza crust was burnt and that’s one of the things I really work hard on avoiding. I was able to talk to kitchen staff to confirm that a mistake was made, talked about ways to improve, and let the customer know we care about those issues,” Jeff said.
Responding to a negative review can also make a big impact on the reviewer.
Recently, an employee at Casa di Pizza had to be let go. After the employee alerted customers that they had “just been fired,” Jeff noticed a very negative review left on his Google profile based on the customer’s idea of what happened.
By responding and clarifying that the employee was not let go due to their level of service, but rather a private circumstance that violated work policies, the customer took down their negative review and returned as a customer to the restaurant.
Since we come across fake reviews all the time, we were curious to see what a business owner like Jeff thinks about fake reviews and if they’re something that come across his radar often.
Jeff explained: “Fake reviews are always more extravagant than real reviews,” which make them stand out from the rest of the feedback left about Casa di Pizza.
Because the staff, and the owners, are so connected to their customers, it’s easy to tell which reviews point to situations that never happened. This is one failsafe that many business owners can learn from, especially if they are in a customer service industry. By building a good relationship with first time and repeat customers, any fake reviews left on your profiles will be easy to spot and handle effectively.
Although all businesses are complex and different in their operations and their relationship to customers, one thing is clear: online reviews do have the power to affect the way customers and potential customers view your business.