Finding new customers can sometimes feel like a scattered approach. There’s the tried ‘n’ tested in-house, traditional hospitality in its purest form, which we hope will help retain loyal customers as well as find more through word-of-mouth; there’s our own marketing output, such as social media interaction, print, photography, video etc.; and then there’s crowd-sourced trust-based systems such as reviews.
WHY IS TRIPADVISOR IMPORTANT TO HOSPITALITY BUSINESSES?
TripAdvisor is one of the biggest review platforms in Australia at the moment. While its primary focus since 2000 was aggregating professional, published reviews of hotels and restaurants, its user review platform has since overtaken that purpose in popularity and usage. These days, if you search Google for “cafe [your suburb name]”, or even the name of a few local cafes, TripAdvisor will be sat near the top of the results page, alongside a brightly-coloured star rating from Google Maps, and a few highlighted comments from customers. The importance of a business’s review standing can’t be overstated when discussing new customer acquisition.
ADDING YOUR BUSINESS TO TRIPADVISOR
Adding a business to TripAdvisor is really straightforward. It’s mostly a question of filling out a one-page form to make a bare-bones listing. Many businesses already have profiles on the site, as customers have left reviews, so you may find that rather than making a new profile, you’re actually claiming ownership of an existing page. In either case, your journey begins on this page: https://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Owners. Note: Cafes come under the umbrella of ‘restaurants’ on the site.
GETTING YOUR PROFILE NOTICED ON TRIPADVISOR
It can be difficult to stand out from the crowd. All you really have in your arsenal to jump out at a person on a search results are:
- An eye-catching image that not only quickly shows what you’re best at, but also shows that you’re great at doing it. This could be some fantastic latte art, a well-shot image of your famous breakfast dish, or even a piece of your decor that really speaks to the experience a customer will have if they choose you
- Your reviews. This means both the average review score AND the quality of the comments
- Convenience. Convenience means different things to different people. It could simply be how close you are to the customer’s current location; it could be that you have a baby changing table in your toilets; it could be that parking is available.
Try not to get tunnel vision when viewing your own profile. Make yourself (or ask a friend or family member who you know will be brutally honest to) roleplay as a potential customer looking for a bite to eat online, and see which of your local competitors jump out as being appealing, and why. This may inspire you to make changes to your own profile. Always try to remember, though, that seeming unique is just as important as showing that you have equally high standards relative to your competitors. Don’t directly copy what your opposition are doing, rather let it inspire you into improving the way you represent your business online.
GROWING YOUR PROFILE ON TRIPADVISOR
The bulk of a business’s page is taken up by user reviews and images. When prospective customers are already looking at your profile page, that’s half of the battle won! Now all you need to do is confirm their suspicions that you’re the right destination for them to try out. If, for example, your main image is the only one in which the food looks delicious, and the rest of the images on your profile are disappointing, you’ll turn people off. The same goes for reviews; if your average score is high, but the most recent reviews show a mixture of tepid responses, and complaints, then there might be a problem that needs to be explored.
It will take time, but gently encourage customers who give you rave reviews in person to also write one online to help new people enjoy your cafe. One idea that we’ve seen succeed is to run a monthly prize draw for a free lunch to anyone who has left a review. Note: this must include those who leave negative reviews, and must be impartial – record a video of you drawing the names from a hat to post on Facebook. This will also act as good marketing for your scheme.
RESPONDING TO REVIEWS
It’s always best practice to respond to reviews of your business. Not only is it a great opportunity to take on board some highly valuable information – namely the things that keep your customers coming back, and the things that you can afford to change without too much stress that people would be up – responding to reviews is also a chance to show both new and existing customers how serious you are about service
WHAT TO DO ABOUT NEGATIVE REVIEWS
The rules are the same regardless of how positive or negative the review is: respond in a calm, enthusiastic, eager-to-please manner. Someone loved the pasta lunch? Tell them you can’t wait to pass on the good news to the chef! A customer complain about the quality of cakes? Say you’re really thankful for their feedback and will be looking to improve that area of the business in time for their next visit.
Just make sure – and this is where the hard work comes in – you’re being honest. If you say you’re going to fix the dessert menu because a customer complained that it’s “all a bit samey,” actually do it. Then when you’ve made changes, add a second, follow-up response to the review letting that customer (and, conveniently, every other prospective customer who happens to read that review) know about it.
TripAdvisor allows visitors and owners to list features of businesses. This should be checked and corrected quarterly; the last thing you’re usually thinking of during a refurb is your online profile! But any new additions should be reflected fairly soon afterwards. Remember, customers often have a long list of options in front of them, and if you’re not telling them that you high chairs available, they might hop to the next place on the street that is.
Growing your business’s online presence is an ongoing process. An easy way to ensure that it continues is to delegate responsibilities amongst your staff and stakeholders. Rather than add a huge, full-day task to your calendar titled “SPEND ALL DAY DOING TRIP ADVISOR AARRGGHHH”, assign shorter, recurring tasks such as a quarterly “double-check TripAdvisor features”, or a fortnightly “respond to TripAdvisor reviews” – this way, the tasks become more manageable, one-hour jobs, and you’ll know you’re always up to date.