Word of mouth has long had an impact on people’s purchasing decisions, and in today’s digital landscape, online reviews often dictate whether a consumer will visit a business. In fact, a survey by BrightLocal found 78 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations for at least some businesses.
That means positive online feedback on review sites like Google, Yelp and TripAdvisor and social channels like Facebook—used by 64, 45, 30 and 23 percent of consumers, respectively, according to ReviewTrackers—can be tools for new customer acquisition and retention . But while promoting their online presence, owners also need to mitigate potential missteps and respond productively to customers.
“Ignoring these sites deprives management of valuable insight on what consumers are saying about their bakery, products and employees—both the positives and negatives,” explains Paul Hetherington, President & CEO of the Baking Association of Canada. “This information can be used to engage the community to build a positive image and take corrective measures as necessary.”
To take control of your bakery’s reputation and maximize review sites, follow these best practices.
Master Review Site Basics for Your Bakery
One of the easiest and most important first steps you can take is to claim your business on review sites and manage the information being distributed about your bakery.
Make sure your business pages include accurate information, such as hours of operation, address, phone number and website. And though customer-generated photos can be useful, it’s important to upload your own images and videos that showcase your bakery’s products and atmosphere.
That’s what Stephanie Hart, owner of Chicago’s Brown Sugar Bakery, does to boost customer engagement and satisfaction. For instance, Brown Sugar published a video of Hart introducing the bakery’s mission, as well as images of custom products like Cookie Monster cupcakes and a half-blue, half-pink gender reveal cake, on its Yelp page.
“Have fun when making your video,” she says. “Be happy and display the best part of your business.”
Aim to supply fresh content on a regular basis (every few months) to show that your business is active on these sites.
Use Review Sites to Measure Customer Satisfaction—But Don’t Lose Sleep
“Keeping tabs on Yelp, Google and other key review sites is mandatory,” Hart says. “You can’t please 100 percent of the people, [but] do your best with most people.”
Visit these sites at least weekly, and more frequently during key sales periods. Keep the process of reviewing negative feedback constructive by focusing on identifying solutions. For instance, if a customer complains about the bakery not answering calls during operating hours, you may need to add more staff, or perhaps just place the phone closer to cashier stations rather than in the kitchen.
Since you can’t control what people post about your business, the best way to boost customer ratings is by taking ownership of what you can control.
“You manage reviews by managing inside of your business,” Hart says. “I try to make the best product I can and give the best service I can. If you do that, overall you’ll have high ratings.”
Share both positive and negative reviews, along with their implications, with your staff. Hearing rave reviews can motivate them to continue providing great service, while knowing what’s not working can help explain why you’re making certain changes to products or operations.
Maximize Positive Bakery Reviews
“When people have a great experience, I ask them to review us,” Hart says. Simply suggesting reviews to customers can be effective: Though many people read reviews, it may not necessarily occur to them to post their own.
And when they do publish them, thank customers for their kind words with a unique response that shows you’ve read their review (“I’m thrilled our birthday cake helped make your daughter’s day extra special!,” for example). These responses show that you care, help build relationships and demonstrate your commitment to customer service.
When you have a firm grasp on your bakery’s standing on review sites, you can use them to gain additional promotion, both through online advertising and cost-free measures.
“Employ review sites to put your stuff in the right places,” Hart suggests. Yelp, for instance, also offers paid business services like targeted local advertising, as well as ad placement on competitors’ pages.
You can also use positive reviews for in-store and social media promotion. Hart prints out glowing reviews to display in her bakery.
As your bakery increases brand awareness, your volume of reviews will likely increase. “Once you get in the hundreds and thousands of reviews, it’s almost impossible to maintain a five-star rating,” Hart says. “Realistically, aim for 4.5 stars.”
Respond to Negative Bakery Reviews Strategically
Though you may be more inclined to further the loyalty of already-satisfied customers than contend with critics, businesses that respond to both positive and negative reviews experience the greatest ratings increases, according to a study from Harvard Business Review.
When negative reviews surface, these tactics can help mitigate their impact:
- Respond quickly. ReviewTrackers’ research found 53 percent of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week.
- Apologize. No matter the complaint, always offer a brief apology for a bad experience to demonstrate you take customer feedback seriously.
- Be specific. Read negative customer reviews thoroughly so you can address their specific concerns in your response, rather than offer a generic reply.
- Turn a negative into a positive. If a customer’s issue is fixable, resolve the problem quickly. Share your explanation or changes, and invite the reviewer to visit your bakery again.
By keeping tabs on your online reviews and using them to improve and promote your business, you can grow your bakery’s online presence and boost customer satisfaction.