How To Market Online by Encouraging Customer Reviews

by Joanne Steele on July 15, 2010

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I visited Ashland, Oregon yesterday (learn more about Ashland in this previous post) and before returning home, my husband and I stopped in at one of our favorite restaurants, Greenleaf.

When the bill arrived, under our tab was a note that read:

Dear Customers and Friends,

In an effort to increase our presence and standing on the web, I have a special favor I would like to ask of you of you are so inclined.  Greenleaf Restaurant needs more restaurant review on-line. Here’s how it works. Simply google “Ashland Oregon Restaurant Reviews.” You’ll find quite a few websites…Trip Advisor, Happy Cow, Yelp, eSouthernOregon etc. Click on their link to “add a review” and have at it.

Of course I am hoping that you had a great experience here and will reflect that in your review. If you had a less than positive dining experience (this might still happen occasionally) please let me know asap either thru our customer comment cards presented with your bill, email to Daniel@greenleafrestaurant.com or call me – 541-482-2808.

Thanks for eating at the Greenleaf,

Daniel and the Greenleaf staff

I was impressed by Daniel Greenblatt’s audacity, sticking his neck out and asking for online reviews, so I gave him a call this morning to discuss how this strategy is working for him. Here’s what he had to say.

Joanne: When did you start asking customers for reviews with the little note that came with my check?

Daniel: I started doing it about 6 months ago. I noticed that young people coming into the restaurant including my own daughter immediately whip out their iPhones to get online with their opinions. My older customers, many who we see weekly, wouldn’t automatically think of doing that. They go online themselves to do research but don’t necessarily leave their own comments and reviews. I was hoping that the little note with their bill would encourage them to do that.

Joanne: Have you seen an increase in reviews?

Daniel: Absolutely. I consider it to be a real success. Of course we do get an occasional negative review as well as the many positives.

Joanne: Do you track the reviews and do you ever respond to reviews?

Daniel: I watch for new comments and reviews, and I always respond to the negative ones, usually privately. Trip Advisor, for instance, gives you a way to respond privately. I’m new to this and perhaps should also respond publically to have a different point of view visible to searchers. So much about the restaurant business is personal preference. One person may give us a bad review for having too little lettuce on our Greek salad, and the next person thinks we have too much.

Joanne: Are you concerned that you’re encouraging unsatisfied customers to comment by handing out that note?

Daniel: Of course it’s a risk but I’ve seen a dramatic increase in positive reviews. I have been in business for 25 years providing the best food and greatest dining experience possible. I have to trust that and take advantage of this new marketing opportunity. I’ve given up all my newspaper advertising – that just wasn’t working anymore.

Joanne: Any suggestions for other business owners thinking about doing what you’ve done?

Daniel: I’m happy with the result, and it’s just a matter of keeping a supply of those notes handy for servers to include with the customer’s bill. It’s virtually free. I’m very satisfied with and supportive of my staff and don’t use online reviews to either reward or reprimand them. The review process is a way for me to increase business and learn, myself, if there are any weaknesses

There you have it. Are you using an interesting technique to encourage online reviews?

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