October 11, 2023

How important is reputation management?

Whether you use traditional or tech-enhanced methods, managing reviews is essential to business success.
Server taking order attentively
For restaurants, reputation can make or break a business. 

Because of the increase in social media platforms and rating sites, your business can easily receive praise or become someone’s venomous online target. 

Industry marketing expert David “Rev” Ciancio says managing your restaurant’s reputation is as important as delivering a great dining experience. 

“Paying attention to reviews on social media sites is a must since just about everyone can safely and anonymously use the internet to vent their grievances,” he says.  

Ciancio, who also owns Handcraft Burgers & Brews, a single-unit restaurant in New York City, says monitoring reviews—good and bad—and responding to them in a timely manner will keep your restaurant popular and top of mind with your customers, and there are lots of ways to do it. You can monitor it on your own, hire a digital manager, or outsource it to a third-party contractor who’ll scan social media feeds and review sites and respond for you.  

Ciancio, who started out managing and responding personally to all of his restaurant’s reviews and ratings, says using a third-party firm and AI generated software made the process more efficient and cost effective, about $100 a month. 

“For me, it was easier to work with a reputation management firm,” he says. “We created a series of versions, or templates, of different responses. Before that, for about a year and a half, I replied personally to all reviews, but then asked them to take it over unless they were 1, 2, or 3 stars. Those are the ones I still respond to directly because, in my mind, they indicate something happened that needs attention. When you have less than a 4-star rating on any of the sites and you don’t reply to them, you’re just hurting yourself.” 

Using AI technology to manage your reputation 

AI technology helps automate and optimize your responses. It also saves time by collecting necessary feedback and analysis and sets up alerts and notifications for your brand when someone mentions it online. This gives staff members increased time to focus on the more strategic aspects of reputation management.  

“The best way to explain it is the technology manages the review. Then a human monitors and manages the process,” Ciancio says. 

He notes that reputation management firms often use a variety of software programs, but the one commonality is they all monitor whichever social media feeds you request. Those typically include Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor and Facebook. In some cases, Grubhub and Doordash are also in the mix. Once the reviews are captured, they go into a dashboard where responses are crafted. 

The software also typically scans reviews for similarity of words. When certain words appear regularly, it learns to watch for them.” 

“Basically, the software knows there’s a review out there and its scanning for words that are good or bad,” he says. “The AI will learn over time how to respond because it’s responding to a lot of reviews. And if a program detects that six out of 10 reviews contain the words cold or delivery, then you know you’ve got a delivery problem.” 

According to Ciancio, one caveat should apply when replying to reviews. “Don’t respond with cookie-cutter messages. Copying and pasting the same responses for every review won’t work. Potential guests thinking about coming to your restaurant will look at your responses online before deciding whether they’ll dine with you or not. When they see the same responses, they’ll know they’re not genuine.” 

That said, every response to one of his online reviews contains these four elements: 
  1. They start with a greeting. The response is personalized by using the reviewer's name.  
  2. The reviewer is acknowledged. The responder says thanks for the positive review or apologizes for any problems.  
  3. The response is authentic. The responder uses a sign-off. It doesn’t have to include a full name; it can be initials.  
  4. It contains a win-back proposition. The responder tells the guest the restaurant will make the experience better next time. 
Recent social media statistics indicate that businesses responding to reviews have higher average ratings than those that don't. One report states 60% of customers who search online read the reviews before dining out. 

Ciancio sees this with his own restaurant, “If they see that someone from the restaurant replied, it gives them confidence that they’ll get the experience they expect and that someone will take care of them if things go wrong. So, my best advice? Manage your reviews in any way you can.” 


Sign-up for weekly recaps of the latest Tech Month content.