A Restaurant Guide to Surviving the Reputation Economy


It only takes one.

One customer with one negative experience who sends out one Tweet, post, Snap, or story to tarnish a reputation.

Or, take down a business completely.

From resorts whose reputation tanked in the wake of one disgruntled guest, to restaurants who can’t seem to grow their client base because of a couple lingering not-so-great sentiments on Yelp, the impact of consumer sentiment on a business’s ability to keep the doors open—let alone bring more people through—is massive.

Today, it’s becoming a practice of protecting, nurturing and growing an online reputation as a capital asset; something in need of constant, thoughtful, and strategic attention.

The companies thriving in this market have systems, processes, software, customer service commitments and other tools implemented into their businesses that make the act of managing their online reputation an art form.

So what exactly are they doing and how are they standing out?

In this post, we’ll share insights about the reputation economy, the crucial element of a brand perception that can make—or break—a reputation, and ways for you to start working towards navigating the speed-of-light grapevine that is today’s digitally connected online landscape to help nurture your brand sentiment…and your business.

What is the reputation economy?

A phenomenon of the digital age, and influenced by an array of factors, the reputation economy is a result of consumer behaviors shifting due to the ease in access to social opinion and perception about a business.

And, how perception is quickly becoming more and more the pivot point of the success, or decline, of a brand or business.

From review-centric sites like Yelp to the ever-trusted Google reviews, customers have turned from face-to-face word of mouth to explore options for their buying or specifically eating out, options, to trusting the sentiments of strangers online in helping them make their dining decisions.

The statistics that prove how much trust customers place on reviews are staggering:

91% of people regularly read online reviews

84% percent trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations

And 68% form an opinion after reading 1-6 reviews

So they’re seeking insights and making up their minds…fast.

With so much of buyer behavior relying on what the consumer community has to say about your brand, there’s only one way to pave your path towards a positive perception.

The golden ticket: TRUST.

‘Know, like, trust’ is a common tagline you’ll hear among online or digital business owners. What’s interesting is that exact phrase is becoming increasingly important for brick and mortar business owners to understand and embrace as their online persona becomes increasingly synonymous with their offline, or in-store, reputation and experience.

Building trust today looks like doing a little more than creating a great in-store experience or having a stellar product your customers love.

Because trust isn’t only being built with your customers…but also with your employees, and investors.

And people want to know they trust all aspects of your business; that they align with the values that drive your business, your people practices, that you’ll do what you say you will…the list goes on.

The question remains: when your products and your customer service normally do the talking and trust-building for you, how can you best build your brand reputation online so people will give you a chance and come through your doors?

Surviving Thriving in the reputation economy

So if trust rules all in the world of creating enduring relationships and navigating challenges in customer feedback and sentiment, how do you cultivate it over time or reset it when it’s lost?

Here are three things to remember, and a shortlist of ‘how-tos’ to help you organize your own roadmap for cultivating and nurturing your best possible brand perception.

Be proactive.

Monitor your mentions and be on top of what’s being said about your brand online – both positive and negative.

Engaging with customers sharing positive comments or sentiments offer you the opportunity to extend their positive experience and build a deeper relationship.

And being right on top of any less-than-ideal mentions or messages allows you to be fast to respond and make the situation right as quickly as possible.

How to:

Tell your story. Be courageous and bring your brand story into the spotlight. Own your narrative and tell the story of what makes you unique, how you stand out, how you give back – whatever sets you apart. And own it: own where you’re rocking it and where you have the opportunity to grow.

Ask for feedback. Simply making the request for guests to let you know about their experience in known to increase frequency of repeat visits. Plus, turning on the Feedback + Sentiment functions in Thanx, you can receive and manage low-scoring feedback in the moment. And, it can all happen within the privacy of the Thanx platform, and doesn’t have to tank your online reputation.

Too busy to have your eyeballs glued to your phone to filter every review? All good. Thanx applies natural language process and AI to scan for opportunities for improvement and to flag the most important issues to address – saving you time, and your business’s review status.

Get alerted. Setting up Google Alerts for your business name, head chef, founder, or owner will send an email to your inbox when those words are found in articles or shares online.

Platforms like Hootsuite also offer a monitoring function inside their dashboard, and tools like Mention are designed specifically to inform you of when the keywords you’re tracking pop up anywhere online.

Create a crisis management plan. While it might not be fun to ‘plan for the worst’, having a predetermined plan to follow if things take a turn for the negative that works for you and your business takes the guesswork out of handling these situations, and lets you get right to work.

Knowing who should handle what conversations, and what team members at every level are empowered to provide to make the situation right makes knowing who the right person to tackle an issue is and gets you on the path to solving the problem before your guest can even get to log into Twitter.

Don’t hide.

Communicate, and communicate often, especially in the face of reviews or feedback that’s hard to handle. Businesses that remain silent while a disgruntled customer is raging online are often stoking the flames of fury – because, at the core of it, the customer simply wants to be heard.

How to:

Listen. Yes, have your online ears turned on and monitor what people are saying. But more importantly, when someone is unhappy, tune into what they’re saying. Do your best to understand the details of where the breakdown was.

Put aside your need to be right (or to make them wrong!) and instead, show your humanity and humility by offering a thoughtful apology. And, do what you can to make it right, within what’s reasonable or possible for your business.

Make yourself accessible. Ensure your Twitter settings allow you to receive direct messages from anyone. If a customer’s willing to try to send you a DM to resolve a complaint, it won’t take them long to go to the public feed to air their grievances if they get the kickback that your account doesn’t allow them to access you privately.

Thanx also has a function to offer business owners the opportunity to intervene with unhappy guests before they go online to public platforms. The feedback function gives you first notice when someone leaves a negative review – empowering you to act fast and keep the incident isolated and off major social platforms. It enables you to respond personally and privately.

Speak publicly, solve privately. Some situations require a public acknowledgment of what’s happened, and how a business is responding. And, when dealing with a specific customer, have those conversations privately – offline and out of the public forum.

Build a bank of positivity.

There is NOTHING more impactful and powerful than having a bank of positive reviews and experiences be the first thing prospective or curious customers see when they search your business’s name.

Creating a seamless way to collect feedback and positive reviews from your customers is an easy way to take their positive experience and empower other customers to share their own.

How to:

Quiet the negative noise and amplify your awesome. Simply put: gather Google reviews from customers you already know have had a stellar experience at one of your locations, and shift the dial on your online ranking.

Thanx offers a thoughtful feature that turns high-ranking reviews through a customer engagement platform into Google reviews in a non-intrusive or repetitive way.

Go get reputation building

No matter how great your marketing plan is, your reputation in this digital age will (almost) always precede you.

You’re at the helm of that reputation ship – and the relationships that drive your brand’s perception.

Create a plan to lead and manage the dialogue about your brand online – and highlight what customers think makes you great to build trust that lasts.

And, let Thanx help you keep the customers who have built that foundation, and increase traffic to your locations in the process.