What an Independent Pizza Shop Thinks About Online Reviews
Have you ever asked yourself: what do online reviews and pizza have in common?
Okay…probably not. But they are related more than you think, especially since people love pizza and love leaving reviews about their pizza online!
I wanted to investigate what an independent pizza shop owner thinks about online reviews to get a better idea of exactly how a real business owner feels about online reputation management.
Setting the Plate for Casa di Pizza’s Reputation Management
Here at RepCheckup, we’re big fans of pizza and great Buffalo chicken wings. Thankfully, we’re located about 30 feet from one of Buffalo’s most popular pizza shops: Casa di Pizza. They’re been around the block a few times and have honed their menu over the course of the 65 years they’ve been in business, so I knew that the owner, Jeff Jacobbi would have valuable insight into how customer opinions can shape a business.
Do Online Reviews Tell the Whole Story?
Every business owner is also a customer in their personal life, making online reviews somewhat un-avoidable in one way or another. Because over 85% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as their friends, it’s integral for business owners to get a good handle on their business’s online reputation to help sway potential customers in the right direction.
With 187 reviews and a solid 4.0 rating, Casa di Pizza has done a good job maintaining their reputation, but what does Jeff think about online reviews?
“Sometimes, it seems like people are writing reviews based off of boredom or are looking for attention and a free handout,” he explains. “People tend to focus on the negatives of their experience instead of the bigger picture. For example, if their wings were too crispy but the pizza and dessert were great, they’re not going to mention the latter.”
This points to the trickiness of getting reviews in a service industry (like restaurants), and the hurdles one must navigate when managing their reputation. People do tend to focus on the negative, but it’s important to still embrace feedback and try to improve rather than shying away from reviews in case someone decides to leave a review with their negative experience.
Is There a Difference in the way Online Reviews are Weighed if You’ve Experienced Them as a Business Owner?
Oftentimes, people with “insider knowledge” can become jaded or skeptical of online reviews entirely, especially because it can be unfair – the only thing more frustrating than a fake review is experiencing the aggravation of trying to get them removed.
In my case, I know what to look for when it comes to suspicious reviews. I take an extra hard look at online reviews before buying a product or using a service. Whether I’m on Amazon looking for a can opener or if I’m on Google looking for a good ramen place, I’m always looking for trends like repetitive phrases, a burst of 5-star reviews, and other red flags that could prevent me from buying something that isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Jeff, as the owner of Casa di Pizza, feels similarly. “Reviews are hard to go by a lot of the time,” he said. “Reviews are based off of personal feelings and everyone can feel differently about something. For someone, there may be too much cheese on their pizza while someone else could try that same slice and love it. Whenever I’m looking to try something new, I look up the menu and try to pick something without reading someone else’s take on it because it is so subjective.”
How Often Do Online Reviews Get Reviewed?
One of the main tips RepCheckup endorses is making online reviews a part of your business operations. And that means creating a routine that supports active monitoring of your business profiles to see what people are saying.
Any time a new review comes through, Jeff explains, he’s set up an email alert. Whether it’s from Google or Facebook, he likes to make sure that he receives a notification so that the review…ahem… can be reviewed.
Regular upkeep with your online reviews is key if you want to make sure that you’re responding appropriately to any comments that are left about your business.
Is Responding to Customer Reviews Worth It?
If someone leaves your business an online review, it means they believe that leaving their opinion about their positive (or negative) experience is important enough to spend the time it takes to leave that review. So, it’s important for business owners to understand this and let customers know that you care about their feedback.
This is no different for a pizza shop, and Jeff makes sure to respond when appropriate.
“A customer left a review that their pizza crust was burnt and that’s one of the things I really work hard on avoiding. I was able to talk to kitchen staff to confirm that a mistake was made, talked about ways to improve, and let the customer know we care about those issues,” Jeff mentioned in passing.
However, responding to a negative review can sometimes make a big impact on the reviewer themselves. Recently, an employee at Casa di Pizza had to be let go. After the employee alerted customers that they had “just been fired,” Jeff noticed a very negative review left on his Google profile based on the customer’s idea of what happened.
By responding and clarifying that the employee was not let go due to their level of service, but rather a private circumstance that violated work policies, the customer took down their negative review and returned as a customer to the restaurant.
Even though they don’t respond to every customer review, it’s clear that appropriate and timely responses can make all the difference when turning a potentially negative review into a positive one.
What Happens if Someone Leaves a Fake Review?
As the author of the eBook, The Rise of Fake Patient Reviews, I often think about fake reviews and keep an eye out for them whenever I’m thinking of buying something. However, I was curious to see what a business owner like Jeff thinks about fake reviews and if they’re something that come across his radar often.
Jeff explained: “Fake reviews are always more extravagant than real reviews,” which make them stand out from the rest of the feedback left about Casa di Pizza.
Because the staff, and the owners, are so connected to their customers, it’s easy to tell which reviews point to situations that never happened. This is one failsafe that many business owners can learn from, especially if they are in a customer service industry. By building a good relationship with first time and repeat customers, any fake reviews left on your profiles will be easy to spot and handle effectively.
Although all businesses are complex and different in their operations and their relationship to customers, one thing is clear: online reviews do have the power to affect the way customers and potential customers view your business.