The Gables Restaurant: How to turn complaining customers into repeat visitors

One of the most frustrating aspects of running an independent restaurant is when a customer posts a negative online review about your business. You’ve worked hard to create a unique dining experience and go out of your way to provide great customer service, and 99% of your patrons love you. Then one person dings you on Yelp or Google for the whole world to see.

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This is the modern dilemma for local food and beverage businesses, and there’s a lot at stake. Customers who have a bad experience are more likely to share them, and one bad online review can cost your business 30 customers. But, ironically, negative reviews also present an opportunity to turn complaints into repeat business.

Cathy Centofanti knows this firsthand. She runs all the online business aspects of The Gables at Chadds Ford, a unique restaurant and events venue in the heart of Pennsylvania’s historic Brandywine Valley. As part of her role, Cathy reads and responds to customer reviews posted on sites like Yelp, Google, Facebook, and TripAdvisor. It’s a big job, so she streamlines it by monitoring and managing all of The Gables’ reviews from one place with Womply.

Most of the business’s reviews are glowing, focusing on the great food, pleasant ambiance (the venue has a bar, dining room, and outdoor patio), or great memories from a wedding reception or family banquet held there. But every business will encounter complaints, and Cathy sees them as opportunities.

“We want customer feedback. Some companies pay a lot of money to know what customers think, and we get it for free from online reviews,” Cathy says. “We use the feedback we receive to improve the business, and we reach out to customers who aren’t satisfied to ask for another chance. They almost always take us up on it, and they always leave happy the second time.”

Cathy has tapped into the true power of online reviews as an engine to attract, engage, and retain customers. Nearly 9 in 10 people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, so you really need to keep your ratings above four stars. When negative reviews do occur, don’t ignore them. Up to 70% of complaining customers will try your business again if you resolve their concerns, and repeat customers can help you generate 47% more revenue.

Cathy engages in conversations with customers in online forums like Yelp and TripAdvisor. This might seem scary or like a lot of work, but it’s a valuable investment of time, especially when you can use software to cut down on the work and save time. Customers are often surprised to receive a response to their reviews, Cathy says, which creates a “pleasantly surprised” reaction and keeps The Gables top of mind.

Maintaining a positive brand experience is especially important for a business like The Gables, which derives a lot of relevance from its company story. The restaurant is housed in a structure that predates the Revolutionary War and still has two original chimneys (circa 1745) intact. Patrons are drawn to the historical significance of the location and the picturesque setting for big events — The Gables has weddings booked two years in advance!

Maintaining customer confidence is key to ensure that The Gables remains a preferred destination for special events and fine dining. Cathy’s efforts help the company deliver a customer experience that matches or exceeds expectations and keeps patrons coming back. Also, taking an active role in reading and responding to online reviews helps new customers find The Gables, since 92% of consumers use reviews to decide where they’ll spend their money.

If you’re in the vicinity of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, make a visit to The Gables for dinner or book your next big event there. You can also sign up for their newsletter. If you want to take control of online reviews at your business, learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!

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