By Andrew Carlson, Foodable Industry Expert
Online interactions with your customers are becoming increasingly popular, and many big-name brands, restaurants, and businesses out there have taken to social media. However, your online presence shouldn’t just be a digital billboard and your feeds shouldn’t be filled with constant promotion.
There’s nothing worse than seeing an amazing photo on Instagram with the description “Our NEW [insert food item here] really beats the heat. Make sure to grab one today,” followed by a list of a million hashtags that aren’t relevant.
I didn’t want to pull an example from the platform because I didn’t want to put anyone on blast, but with 2017 right around the corner, I wanted to take a moment to stress the importance of sounding human online!
Here are three reasons why it’s crucial.
Social Media is a Conversation
Let’s first start out in how we communicate with anyone who enters our restaurants. What’s the first thing that you say?
You greet them!
When you are interacting with them at the table, you are having a free-flowing conversation. When you’re talking about desserts or beverages, you’re having a free-flowing conversation.
What happens when a customer asks you about something that you really like on the menu? You say things like, “Great choice, that’s definitely one of my favorites, as well.” Or, “Yum! You’ll love it! It’s one of the best things on the menu.”
You interact with people every single day by being yourself — emotions and all. So why do we stop utilizing our humanness while posting about a new menu item? When you allow yourself to use emotions in your daily interactions, you will be able to turn any situation into a winning one. Restaurants are the business of people. Make sure your guests are interacting with a person, too, even when it’s through a screen.
You Become Genuine and Authentic
When it comes to interacting with your customers online, it brings them comfort to know they are talking to a person, one that they can imagine in their mind, as opposed to talking at a distant conglomerate or building.
When a customer voices a concern and you react with “I’m sorry for the inconvenience,” they make be skeptically and instantly don’t think you’re being insincere. They believe that you’re sorry for getting caught in the act of providing poor service your acts of poor service — and that’s not the idea you want them thinking of.
You want them to believe that you care because...well, because you actually do care, but that doesn’t come across with a blanket statement that sounds like it came from a robot.
When I was managing restaurants and dealing with Yelp reviews, whether negative or positive, I would respond to them how I would legitimately respond to them in person.
I would say, “Oh, no! I’m so sorry that you received that kind of service. As the shop manager, I wanted to thank you for bringing this to my attention so we can adjust the way we run our operations…”
If the review was positive, I would say something like, “Wow! Thank you so much for this glowing review. You rock! I’m so happy that you decided to stop by and [insert a sentence or the experience the customer was writing about].”
As you can see, I’m being 100 percent genuine because that’s how I would truly respond to anything. However, I don’t use these same phrases every time. I respond differently based on the situation.
The world is seeking for genuine, authentic people. If you respond as one, you will be perceived as one.
This is the Service Industry
At the end of the day, we all work in the service industry. Regardless of whether you’re the restaurant owner, the chef, the server, the bartender, the bus person, or the dishwasher, no matter what your position is, we are all in the service industry.
We have a common goal: to spread the spirit of hospitality in everything that we do.
When you don’t respond to your customers online as you would in-person, you are dismissing the very spirit that you desire to keep alive in your business every single day.
Your goal is to sell your restaurant to your customer base every single day to convince them to come back into the restaurant. And how can that be accomplished? By being human in a people-centered industry.
You have a passion to be in the industry — that’s why you’re in it. Passion equates to love, so put your heart into every interaction that you have online and see how your relationship with your customers changes.
And one last tip: When interacting with customers online, regardless of if it’s through a social media post or Yelp reply, think about how you would respond in a face-to-face situation. Record yourself if you have to, so you can create that human interaction online. It’s a sign that you are being 100-percent genuine and that you truly do care about the customer.