In the mobile food industry, referrals are the No. 1 resource that our prospective customers seek out. That starts with family or a friend, but the online world has definitely broadened what a ‘referral’ means. If somebody sees enough positive reviews for a food truck, that helps people validate where they should go for lunch or dinner.
The opposite also holds true. For many mobile food businesses, reputation management includes not just tracking positive news, but also guarding against the negative. These days, feedback on sites like Yelp!, Google+ and Yahoo! Local can make a big difference to a food truck business.
If you own a food truck, there’s no way around it: You need to follow general and industry-specific review sites. These are front-row seats to what your customers are saying about you specifically. That’s really valuable insight into customer perception, issues you may need to resolve, and even things you are doing well.
While ethics prohibits seeding a site with positive reviews, it is still possible to build up one’s online reputation. Food truck owners should encourage their satisfied customers to make their opinions known with gentle urging of their online feedback, without putting any pressure on them.
Every food truck business should be actively asking customers to share accurate, honest feedback on review sites. Not every review will be positive, but your results will normalize over time, meaning the positive and negative reviews will come into a balance that reflects the reality of who you are offline. If you’re a good business, your reviews will reflect that. If you have some areas for improvement, reviews are your opportunity and impetus to pick up your game.
Coping with Criticism
While no food truck is perfect, it is a great business if they are willing to admit their mistake and correct it as best they can.
On sites that allow responses, food truck owners have the chance to show the world that they’re on their game. They can post in detail their actions in dealing with the issue, demonstrating that they are ready and willing to step up when things go wrong.
Where a public response isn’t possible, successful business owners will make personal contact, talking through the problem to ensure the patron reaches a satisfactory resolution.
Be courteous and professional. Acknowledge the problem and the customer’s feelings: It’s important, in most cases, to make sure the customer knows you understand their perspective. It’s also worth noting that in some cases, it will be clear that a customer is totally unreasonable or unwilling to work with you. In these extreme cases, it’s better not to engage at all.
Even online, the old adage holds true: You can’t win ’em all.