So I am new here, and even a bit new to the online world, but not new to this industry. (twenty years)
I am blessed to say I am going into my 9th year of owning a very busy cafe, and actually didn't even know their were forums for people like us. Lol Really I am pretty new to this....it was one of my servers who told me to search out forums for "new business ideas" to keep the cafe fresh.
That said, I am grateful that so many people are so willing to take the time to help others....so I thought I would offer my most valuable piece of information which changed the course of my business.
Negative reviews online, I don't know about any of you, but for me (and others I know up here) they were so hard to deal with. One of my "internet savvy" servers was always trying to get me to respond, but I never knew what to say. Finally one posted on Yelp that was so awful I just asked her to do it all for me and I would pay her every month, that was almost two years ago and the best investment I ever made. EVER!
She logged into all these sites I am reviewed on and started responding to all of them, even the good ones! She thought it would show our customers that "we care", and "they matter." She could not have been more correct, and the last year of my business has been record breaking as far as sales go. She continually shows me how much my website dominates online, that almost everyone is looking for a place to eat by simply using these review sites or Google.
I don't know how it all works, I just know that it does! When a bad review posts online now she is right there to say whatever needs to be said, and when there is a good one, my customers think it is me taking the time to say "thank you." If I had the time I would thank them, I am just to busy with my family and running the store.
Not sure of any companies who really offer this service, I only know my lady has promised to never leave me or help my competition up here. Lol If you are like me and don't have the time to manage your business online, I will be happy to pass your information on, I really hate to see her get so busy with her internet that she leaves us, but I do know she has taken a few other accounts up here, so it seems inevitable. :(
Anyway, just wanted to share my experience with online reviews and whether to respond or not respond....it seems to be a question which plagues every restaurateur I know.
Hope this helps, and I will quietly go back to reading all this wonderful information now. Thanks to everyone for sharing so freely.