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A lot has changed for restaurants and their customers over the past couple of years. Since the start of the pandemic, more people have been ordering online, more people are leaving reviews, and many of those reviews are not so great. But restaurants may have a secret weapon when it comes to countering bad reviews and tempting unsatisfied customers to give them another try – coupons.

A new report finds that even those who leave one-star reviews and vow never to return, are more likely to change their mind if they’re offered a coupon.

Paytronix, which offers customer experience management solutions for restaurants and convenience stores, found that one-star reviewers are 13% more likely to return after receiving a coupon. That percentage decreases the higher the star rating, but even at five stars, a coupon will still make a customer more likely to become a repeat customer.

But at what cost? Restaurants aren’t in the business of giving away discounts to customers who are happy with their order and might happily pay full price to order again in the future. When it comes to winning back unhappy customers, though, Paytronix says a coupon can more than pay for itself. It found that a coupon results in an average $9.20 increase in Customer Lifetime Value, four times greater than without a coupon.

“Receiving a poor review should be viewed as an invitation, not a dismissal,” the report reads. “To salvage the guest relationship after a less-than-stellar review, offering a coupon may be the best move a restaurant or c-store can make. Not only does it improve the chance a guest will return, but the marketing investment for this type of incentive makes sense.”

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One-star reviews have become more common, if only because reviews themselves have become more common lately. “Customers clearly want to place orders digitally, a technology trend that picked up steam just as the pandemic took hold,” Paytronix notes. And those “increased digital orders have also opened the door for more guest reviews.”

As of March 2022, Paytronix says 33% of all delivery or to-go orders were received digitally (as opposed to at the counter or over the phone), up from just 12% pre-pandemic. And ordering online means it’s easier to leave a review online.

And even a one-star review doesn’t mean a potential customer is gone for good. “Customers leaving a one-star review may be acting in the heat of the moment or reacting without consideration, or may even be leaving simple reviews to speed through the process,” the report reads.

So “saving a guest relationship pays off,” the report concludes. “No one wants to see a one-star review. But with a planned coupon strategy and the right technology to put control in the front-line manager’s hands, brands can flip the script and help turn negative reviews into profitable customers.”

And if it means turning your unhappy restaurant experience into a return experience that’s both better and less expensive – then everyone wins.

Image source: linvoyage

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