Peer reviews carry more weight in the minds of consumers than those of established critics, according to new research published today.
A survey of 2,000 consumers for restaurant booking website Livebookings found a third (33%) of people trust the judgements of fellow diners, while only 15% put their faith in recognised reviewers.
More than half (58%) of those surveyed said that seeing a bad review of a restaurant online would mean they were likely to avoid it.
Just 20% said they would ignore reviews and trust their own judgement based on a restaurant's website and menu.
David Norris, chief operating officer for Livebookings, said of the research: "Restaurateurs can no longer dismiss the importance of the internet in shaping how their business is perceived by the general public, they must take note of the feedback they are receiving and, where necessary, act on it."
It comes as online reputation firm KwikChex.com is attempting to attract support from hotels and restaurants to launch a "group defamation action" against TripAdvisor.
KwixChex has said it is pursuing the action after its members in the hotel and restaurant sector highlighted that they were fed up with what they allege are "unfair" or "false" reviews on the site.
The issue of managing online reviews is also being looked at by the British Hospitality Association (BHA), which is assessing how to tackle the problem of rogue reviews by people that haven't visited the restaurant they are rating.
Martin Couchman, deputy chief executive of the BHA, has been involved in discussions with several sites, including TripAdvisor, after EU hospitality trade association HOSTEC picked up the issue at a European level.
"I think TripAdvisor has now realised that trade relations are important," said Couchman.
"They have now put in a system where, if you are registered with them, you can respond directly to negative reviews. It's still not perfect but the situation is much better than it was and discussions are ongoing."
HOW TO MANAGE CUSTOMER REVIEWS
- Regularly monitor the websites to see what's being posted
- Many sites allow you to post a reply. Engage with negative reviews to show you value a customer's comment and explain how you will address the problem
- If you are unable to reply, contact the website
By Chris Druce
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