Professional Comment

Navigating Customer Expectations: How to Optimise Brand Reputation and Drive Growth

By Tracey Pankhurst, Senior CX Strategist, Reputation (

Since the pandemic, the hospitality industry has had to contend with closures, staff shortages, job losses, and the cost-of-living crisis, while evolving with rapid digital transformation and changing customer expectations.

At Reputation, we partnered with CGA, an insight and research consultancy, to survey 2,300 consumers across Britain, France and Germany, and understand sentiment towards the industry. Here, we look at some key findings and share insight on how hospitality operators can better manage their online brand reputation, understand feedback and drive business growth.

Budget-conscious indulgence

The survey found consumers remain eager to visit restaurants, pubs and bars and continue to turn to digital channels to help decide where to go. But with the cost-of-living crisis impacting spending and frequency, consumer expectations are rising, with almost one in four wanting greater value for their pennies compared to a year ago.

This makes every step in the customer journey a make-or-break moment for operators. And as digital channels continue to grow in significance, there is no tool more crucial for developing a successful business than obtaining customer feedback at every single touch point.

Covering the essentials

When researching venues, the study shows that consumers consider practical information – such as menus, opening hours and prices – to be the most vital factor in influencing their decision-making. As such, businesses must ensure this information is easily accessible and presented clearly on their websites, social media, Google, and other platform presences. In fact, some research shows that Google’s knowledge portal gets almost 10x more traffic than a businesses corporate website*.

Shouting about deals and discounts is important too, as nearly a quarter of Brits are on the hunt for offers when planning a visit – a trend we expect to see more of as the cost-of-living crisis mounts – with a third more likely to leave a review after a good deal or discount.

Getting these fundamentals wrong can lead to prospective guests turning away, negative reviews and harm to the brand. Further supporting this are the third of Brits who expressed frustration at being unable to find the basic details they want from a venue’s online presence – highlighting the importance of providing up-to-date, consistent information across all digital channels.

The word around town

The survey also points to the importance of review and rating platforms, with TripAdvisor remaining Britain’s most popular platform for pre-visit reviews, and Google the preferred choice for ratings.
With review platforms a major battleground for brand reputation and consumers increasingly relying on them to make dining decisions, it’s crucial for businesses to actively monitor good and bad feedback across all platforms and respond promptly and professionally.

Turning lemons into lemonade
Nevertheless, analysis indicates that more than one in five Google reviews is left without any kind of interaction. This is where many operators are missing an opportunity. Acknowledging a positive review is a good way to build repeat customers, but it’s the interaction a business has with negative reviews that can really turn things around. Engaging with negative feedback shows customers that an establishment values their experience. It also presents a chance to repair the damage, as almost half of Brits say they would return to a venue if their negative feedback was addressed appropriately.

Similarly, with consumer expectations on the rise, businesses can use the feedback to identify and address areas for improvement in the guest experience. This can include everything from the quality of the food and service to venue hygiene, giving businesses the insight to continuously improve guest satisfaction and drive repeat customers.

All this information can be a lot to juggle, let alone harness. Particularly in today’s environment where it’s imperative for pubs, bars, and restaurants to offer multiple communication channels, – including social media platforms, messaging applications and text messaging – as customers expect convenience and accessibility in their interactions.

Here, collating voice of the customer (VoC) data into a single platform provides businesses with a one-stop shop for understanding how guests feel about them in real time. By adopting a comprehensive digital touchpoint management system, operators can make feedback work harder for their business, enhancing customer engagement and overall operational efficiency.

The cost-of-living crisis is having a significant impact on consumers’ discretionary spending. Our research shows Brits’ love of pubs, bars and restaurants is undiminished, but operators will have to stay laser-focused on consumer habits and priorities to get guests through the door. This means understanding the consumer, their digital journey and acting fast on feedback.

The full study is available here and contains insight into the three big stages of digital customer engagement with a brand – before, during and after their visits – as well as recommendations and top tips.

10 tips for building digital brand reputation

1. Encourage reviews to increase volume and improve visibility on key platforms.
2. Make reviews quick, easy, and rewarding to boost response rates.
3. Be responsive to all reviews, especially negative ones, within hours.
4. Analyse social media to understand and improve brand reputation.
5. Act on feedback to improve operations, particularly around hygiene, food, and service.
6. Involve staff to gather feedback and improve operations while motivating and retaining talent.
7. Optimise for social media by delivering “Instagrammable” food and decor that guests can share.
8. Emphasise value by making guests feel they are getting a good return for their money.
9. Nail the basics on websites by making essential practicalities easily accessible.
10. Check the tech regularly to solve glitches before they irritate users.

*Sourced by Reputation.