No matter how amazing your business is, or how great you are at your job, or how awesome of a person you are... at some point you will receive negative feedback. It may be to your face, which is what I honestly prefer, but these days it's unfortunately more likely that it will he posted online. For better or for worse, online reviews are here to stay. They are what I like to call a necessary evil. I hate them when they're bad, I love them when they're good, I personally rely on them when deciding which shoes to purchase on Zappos. I recently heard a statistic that only three percent of consumers write reviews on a regular basis. THREE PERCENT. Think about that. Think about how much influence that three percent of the population has over the every day choices that we make. Where should I eat? What hotel should I stay at? Which shirt should I buy? Which plumber should I hire? I would argue that more people review restaurants than almost anything else, so the percentage for our industry is probably a bit higher, but still an incredible statistic. I have personally monitored all of our major review sites since Yelp became a verb. I have responded to hundreds of reviews over the years, and I have a lot to say on the subject. But for today, I want to focus on three things you should not be doing when you receive a less than stellar review.
Never Ignore It.
Always, always, always respond to a negative review. Responding to a review can accomplish many things. First, it lets the person on the other side of the screen know there is a real human that reads their comments. I think on some level this is important culturally. Second, it gives you an opportunity to turn the experience around and re-write the script. Things are going to go wrong in your business, and unfortunately it is going to effect your guest or client. Ideally, you have the opportunity to react in person so that they are satisfied before they leave. But a public review post is not the end of the world, because you still have an opportunity to recover that person by apologizing and offering an incentive for their return. And most importantly, you still have the opportunity to learn from those mistakes. The end of the world is when you never hear from a client or guest period, they never come back, they tell everyone about their poor experience, and eventually everyone stops coming.
Never Argue. Or Explain.
This is the hardest one for a lot of people. One of the most common reactions that business owners or managers have to negative reviews is either "that's not true!" or they try to explain their side of the situation. Don't. Just don't. Fall on the sword and apologize for their experience. The details don't matter, what matters is what the guest experienced. I don't believe that the customer is always right, but I do believe that the customer is king and their truth is the one that matters. Thank them for their feedback, apologize for the experience, then focus on recovering the guest. Remember: do you want to be right or do you want to be successful?
Never Respond Emotionally.
This is just good life advice. Never respond to a negative review while you're still angry or emotional. Some people out there can be downright nasty, even slanderous, but please, please wait until you are in a calm mental state before you write a response. Don't engage in childish back-and-forth, it will only validate their nastiness and make you look petty. Go do something else, get your mind off of it, then come back with a more mature and business-oriented mind frame.
Never Check Reviews Before Bed
I have spent many a sleepless night worrying over a review... what issues I need to address, who I need to train better, who I need to get mad at (see, there's that emotion thing). It's my family business, I take it very personally. So I've learned to just not read them until the morning. There's nothing I can do about them overnight. Then, when I wake up and see it was actually a 5-star review I can start my day off with a smile! Side note: why do so many people write reviews in the middle of the night??
So there you go! This is a subject that I could honestly spend hours on, so don't be surprised if it comes up again. I've thought about even sharing some real life reviews and my responses to them, which would be pretty vulnerable to me. Let me know in the comments if that is something that would help you.
image source: Vulture.com
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