Guest Post from Kate Willson at College Crunch
Not too long ago, HeadHunterBrian posted an article about a case in which the popular review site Yelp was used as a vehicle for extortion. While this is a pretty extreme scenario, Yelp and other sites like it are quickly becoming the most important source of customer feedback and word-of-mouth advertising. Positive reviews are always great to receive, but negative reviews can be more helpful for the growth of your restaurant as a whole. Here are a few ways to deal with negative feedback tactfully, along with a couple of pointers for understanding how you can transform both poor and laudatory reviews into a positive learning experience.
1. Try to respond to as many reviews as possible, both good and bad.
The importance of having a strong presence online cannot be underestimated. You can be sure that no matter how big or small your establishment is, people are talking about it online. Joining the conversation shows that you are a restauranteur who cares about her clients.
2. Don't get defensive or offer excuses.
In our personal lives, whenever we are attacked, whether or not such negative comments are fair or accurate, our first inclination is to be dismissive or offer excuses. This is the least constructive way to deal with negative feedback. Even if you think a reviewer is simply off his rocker and just wants to vent, always respond thoughtfully. Be sincere by apologizing to the reviewer that they had such a negative experience and assure them that you are taking their words into consideration. Avoid business buzzwords like "we apologize for the inconvenience", which makes you sound more like a corporate drone trying to do some damage control. Assume a conversational but respectful tone in order to convey sincerity.
3. Understand that an overly negative review isn't the end of the world; disgruntled, whiney customers are out there, and there isn't much you can do about them.
Aside from apologizing and offering assurances of improvement, you can't really do much about an unfair review. Know that these sorts of tirades typically seen on Internet forums come with the territory, and they won't have a very serious impact on your business, so don't panic or take it personally.
4. If you notice patterns in negative reviews, take pains to look into these areas that need improvement. Report online the changes you've made.
The best thing about feedback whether positive or negative is that it gives you a way to improve your operation. If you see that customers tend to be complaining about the same thing, do some serious looking into the problem. Once you've implemented changes, report these improvements on your website, blog, or other social media outlet. Turn negative reviews into positive learning experiences.
5. Thank customers for positive feedback, and do so sincerely.
Positive feedback does not merely serve the purpose of making you feel good. It lets you know what you're doing right. Continuing to perform well on your strong points is what gets you recognition, more new customers, and a solid base of loyal, returning customers. In this light, carefully listening to positive feedback is just as important as listening to negative feedback.
As noted on this blog and elsewhere, the review culture of the Internet is here to stay. How you manage these spaces of customer interaction can make or break your business.
This guest post is contributed by Kate Willson, who writes on the topics of top online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: firstname.lastname@example.org.