SM3 Top Three: How to Respond to a Negative Review

jasonDIt happens to every restaurant at some point. A bad day has led to a displeased guest. In the old days, you might have to deal with negative word of mouth. But, with the rise of websites like Yelp, a bad review can have a boomerang effect, impacting the bottom line of a restaurant substantially over time.

Fishbowl’s SM3 team works with restaurants every day to alleviate the damage a bad review can create. Over time, they’ve developed a system of best practices to give you the confidence to deal with harsh criticism. We sat down with SM3 veteran Jason Dangle to get his advice on how he deals with critical online reviews. Let’s see what he has to say.

Respond Publicly.  If you’re responding publicly, you’re not only responding to the guest who wrote the review – you’re responding to anyone who reads that review.  Responding publicly shows readers and reviewers that you care and are paying attention to guest feedback.  Like most things, there are exceptions: if a customer is particularly irate, consider sending them a private message to contact the manager through phone or email, taking a more prickly conversation offline.

Keep Tone Light.  Take a deep breath.  Online tone can often be misunderstood, so keep that in mind when typing your response.  The last thing you want to do is to sound angry or combative.  And keep it simple.  Thank them for their feedback and let them know the problem is being addressed.  Although it may be tough…always be polite.

Remember, The Goal is to Learn.  Your main goal of responding to online reviews should be to learn from your guests and build goodwill with one of your more vocal customers and potentially a deeper relationship with those guests who read reviews.

When appropriate, encourage them to try your restaurant again.  If you feel compelled to offer something to those who had a bad experience, we suggest you do it sparingly and make the offer via a private message to the guest. Make sure that what you are offering is fair, not excessive and not a quid pro quo for a change in their review.

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