How do you feel about customer feedback?

The restaurant and hospitality sectors are particularly prone to the power of reviews. Good ones are great for business and can help boost your reputation and increase customer engagement as people look for somewhere to eat or stay.

A bad review, however, can have exactly the opposite effect, seed doubt in the minds of potential customers and take a long time to recover from.

It’s Easy to Complain Today

Mobile apps, social media and review websites have made it easier for customers to say exactly what they think of you and your business. One small thing in your restaurant – perhaps you were very busy and the service was slow because of staff shortages – can be amplified when a review is published online.

Handling feedback, whether positive or negative, is now part of everyday brand management. Whereas a few years ago a complaint may have been heard by one or two people such as close family and friends, now it can be seen instantly by thousands of potential customers.

Handling Negative Feedback Online: A Quick Guide

Why You Need a Restaurant Strategy

You might not think that it’s marketing, but it is. You are coping with a negative review and you have to find some way to put a better spin on it.  This means not leaving the feedback to sit there and grow toxic over time. You have the right to reply and you need a coherent strategy in place.

According to Review Trackers, there are two main approaches that you can take:

  • Own up and say you got it wrong on this occasion
  • Or you can take the ‘customer isn’t always right’ approach and fire back.

The latter is often used when the criticism is unfair and uncalled for.

What you need to demonstrate when you respond to negative feedback is that:

  • You care about your customer
  • You’re doing something or have done something to put things right

Most restaurant owners know that star ratings are important. There has been plenty of research done on this, including a study by the Harvard Business Review, which suggests that each star can add as much as 9% to the revenue of a business.

Handling Negative Feedback Online: A Quick Guide

Developing a Review Strategy

If you’ve been in business long enough, whether you run a restaurant or something else in hospitality like a hotel, you will have received a bad review. We’re all human and we all make mistakes. Bad feedback happens, no matter how much care you take.

  • The first thing you need to do is settle for someone to handle the reviews and to check them out regularly. You ideally want a person who is level headed and who can respond in a timely manner without losing their cool.
  • You need to have a list of review sites to check, including local ones that may go under the radar. You also need to learn how to use each one and have a plan to respond to negative feedback.
  • Respond and resolve the issue is the mantra of the day. You not only need to appear sympathetic, but you also have to do something to make the situation better.
  • You want to avoid being drawn into an online battle, as this can look worse than the actual complaint itself. The key is to acknowledge that something went wrong and apologize while also promoting your business as positively as possible.
  • If the review is valid and there is a systemic problem with your restaurant, then you actually need to do something about it urgently. That might mean changing menus, putting on extra staff at busy times or giving staff better training so they serve customers better. The last thing you need is several bad reviews on top of one another.
  • If it’s a tricky situation, then the best option is to always try and take it off-line. Leave your contact details and ask the person who is complaining to give you a call.

The latter is often used when the criticism is unfair and uncalled for.

Negative Reviews on Social Media

Review websites aren’t the only place you have to worry about. Social media can also be a powerful tool – dissatisfied customers can tweet or post on Facebook about the ‘disastrous’ meal they had at your restaurant. You need to search social media using your restaurant or hotel name and see what comes up to keep track.

The same rules as online reviews apply here, particularly within regard to making every effort to reply and not letting things stand and gain traction. If you manage to successfully handle the complaint to the customer’s satisfaction that could mean they will delete the post. It could also mean they may start singing your praises.

The latter is often used when the criticism is unfair and uncalled for.

The Power of Negative Reviews

While most businesses fear them, negative reviews can also be good for your restaurant, bar or hotel. If you handle the feedback appropriately, it can show that you are a professional and caring business that thinks a lot of its customers.

One thing they do show is that all your reviews are real and not fake, at least according to some entrepreneurs. Put them up against your good reviews and they provide a balanced and encouraging picture of your restaurant.

Our advice is not to be scared of negative reviews – they will happen at some point. The key is to reply to them as quickly as possible in a friendly and helpful manner that shows you are willing to listen and acknowledge any mistakes that may have taken place and that you are keen to improve and learn from the past.