In Online Reputation Management

Your business’ Online Reputation is what people are saying about you– but that is only half of the recipe. The other half, which you control, is how you respond to those opinions.

How you handle negative reviews says way more about your business than the actual reviews do.

We’ve all experienced negative reviews!

Every successful (or not-so-successful) business is going to experience negative reviews. It doesn’t matter how amazing your customer service is or what you di­d to try to make a disgruntled customer happy—some people just feel the need to wipe their dirty hands all over your reputation.

It’s okay. Take a deep breath. Don’t reply when you are angry (but don’t wait too long either).

Own the negative reviews

If the reviewer is making a valid point, address it and apologize. Assure him or her that you will fix it, or reiterate what you have already done to rectify the situation.

For example:

Hungry Joe:  “I had to wait 30 minutes to be seated even though I had a reservation!”

You: “Dear Joe, I am so sorry about this. ­It shouldn’t have happened.  We are so excited by the popularity of our restaurant and we are looking into our reservation and seating practices to accommodate all of the guests we are receiving. We hope the gift certificate we gave you helps ease the pain.”

This type of response does a few things:

  • Acknowledges the reviewer
  • Shows your audience that you are paying attention
  • Provides a public apology and a fix
  • Alerts people that you are a popular restaurant that everyone wants to go to
  • Demonstrates that you do what you can to make up for an oversight on your part, even though Hungry Joe left that part out of his review (convenient).

Note: This response assumes you gave him a gift certificate when he was still in your restaurant, not as a reaction to his review—more on that later.

Yelp is not always right.

We want to take a moment to talk about the advice and guidelines that Yelp gives on the back end when you are in the process of responding to a review, either publicly or privately. These guidelines are meant as general guidelines and recently have been updated to offer tips on how to gently address a ranting reviewer. They’re good to keep in mind, but you should create your own style for answering reviews in order to stay in-line with your brand.

Yelp is very much on the side of the reviewer and this is okay. Just be cautious.

You can appeal to Yelp to remove a review that you feel is wrong, but Yelp rarely complies unless the review was for the wrong business or includes extreme threats. They won’t remove a review for foul language (even though we think they should have a policy on this because, DECENCY, right?).

Take this scenario for instance: One of our clients had a situation where several people in a party (who had to wait to get seated) wrote bad reviews. They accused the restaurant of not seating them because of their race, an obviously serious allegation. Not one of them mentioned that they were a party of 20 that came at 7pm on a Saturday with no reservation and, at the time, the restaurant was serving several tour buses of people who had paid contracts for their reservations. The reviewers also didn’t mention that the restaurant offered parking vouchers and free appetizers in lieu of the inconvenient wait-time. Yelp did not see this worthy of deleting, even thought we felt it was illegitimate slander. The place was just slammed!

So, what if the customer ISN’T always right?

Wait… what? Yeah, we do not believe in the-customer-is-always-right rule. Because they’re not. But they do always deserve kindness and tact, even if they aren’t dishing it out themselves. Let the reviewer show their true colors and you stay true to your brand.

Here is an example:

SushiBob: “I can’t believe what a ditz the hostess was at ABC Diner. I mean seriously, she must have been high or something. Get a new job.”

ABC Diner:  “Dear SushiBob, I am very sorry you had a frustrating experience at our restaurant and I would like to hear more specifically what happened so we can address the issues properly. However, we do not take kindly to our employees being picked on, in person or online. Our hostess is new and we were very busy the day you were here. We are very proud of the way she handled herself with very little training.”

Note: This response assumes that the guest is telling the truth about the hostess’ state of mind at the time. While it’s important to defend your team and your values as a company, don’t make anything up just to justify a bad review. If the h­ostess was in fact high that is an operational issue and would need to be dealt with according to your policies. Your review response should reflect that as well.

At Center Cut Marketing , we believe that kindness and being genuine is above all the most important thing in life. It is okay to professionally point out to a reviewer when they are being flat-out unkind. We don’t tolerate employee abuse and neither should you.

Develop a Reviewer Retention Program.

Okay, so now you understand how to respond to negative reviews. The next step is to get the reviewer to change the review to a better one. How?

Invite them back!

If you are a restaurant, you can offer to make a reservation for them and offer to comp their meal or send them a gift certificate. Here are some tips for doing just that:

  • If you are offering them something for free, tell them in a private message.
  • Develop a system in-house so that staff is notified of a returning disgruntled reviewer. The last thing you want is for a reviewer to write another bad review, even after giving you a second chance!
  • The owner/manager should stop by the table and talk to the guest.
  • The owner/manager should send a follow up message after the visit.

    • Inquire if the 2nd visit was better. If it was, kindly ask if the guest would be willing to update the review, or leave a new one.

If you are worried that giving away all of these freebies will get too costly, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Convey that alcoholic drinks are not included.
  • Offer a certain amount, not a vague “free meal” (this is where pre-loaded gift cards come in handy).

Even the perfect recipe can fall short.

If you get in a situation where you’ve responded to the review, reached out the reviewer privately, tried to make it right, and they are still angry—LET IT GO!

Some people just aren’t going to be happy no matter what you do! 

Do you want this  troll  person back in your business just so they can abuse you and your employees some more? NOPE!

If your online response to a guest’s review is tactful and professional, take comfort in knowing that other people reading the review and response will see the reviewer for who he or she is. They will also see that you tried. Most people understand that no person and no business is perfect. These are the types of customers you want.

Having Trouble Managing Your Online Reputation?

Maybe you just don’t have time or you are uncomfortable (or overwhelmed) with keeping up with online reviews. That’s okay, we can help.

Tune in to the next addition of this blog series to see how to make online reviews work for your business!

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