How to Handle Negative Online Customer Reviews

Managing online customer reviews can be tough. We all make mistakes at some point, and chances are that at least one customer will take to an online forum or social media site to downgrade your reputation. With your emotions in check, you can calmly come clean, own the mistake, and respond to the review. Here are some additional tips to help you respond to negative reviews appropriately.

Stay Calm

Don't engage in a back-and-forth war of words. When the reviewer returns to your establishment, make it a point to acknowledge them in person and start the conversation on a positive note. For instance, you could say, "So glad you came back for us to get it right this time." As with any customer service interaction, online or in-person, read the audience. Soften the ground with an anecdote or stay dead-pan serious. Either way, be sincere or your motives will be dismissed.

Stay True

Your menu is constructed in a way that is unique to your brand, and your staff has been trained to fit in with the services you offer. The bar selection has been professionally developed to reflect your tastes, so why apologize for sticking to your blueprints? If a customer writes a review saying they don't like what your establishment offers, that's hard to fix. Be sincere, and reach out with a follow-up call or e-mail. Again, don't engage in a back-and-forth war of words. Some battles are simply impossible to win.

Respond to Positive Feedback, Too

Listening to what people have to say shouldn't just be about the negative aspects. Even if a chef expertly executes hundreds of dishes on a solid Saturday, it only takes one little mistake to push a guest's plate off of the A-list. Rather than only fixating on negative reviews, take the time to pat yourself on the back for positive reviews, too. If a customer praises you online, take that as good mojo and respond with a thoughtful reply. Just saying, "Thank you for taking the time to tell us—and the world—how good your experience was, and we look forward to making your next visit just as memorable," goes a long way, and other customers will be more likely to check out your establishment.

Stay Alert

Your restaurant's reputation can be affected by negative online customer reviews, so make sure to look at what's out there frequently. If you wait too long to respond, your apology could be seen as insincere, and a lot of customers will have the chance to read the negative review with so much time gone by.

When you get a customer review—whether it's positive or negative—use the feedback for your benefit. Objective feedback can be a useful tool. Think about how those insights can be used to improve your restaurant or your services? Brush off the comments about your ice being too cold or the water being too wet, and use real feedback to keep your establishment and staff in check. After all, a fresh set of eyes and keyboard-dancing fingers can help you keep the bar set high.