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How to Respond to a Negative Online Review

Would you go to a restaurant if you read a review that said the beef tenderloin tasted like shoe leather?

I know many of you would immediately look elsewhere, and the numbers back me up. Studies say 75% of online consumers consult review sites when shopping online.

This is even higher for restaurants. A portfolio of glowing reviews brings in new business and keeps the restaurant doors open. But, it only takes one negative review to hurt business – and the review might even be fake, or worse, written by your competitor.

OnlineReview

Negative reviews are unexpected, an upsetting experience for the restaurateur. Most are unprepared and react without the proper strategy. Here is the playbook I use to counsel clients to diffuse their situation without drawing the interest of the local news — or the wrath of internet trolls:

1. First, never take it personally

Easier said than done, but one person’s opinion is not the consensus of your customers. Negative reviews are five times more likely to be posted than positive reviews, even for universally-loved companies. Keeping the review in perspective will prevent you from committing the cardinal sin: becoming too emotionally charged!

2. Don’t respond quickly or defensively

Fans of the show “Kitchen Nightmares” can imagine Gordon Ramsey’s famous ordeal with the May-December married couple operating Amy’s Baking Company, who succeeded to turn one bad Yelp review into a combustible viral mess that rocketed into national headlines and nearly forced it out of business. They might be able to navigate Facebook on their own, but it’s insane they thought they could navigate a crisis like that themselves. What was their first mistake? To start with, don’t display anger, defensiveness, and challenging the validity of the review – all while questioning the reviewer’s taste in food. Where was the strategic thinking? Their angry response prompted a backlash of other individuals speaking out against the restaurant. This is not to say that you should ignore the negative review.

3. Be courteous and welcoming

Any response you place on a review site should be considered a miniature press release. When you publish content for the world to see, put your best approach forward. Your response should be thoughtful, branded according to your overall message. Be polite, genuine, apologize for any dissatisfaction, and offer an olive branch like a free appetizer for their next visit.

4. Keep in mind the search result impact of posting a response

It may be good PR to publicly acknowledge a negative review, but responding will cement the search result ranking, as well as the overall visibility of the review site. This should be considered if your overall score on the review site is undesirable (less than 3 out of 5 stars).

In this case it is not in your best interest to increase the visibility of the site. The site may damage business if it becomes too visible or ranks too highly. If that occurs you can employ an expert firm like what our firms does in the arena of online reputation management to assist in reorienting the search results to ensure the best sites that speak about you are the only ones new likely customers see.

Source: RunningRestaurants.com; by Eric Schiffer

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