Ian Said from Ideal Software, which specialises in Point of Sale and Inventory Control software for the Hospitality industry, discusses how to handle negative reviews.

Online reviews are important for your brand’s reputation. Around 85 percent of people report that they give online reviews the same weight they would personal recommendations from friends, so too many low star ratings or poor write-ups about a dining establishment can make a difference in how many tables are filled each night.

And if you don’t think anyone is likely to see social media reviews, think again. Social media users are 8 percent more likely to dine out than other adults, which means there’s a big chance your target consumer is on one or more of the major networks.

Since you can’t please 100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time (it’s a cliche because it’s true), you’ll need a plan for dealing with eventual negative reviews on social media.

Deciding Whether or Not to Respond to Social Media Reviews

Most experts say you should respond to negative reviews as quickly and transparently as possible, otherwise you risk social commentary growing and creating even more of an issue than you might have started with. But that’s only true for legitimate reviews from real customers; trolls and abusive accounts should be banned or reported.

To tell the difference, read the review carefully. Note details provided, such as the date, why the person is upset, the dishes they ordered, and the restaurant staff they say were involved. Legitimate reviews almost always have some of these details, and those pieces of information open the door for your response.

You also don’t want to entrench yourself in an unwinnable argument with someone who regularly leaves negative reviews for brands. Take a look at the user’s other reviews and see if you can determine whether they’re one of your regulars. Understanding more about the reviewer informs the way you approach your response.

Keep Things Positive When Responding to Reviews

Of consumers who have a positive experience with a brand on social media, 71 percent say they’re likely to recommend the brand to others. The lesson here is two-fold:

  • If you can turn a negative review around, you might get some word-of-mouth marketing
  • Responding in a positive way to one customer could create goodwill with social onlookers, who may become customers in the future

Once you read a negative review carefully and take notes on the details, don’t respond right away — and never respond when you’re upset. First, take some time to cool off if the review hit too close to home. Then, research the issue by talking to staff to get other perspectives on what might have happened.

When you respond, apologize for the issue — even if you don’t feel your business is 100 percent at fault. Taking the high road in your response invites the other person to respond in kind. You might say “We’re sorry you had that experience” or “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

Be honest about the situation surrounding the issue. If your research found that the review was accurate, provide an explanation (which is not the same thing as an excuse) for the issue. In cases where the review doesn’t seem to be accurate, present your side in a friendly way without accusing the reviewer of lying. Reviewers can make mistakes too.

Finally, offer a solution. That doesn’t always mean comping the reviewer’s next meal (though that’s one tool you can use). Many times, reviewers simply want to know their concerns were heard and taken seriously.

For more information on Ideal Software, click here.

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