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Let’s say you own a restaurant. Your place is packed Saturday night. Your staff is working extremely hard, but one waiter forgets an order. Or misses a reservation.
Or you manage a hotel. A guest makes an online booking, asks for a non-smoking room, checks in, and gets a smoking room instead.
As a business owner, you have to prepare for the worst. In an age when unsatisfied customers can quickly become your harshest online critics, one honest mistake can lead to one bad review – and one bad review can, in turn, lead to loss of potential customers, or a dip in revenue, or a damaged reputation.
We understand. Sometimes it’s not fair at all.
But don’t think there’s nothing you can do – or say – to make things right again. If you’re responding to a bad review on Yelp, Google+ Local, TripAdvisor, Foursquare, or some other review site, all you have to do is remember this list of things business owners can say to minimize (or even reverse) the effects of a negative online review.
Say your name. An introduction like “Hi Mary, I’m Jean and I run La Petite Patisserie with my wife Audrey” can effectively, immediately establish the kind of familiarity and understanding that a generic, business-branded response can’t. So instead of telling people what company you work for, start off your review response by letting them know your personal name.
Say thank you. The words of the reviewer may be harsh and incisive, but there’s no use engaging in an online war of words. Just say thank you: for the patronage, for the business, for the time the reviewer took to provide feedback. Gratitude can warm up the coldest of hearts!
Say sorry. If you or a staff member made an honest mistake – your bartender served lager instead of stout, your barista served the wrong coffee – own up to it and don’t be reluctant to apologize. A sincere apology goes a long way, especially since so many business owners feel like they always have to have the last say. Moreover, your response to a bad review can be seen not only by the reviewer, but also by your potential customers. By demonstrating an appreciation for constructive criticism as well as a willingness to rebuild your relationship with the reviewer, you may just be able to win more customers over.
Say you hope they’ll come back again. Even if a reviewer says that he or she will not return to your business location – “ever!” – it’s still important to show that you value each and every customer who has ever walked in through your door. No matter how negative the review, no matter how awful an experience the reviewer claimed to have, don’t ever let on that it’s okay for your business to lose customers.
Say nothing. According to a recent Gartner report, 10 to 15 percent of all online reviews will be fake by 2014. That’s because more and more businesses – and this may include your competitors – are buying or paying for reviews. If you have reason to believe that your latest one-star Yelp review is fake, or that the bad Google+ review that appeared recently on your page was written by a competitor, say nothing. Don’t respond. Act instead to have the review removed by the host review site.
Chris Campbell is the founder and Chief Tracking Officer of Review Trackers, a new B2B software and service company dedicated to helping business of all sizes monitor their online reviews. Review Trackers is currently in beta and scheduled to launch later this year.
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