How to productively address negative reviews about your restaurant

Jan. 24, 2014

By Dr. Gary Edwards,

Chief customer officer, Mindshare Technologies

We all know the rule — a satisfied customer will tell two to three people about his/her experience and a dissatisfied customer will tell at least eight to 10.

Handling negative reviews and customer criticism on social media is a scary reality for any brand. Many brands flat out ignore negative comments or, even worse, delete them. This only serves to further enrage customers and degrade trust.

A recent Forbes article denounced American Airlines for its "stony silence" toward negative social media comments, refusing to respond to tweets and posts about damaged luggage, flight delays, aloof staff and other issues.

While the negative criticism American Airlines received is on a much larger scale and affects stakeholders as well as customers, many brands don't realize that negative reviews don't necessarily deter new customers from visiting a venue, especially if online sentiment about the brand is generally favorable.

Instead of spending time chasing negative feedback, here are three ways brands can get a handle on negative comments and address them productively.

1. Take online criticism seriously.

Negative comments pose a range of challenges for brands. They have a knack for going viral and spreading like wildfire. And negative feedback is naturally indicative of a larger store-level or company problem.

While brands should never take online criticism lightly, responding with fear or other reactive tactics only exacerbates the situation. Don't let negative comments control the conversation. Take control by responding to complaints with compassion and addressing issues at the store level.

2. Articulate the problem and solution.

When responding to social media criticism, be clear about how you will fix the situation and follow through with what you say, being mindful that all of your social followers and the general public can view your response. How you handle one comment has a ripple effect on how other customers perceive your brand.

Thank the commenter for bringing the issue to your attention and take online conversations offline as quickly as possible. Ask her to share her contact information and more details about the incident in a private message. And promptly hand over the complaint to a customer service representative who can remedy the problem and record the feedback.

It's best to gather social media conversations and feedback on a local scale. An effective location-based Voice of the Customer (VoC) solution can collect and organize customer feedback into a meaningful action plan that local store managers can use to address the root problem of negative reviews, whether it's inadequate training or a food temperature issue.

3. Incentivize customers for sharing their experience.

Customer feedback on social media unlocks a goldmine of data about your brand, store experience and shoppers. Plus, positive reviews on social media are a powerful word-of-mouth marketing tool.

People trust recommendations from friends, family and other acquaintances, and are more likely to try a new brand based on a positive social media post. Encourage customers to share, tweet and post about your brand by offering incentives, contests and exclusive deals.

Use social media to bridge the gap between online and in-store. Make sure to optimize your stores and displays for photo-sharing on social media. And consider highlighting positive comments on your Facebook page or in an advocacy feed on your website.

Be proactive about negative sentiment on social media by refocusing your energy on the implementation of tools and strategies that address the source of customer service issues. Leverage customer feedback and technology to improve your customer experience and prevent problems that prompt customers to complain on social media. Brands that take this approach will enjoy greater customer loyalty and sales growth.

Read more about customer experience initiatives.

Topics: Customer Service / Experience , Marketing / Branding / Promotion , Online / Mobile / Social

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