In the previous post, we discussed how negative online reviews are a fact of life.  Here are H&L’s top five ways to deal with negative reviews:

  1. Respond to stand out reviews: the good & the bad

Take the time to respond to a selection of good reviews as well as responding to bad reviews. Enter the social media dialogue, not just for those one or two negative reviews but for a handful of good reviews too.  Show your customer base that you care about what they have to say about your venue.  Thank your reviewer for their time, acknowledge the specific area of praise and take the opportunity to highlight your venue’s point of difference.  Say you have a review like “Had a great time with the team at the Nearby Hotel tonight – fun atmosphere, amazing food.”

A sample response could be “Thanks for your review!  I am so glad that you and the team had a great night at the Nearby Hotel.  The new winter menu has been a huge hit, my favourite is the 10-hour smoked pork belly served with apple slaw.  We look forward to seeing you again soon at the Nearby.”

Too easy.  It’s a lot harder to deal with those negative reviews, especially if you feel the customer is in the wrong.   First and foremost, don’t ever post angry.

  1. Don’t Post Angry

It’s good to be passionate about what you do.  That passion is driving the customer service culture of your venue.  If you are furious about a negative review … stop!  Take a day before posting anything written in anger.  Even if the reviewer is clearly an indiscriminate hater you should see this is an opportunity to show your customers how you and your team respond to poor customer experiences.

You might remember the uproar last year when the owner of the Victory Hotel in Adelaide angrily retaliated to a negative Facebook review.   The reviewer had posted that she and her 17-person party had not been accommodated at the Victory.  She said that the entire party had “walked away disgusted” after experiencing “rude, obnoxious and so unaccommodating” service at the Victory. Doug Govan, the owner of the Victory Hotel, bit back, calling the reviewer “dim-witted” – not once, not twice but three times!  The tone of his response eclipsed a believable narrative that a booking had been made for 2, not 17, and the busy restaurant could not reasonably accommodate such a large party.  Public debate on this issue was heated – should venue managers and owners have the right to defend themselves against ‘keyboard warriors’?

People in the customer service industry have become experts at navigating the ups and downs of human nature.  You know exactly how to respond to the irate customer standing right in front of you – don’t get mad, diffuse the situation with a simple apology and generate a mutually satisfying solution.  H&L’s advice is to keep doing what you do well and follow the same tried and true steps when responding to negative reactions online.

  1. Acknowledge Their Pain

It’s amazing how a simple “I’m sorry” will immediately diffuse an emotional situation.  You can never go wrong by offering a genuine apology for a bad experience.  The most cringe-worthy reviews have been written in anger and, yes, it seems unfair that you can’t respond in kind.  Acknowledge that to yourself, then put it aside and take the road less travelled.  Take ownership of the customer experience.  Try a simple “I am sorry that you had a bad experience at The Nearby Hotel.”

  1. Own it

From time to time things go wrong.  Maybe your supplier has provided you with substandard produce or maybe you need to invest in technologies to support your operations.  Investigate the problem, if the reviewer has a point then own it.

Take the negative Facebook post about The Victory discussed earlier.  If the reservation issue had happened because the hotel was still using outdated reservation software then acknowledge the problem and show your customers how you are solving it.  For instance “I am sorry that you had a bad experience at The Nearby Hotel.  I understand how frustrating it must have been not to have the night out that you planned. The whole Nearby team is dedicated to providing every customer with a wonderful dining experience.  Thanks to your feedback we have installed BookBook, a clever reservation system that will ensure these types of reservation errors do not happen again.  I would love another opportunity to provide you with a great Nearby Hotel experience.  Give me a call or drop me an email when you have a minute to resolve this problem.  Ask for Bill on 08 8292 3098 or email me at”

  1. When you do everything right

What if you and your team has done everything right and you are simply faced with a negative review by a difficult individual? Don’t fall into the he said/she said trap, you’ll just fuel the fire.  Post a simple apology, state your desire to provide top notch customer experiences and express a desire to resolve the problem by having them contact you directly. Make sure you provide your contact information. When they contact you:

  1. apologise again for their bad experience
  2. in simple and non-emotional language briefly summarise your understanding of their complaint
  3. reiterate that you are committed to providing amazing experiences
  4. ask them how they think you can improve in future
  5. thank them for the call/email as an opportunity for you to improve
  6. use your judgment to decide if you will give them comps

Most people just want to be heard which is why social media has become a permanent fixture in today’s world.  Simply, follow H&L’s five ways for managing your social media reviews and you will be amazed at the result.  Ask us today how our intuitive solutions minimise errors and improve customer experiences.