A bad review is like baking a cake with all the best ingredients and having someone sit on it.

-Danielle Steel


We all know people make decisions from online reviews these days.

At what rate though?

Studies show 67% of purchasing decisions are impacted by online reviews. Furthermore, 22% of customers are dissuaded by a single bad review, 59% by three bad reviews, and up to 70% by four or more – ouch!

So if you suddenly get one of these gems below…

  • “Never have I seen or tasted such amateurish dishes sold at such an exorbitant price.”
  • “Chewed over fifty times to render one of the pieces swallowable.”
  • “Organic baby lettuces served dry as paper towels.”
  • “Many of the dishes were poorly executed.”
  • “Tasted like soggy crackers.”

The question remains, “How are you supposed to respond to these types of bad reviews?”

In this article, we’ll review a few tips so you can handle getting bad reviews like a pro.

Walk, Run, B**** & Moan

For most people, an incredibly strong emotional response is going to come rushing to the surface.

You know the signs…

Hands start sweating, the heart begins racing and a flood of adrenaline rushes through your body.

Bad Review Screaming

The suggestion?

Walk or run it off. B**** and moan if you must. Just don’t ever respond in the heat of the moment.

The absolute worst thing you can do is respond when your emotions are at an all-time high.

Should you feel the need to write a response immediately, fine, just don’t hit send until you cool off. Afterward, go back and make the necessary adjustments to redact all the things you’ll regret saying later.

Nothing But The Facts

Once you’re level-headed, it’s time to gather the appropriate facts.

Read the review a few times to piece together those involved. Talk to anyone with a hand in the incident and jot down your notes.

Detective

As they say, there’s always three sides to a story, “Your side, their side, and the truth!” You’re looking to find as much truth from both sides as possible.

And as it relates to your side, don’t leave any stone unturned. You want to get a very clear picture of what happened as it will help paint a better picture when you respond with your side of the story.

Own Your Mistakes Like A Champ

Everyone hates a deflector of accountability, especially when they’re in the wrong.

Just know, it’s okay to apologize and admit fault for a bad customer experience if the onus was on your establishment.

If the situation was an isolated incident, say so. If someone was in the wrong, work to improve the customer experience and inform the reviewer of the improvements that will ensue. As a bonus, you can even thank them for the opportunity to grow.

Admitting wrong doing goes much farther than attempting to be right in a situation where your establishment was clearly in the wrong.

To follow up, offering a gift for a second experience can go a long way. Whether a gift card, free meal, upgraded service options; anything to improve upon the bad experience.

However, keep in mind it’s never a good idea to offer a bribe for them to take down the review, that can backfire in a colossal way so it’s best to avoid.

Tell Your Side of the Story

Whether the statements by the reviewer were completely inaccurate, grossly exaggerated, or as factual as they come, it’s time to tell your side of the story.

I know two restaurants in the Central Florida area with the same name. One is the victim of bad reviews from time-to-time that are meant for the other establishment. I’ve seen the owner state this fact on a couple of occasions to clear the completely inaccurate review and it works just fine.

Telling Your Side of the Story

It’s important that when you’re telling your side of the story, you do so with factual accounts. Leave the emotions behind. And never attack the reviewer personally for causing strife – as much as you’ll want to stick it to them back. Clearly articulate your side of the story and let bygones be bygones.

Before you hit submit, or when you’re contemplating on how to tell your side, I’d suggest you read examples from establishments in similar situations. There are remarkable examples of operators who handled bad reviews exemplary.

A few examples of business owners responding to bad reviews can be found on ReviewTracker.Com, which offers a great service for sourcing and managing reviews by the way.

Think About Being Right Or Rich

I love this line from Terry Powell, contributor at Entrepreneur, “Ask yourself, do you want to be right or rich?”

I’m sure you’ve been in a situation before where being “right” didn’t exactly lead to a productive outcome. Personally, I’ve struggled with this a few times, so I know others have too.

At the end of the day, you want your business to thrive with paying customers. So be careful when you’re responding to negative reviews with the intention of setting the record straight with a profound statement of correctness. I’m not saying don’t get your side out there, but I’m saying there’s a heavy-handed approach that can backfire.

Which Way Rich or Right

Remember, it’s all about perception. Your intention of setting the record straight in a big way could paint an unfavorable picture to anyone viewing online, so keep this in mind.

As Terry suggests, you have to think about the review & your response, and if it will help or hurt your business. Think hard about the perception you’ll be creating with your response before you hit that submit button.

Final Thoughts

Trust me, I know how upsetting it can be to get a bad review, I’ve been there throughout my career.

Recently, I had someone who downloaded the free first issue of Entrepreneurial Chef Magazine, received the “Welcome” email and responded by telling me to “f*** off!”

It wasn’t a bad review per se, but goodness did the emotions get stirred. Which leads to what I believe is the most important part of handling a bad review, managing your emotions. It’s vital to stay calm (as much as possible) and to respond when emotions are at bay, and no sooner.

Thanks for taking the time to read! Should you want the first issue of Entrepreneurial Chef Magazine and get the same “Welcome” email that prompted someone to tell me to “f*** off,” well, you can do so below! And yes, some things you just have to shrug off and make light of! 🙂

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Shawn Wenner

As the founder, after a decade in culinary education I decided to fuse my favorite topics in this corner of the web - education, entrepreneurship, & culinary arts. Join the growing community of culinary entrepreneurs and I hope you enjoy the site!

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