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Responding to the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

By Jesse Stanchak on February 15, 2010

Today's post comes from Derrek J. Hull, voice of the National Restaurant Association's Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show and International Wine Spirits & Beer Event (IWSB) blog Floored!, as well as its Twitter and Facebook profiles.


Restaurants need a response plan that includes social media elements to cope with the fact that customers can leave negative comments almost instantaneously. Having a plan in place before a situation occurs lets everyone on your team know who the point person is for the response, along with the chain of command and the plan for monitoring the conversation.

Everyone gets a good or bad review at some point. Embrace it and in the case of a bad review, don't sweat it. Look at every comment as an opportunity to have a conversation.

"If people are taking the time to give you feedback even if it's negative that's an opportunity for you to re-frame the conversation with them and hopefully turn the situation into a positive," said Spike Jones, of word of mouth and identity firm Brains on Fire.

Nobody is perfect. A couple of bad reviews alongside highly positive reviews actually makes potential customers more likely to take you seriously, because they realize your page isn't full of shills posting fake positive reviews. In the case of Yelp, business owners have an option to respond privately and publicly to reviews this free feature can be unlocked by visiting biz.yelp.com.

Assume a tone that embraces the old saying "the customer is always right," even if you think the customer is actually in error. The best review responses typically start out with something like, "Thank you very much for your feedback. We take it very seriously and we deeply regret you didn't have a 5-star experience at our restaurant "

Responding promptly and diplomatically to reviews gives you the ability to fix problems and make people happy. However, if you begin to receive multiple negative reviews with recognizable patterns stale bread, rude server, etc. it may be worth examining your operation and identifying ways to improve.

Likewise, if guests are taking the time to talk about your establishment in a positive way, you can listen and learn from those conversations to possibly generate ideas for new programs. Who better to tell you what they want to see in your restaurant than your passionate fans? You can learn a lot by taking the time to listen to them and implement their feedback into your operations. Make sure you're also looking for opportunities to connect with those fans offline as well. Connecting the dots between the two amplifies and intensifies that bond.

Yelp's Luther Lowe discourages a company from attaching tangible "rewards" in response to good reviews. For example, if someone writes an unsolicited 5-star review about your business, it can rub some people the wrong way to get a "thank you" note from a business owner saying, "Thank you for your review of our restaurant. We would like to offer you a complimentary dinner for two."

Last but not least, take the advice of word of mouth expert, Gaspedal CEO (and SmartBrief on Social Media Editor At Large) Andy Sernovitz: "People are already talking. Your only option is to join the conversation."

From our friends at SmartBlog http://smartblogs.com/


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