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Responding to online negative reviews

How to handle and respond to social media's negative reviews?

By Nadine Hashem

Everybody is prone to receive a negative review from a dissatisfied customer whether righteous or wrong.


As long as you’re operating, you’re going to be making mistakes. Still, a negative review on Zomato let’s say or on social media hits you hard in the head.


Especially nowadays where people are only ordering food.


They receive their order late, food is cold, wrong order, you name it.


The easiest thing to do is to hold the phones and post a negative review of their experience.


Ignoring your customers’ reviews is the biggest mistake to be done whether the review was negative or positive, you have to show interest and respond.


A Harvard Business Review study shows that responding to customers’ reviews whether positive or negative improves ratings.


Why do you need to care about rating?


Because there is a correlation between higher ratings and increased revenues.


The study performed by Michael Anderson and Jeremy Magruder, professors at the University of California, Berkeley,found that if the rating improved by one star, the actual revenue will increase by 5 to 9%.


Not only this, but the study found that visitors’ decision in choosing a restaurant is highly affected by how many reviews this restaurant has.


So while you’re trying to avoid negative reviews, you have to push customers to write positive ones since 72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust businesses more.

How to respond to negative reviews



Acknowledge and thank them


First of all, show sympathy with the consumer even you don’t really think you’ve done anything wrong.

Social media platforms are not the correct place to prove you’re right even when you are.


Acknowledging that there is a mistake somewhere goes a long way toward calming an angry customer.


Thank them for their review because it helps you improve your services and shows a real interest in your restaurant.


An example might look like this:

“we thank you for your feedback and we totally understand your frustration…”


Apologize and take it offline


Again, even if you think you didn’t do anything wrong or the mistake was not intended.


Apologize to show consumers you feel sorry for their bad experience.


But don’t go beyond this online. Rather, invite them to contact you privately by sending you an email to further understand the situation.


Don’t try to solve the issue online with back and forth responses.


Plus you don’t want to expose further negative details when the customer replies again.


Provide them with an email address or a phone number that usually receives customer complaints to solve the issue.


Let them know clearly that you want to fix the problem.


No matter what, be calm



You better wait 24 hours before responding to a negative review.


The customer has cooled off, you gave yourself time to think thoroughly about an appropriate response especially if the customer was really rude in his review or at least he wasn’t objective at all.


Here is an example to totally avoid in your responses.


Example of mishandling negative reviews


Regardless of the language or the intonation of the review, you have to respond professionally.


Your goal is not to get back at the customer, your goal is to bring him back to you.


Online platforms are not the place to win an argument or get even if you want to do business.


Understand different reviews and offer a solution


Reviews can vary to long waiting hours, cold meal, bad customer service or an angry waiter.


Sometimes people are just being haters and they throw their anger on you publicly.


That’s why it’s very important to understand the problem in each review to give solutions accordingly.


Sometimes the problem is in the food itself. The chef added too much salt, too much spices or the meal was tasteless unlike the usual.


In this case offer immediate incentive for the customer to come back to your restaurant and try the food again.


Offer him a gift card to try the meal again or maybe a meal of his choice.


It’s a chance for you to bring him back and turn the negative review to a positive one.


Here’s an example of how the manager responded to a bad meal experience.


example on how to respond to bad meal review


Another example of how you can handle negative reviews about the food itself is Burger King when they received negative reviews about their new chicken sandwich.


All they had to do is to invite reviewers to blind taste their sandwich along with other sandwiches to prove them wrong and turning them into advocates.


If the review involved your staff and their service or their attitude, then you investigate the issue within your restaurant with your staff. If the staff is already mentioned, then things are way easier.


Try to understand what happened before taking it all at your employee.


Respond to the consumer, explain that you are handling the issue with your staff but don’t expose your staff. This has to be offline.


If the employee is faulty then he should be held accountable for his actions and the consumer should know that his complaint helped you in improving customer service.


Sometimes and in many instances, customers’ complaints are not valid especially if they take it back at an employee who had little impact on their experience.


McDonalds Singapore for instance, received a negative review about an employee who didn’t let the guide dog of the customer enter the restaurant.

The manager surely admitted the mistake but at the same time he explained that they will work on training their staff to be able to identify guide dogs in his response.


He made a customer happy without really exposing his employees.


If a service delay is the reason of complaint because of unexpected crowd or orders or maybe an employee calling sick, then there’s little you can do.


You might respond by of course apologizing and offering them free cocktails or free dessert on their next visit. Make sure that the vouchers have an expiry date.


What about positive reviews?


Respond to positive reviews as well since it shows appreciation for your happy customers.


You also want to encourage people to give you good reviews.


Offer loyal customers that constantly or usually post positive reviews about you a small gift as a free drink or free appetizer or a coupon.



You will never get rid of negative reviews especially online where people usually think that they can run away from real confrontation.


But you can sure show professionalism in handling negative reviews for the sake of your business.


For more tips on how to handle negative feedback and how to cool off angry customers, check our blog "The Netiquette Essentials To Cool Off Angry Customers". 

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