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Wow. It’s been a few weeks since the last post by The Clever Cookie. My goal has always been to post weekly. The goal posts then moved a little to fortnightly – hopefully I can get back into that frequency after Easter.

The problem I have in generating Blog content is that generally, something has to happen to trigger the content that I wish to talk about. It may have been an interaction I have had recently, or something I read, or even a casual (on animated!) chat with a client or friend.  Generally this is followed by a lot of thinking, sometimes a “I can’t believe that situation that actually happened” moment, and the realization that talking about it can help others take considered actions.

Today’s trigger was a conversation I was having with a client, about the frustrations of on-line, amateur reviews; particularly for the hospitality industry. Urban Spoon, Trip Advisor and YELP are nothing new, are our customers becoming increasingly passive-aggressive?neg-sentiment

Shows like MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules have definitely contributed to the growing desire to be part of the food industry and the romance of The Food Reviewer. Why wouldn’t you want to be one? Not only do you get to EAT AS A JOB, if you get a great break you can end up wearing a cravat for a living with your own TV show. The seduction of talking about food, wine and service is obviously intense. But should we be doing it on-line where you don’t actually have to look the chef or business owner in the eye? Is it ok to make judgements on quality and products if you don’t have any credibility in the craft?  If you have not raised the issues in question with the venue, is it ok to write negatively about them without offering the owner or employees any opportunity to rectify the problem?

The point of this post is not to condemn the customer. And lets be fair, as a business owner, we all LOVE a great review. I doubt I could find a restaurateur who has complained about a great review coming from the general public.   It’s the unhappy ones that are met with frustration, anger and fear. Why? Because they are faceless. They are available for the world to see. And they remain.

As a past restaurant owner, business manager and now industry marketer, I understand and have lived this fear; and as a consumer, I question do we really have the right to condemn and criticize someone’s livelihood, particularly when more often or not, the concerns are not raised with the venue at the time of the interaction. If you cannot genuinely express your thoughts personally and privately, where a right of reply, explanation or redemption can be provided, do you really have the right to comment, blog, or provide an opinionated review? Shouldn’t there be a courtesy offered prior to broadcasting condemnation virally? I mean, these are real businesses, not a TV show.

Regardless of my thoughts, these sites and would-be ‘experts’ are not going away. The good news is, if used correctly, a bad customer review can actually work in your favor.

Check List for Addressing Negative On-line Comments.

  1. Respond. Politely. That’s right, jump right in there and get talking. Post a comment on the post thanking the blogger/reviewer for the feedback, and as you are committed to excellence, you would love to discuss the issues PRIVATELY. Inbox, or call. Show the world your professionalism and commitment to improvement.
  2. Start a open and honest discussion with the unhappy customer off line. Treat the issue in the same way that you would face-to-face. Listen, apologise and remain genuine. Show that you are approachable, humble and human.
  3. Invite them back – Ok, secretly you never want them to set foot in your business again, but an invitation to come back and try again is good business. Not only do you have a chance to rectify the problem face-to-face, there’s a big chance they will go back online and talk about it. POSITIVELY. Show your forward thinking generosity.

Lastly? Get over it. Once you have addressed the feedback and corrected any real issues, move on. You can’t do anything about it, so work on giving your other customers amazing experiences that they will want to shout from the roof tops.

Tough Cookie Marketing is a boutique marketing agency supporting hospitality and service businesses. We only work with proud, passionate owners and managers – who already seek excellence, but just need a little help to getting there.

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