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How to Handle Negative Business Reviews Online for A Café, Bar, Shop or Restaurant


As they say in the entertainment industry – there is no such thing as bad publicity. Similar to when it comes to negative reviews, the only way it will negatively affect our business is if we ignore it or don’t address it professionally.

Bad reviews can many times come when we least expect them. If it’s your first time getting a negative review for your business then it can be heartbreaking or leave you spinning your wheels about what to do next.

Reviews matter for businesses as customer research shows:

  • 94% of consumers say a bad review has convinced them to avoid a business (ReviewTrackers)
  • 38% of consumers require at least a 4-star average rating with the average being 3.4 stars for them to consider engaging with a business (Podium)
  • 63% of consumers say they use Google, 54% use Facebook and 32% use Yelp to track down reviews about a company (Brightlocal)

High performing businesses focus heavily on customer service. Managers view customer complaints and negative reviews as opportunities to demonstrate their high-quality service, turning problems into opportunities and angry customers into raving, loyal fans.

By reading this article we will cover:

  • Should we respond to negative reviews (and how).
  • How to turn a negative review into a golden opportunity for our business.
  • Way to level-out negative reviews with positive ones.
  • What causes bad reviews and how to review it as an opportunity versus issue.

So if we are a new manager or owner wanting to turn the business around, or perhaps recently got a bad review and want to know what to do, this article will help to navigate how to keep our sanity and turn this challenge into a win.

Should We Respond to Bad Customer Reviews?

When deciding whether or not to respond to customer reviews the answer is always yes! This is how we build relationships that lead to loyal customers and can resolve issues on the head, rather than push them aside where the issue festers and gets worse as customers don’t feel valued.

Research shows that responding to negative reviews is crucial for inspiring trust with customers for our business.

  • 53% of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week. 1 in 3 have a shorter time frame of 3 days or less (ReviewTrackers).
  • 56% of customers say a company’s response to a review changed their perspective on the business (Podium).
  • We risk increasing customer churn by 15% when we don’t respond to review (Chatmeter).

When it comes to negative reviews, it is even more important to address and respond to them. Positive reviews are also good to respond to as it shows we appreciate customers taking the time to support our business and inspires others to also.

How Should We Respond To Bad Reviews?

Crossing paths with a keyboard warrior ready to do battle with our public image, we might feel attacked. Perhaps for a moment we want to put our head in the sand and ignore it? Unsure how to exactly respond to the review? Let’s dive into how to respond to bad reviews.

When responding to a bad review, always remember:

  • Getting into an online battle with someone we don’t know in a public space is far from a good idea – especially if we are representing a business.
  • Battling to prove our point and we are right, may end up costing us/our business more customers than if we said nothing at all.
  • Even if we want to back our staff (or the review was about us), ensure we always hold a level of professionalism that acknowledges what happened without pointing fingers or blame.
  • Providing a whole-hearted apology with a resolution, as well as addressing we have or are resolving the issue is a sign of strength and honesty.

How To Turn A Negative Review Into A Positive Customer Experience

Handled wisely, even bad customers or reviews can be a springboard toward new customers. How? By executing exceptional customer service and conflict resolution

Forbes shared their top tips on how to handle negative customer reviews into positive customers experiences:

  1. Make sure to act and respond promptly – it’s public for the world to see.
  2. Post-it (even if it’s negative) to help build trust with our customers.
  3. Use them as a learning experience.
  4. Show we are listening – we can learn much more from negative feedback than positive.
  5. Hug the haters.
  6. Let’s prove them wrong through our actions – not words.
  7. Offer something tangible or specific.
  8. Use a bad review as a reason to ask customers and staff to flood our business with positive reviews.

In addition, we can offer rewards such as gift cards or other prizes to customers through our social media networks to leave positive reviews if they need some inspiration.

What Causes Bad Reviews?

In the digital age, customers have high expectations for businesses and their customer service due to increases in quality options, competition, and franchised stores setting a high bar for local businesses to try and match.

Bad reviews can be targeted at:

  • The staff and service.
  • The food, cooks and menu.
  • The manager and their customer service – perhaps they took something personal about their personality or how they handled a situation and didn’t like it.

Bad reviews can happen when:

  • Someone is having an off day and accidentally crossing paths with someone having a bad day.
  • A staff member is already thinking of quitting, so lowers their duty of care & quality of work.
  • Our staff make an honest mistake, made their drink incorrectly, or simply forgot something.
  • Our staff took longer than the customer expected for them to deliver their food.
  • Our shop was busier than usual yet they expected the same quality customer service.
  • The customer’s personal preference differs from what the cook created, switching up a traditional meal and the ingredients.
  • The customer might be the cause of the problem, be unwilling to address it, and wants to blame someone else (perhaps they were even intoxicated when writing the review).

In Conclusion: Bad Customer Reviews Are An Opportunity That Benefits Our Business

If we take the approach a negative review can be used as an opportunity to better our business and grow its reputation (versus destroy it), we can soften the blow and concern by using any of the following tactics to transform something negative into something positive.

When dealing with a negative review, perhaps consider it as a sign to:

  • Retrain or replace certain staff.
  • Organise a team meeting to discuss the issue openly to get ideas on how to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
  • Upgrade the quality of customer service, ingredients, presentation, or services being delivered.
  • Replace outdated equipment or practices.
  • Renovate the shop or maybe replace old seating.

Negative reviews can many times lead to launching new products or services. This was the case for Dominos who had a whole campaign admitting how bad their pizza was, which included upgrading to premium ingredients. They asked customers to help create their new pizzas range and by being able to customise their orders, created buzz along with enrolling new loyal customers.

So turn that frown upside down Charlie Brown as we are not going out of business – we actually might be able to grow our business from this review. Best to use it as a wake-up call to make those overdue, necessary changes we’ve put off that will end up benefiting everyone and deepening the loyalty of our customers.