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6 min read

You sign on to check your most recent Yelp or TripAdvisor ranking and notice someone just put up a scathing review. Immediately your defenses raise and anger courses through your veins. You immediately start to prepare your rebuttal. Stop, breathe, and wait.

It’s tough to not want to fire back immediately. You care deeply about your business and you want to immediately set the record straight, however responding while angry is the perfect way to escalate the situation. So how do you go about solving this problem?

Recognize the Underlying Complaints

Most bad reviews are full of emotion. A customer, in their eyes, just had one of the worst experiences of their lives. Their experience is

fresh and their review is likely full of how they feel. They will describe in detail how they were either let down, embarrassed, or disrespected; and how this transferred into anger.

Get to the heart of what actually went wrong and write down those problems; long wait, inattentive service, wrong food, offensive service, overcharging. Once you have determined the underlying problem or problems, it’s time to prepare your rebuttal.

Ideally, you’ll want to get your rebuttal up within 24 hours but I would try to wait at least 12 hours. By waiting at least 12 hours, it will help you calm down and write with less emotion. If needed write the angry response to get your anger out. Don’t post it. Just save it to a folder on your computer. Then start over and write a professional review using the suggestions below.

Stick To The Facts, Your Feelings Don’t Matter

It doesn’t matter if you think they are right or wrong. It doesn’t matter if you thinking the customer was trying to get free stuff. It doesn’t matter if the guy was angry when he came in the door. What matters is the service or food he received that was not up to par. Stick to the facts you can prove. If wait times are exaggerated, go back to the camera and find out how long they did wait. If the food was wrong, go back and see if it was rang in correctly. What happened? Why was it wrong? Use only facts when responding, don’t make estimates and don’t use opinion.

Apologize, Their Feelings Matter

Your response should start with an apology. Something such as, “I apologize for your poor experience last Friday, we obviously did not meet your expectations, and for that I am sorry. I can see how waiting an hour for a table and then waiting an hour to get your food was frustrating. When you host your friends for a nice dinner you want everything to go smoothly. I agree that a two hour wait is simply unacceptable. Know that this isn’t the norm, we are embarrassed and we have already enacted steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again.” Be sure to connect with how it made the customer feel.

Address the Problems, Don’t Attack The Person

Don’t attack the reviewer, if they exaggerated on times, just address that the wait was too long. If the claims are blatantly false, you can address the problem by attacking the claim and not the person. “While looking back at the food tickets from the night, it appears no one waited over 34 minutes for their food. However, I know that when waiting for your food it can feel like much longer when you’re hungry. Regardless, even a 34 minute wait time is unacceptable and you have a right to be angry.”

Avoid Point for Point Rebuttals

Don’t just go down the list and attack their review point by point. It appears petty and comes off as a personal attack. Instead address the main themes and underlying issues.

Keep It As Concise As Possible

Get your point across, but don’t write a lengthy essay. You want it long enough to address the issue, but short enough that potential customers will actually read it when assessing the validity of the review and the reputation of your restaurant as a whole.

Trust Your Customers To Be Smart Enough

Along that line, trust your customers or potential customers to be smart enough to figure out the falsehoods. You can read a review and figure out what is likely true and what is not. Your potential customers do the same thing.

Customers Look At Your Response As Much As The Review

When potential customers look at the bad review they also look at your response. They put fairly equal weight into both sides of the argument, especially if you do not have many bad reviews. Potential customers are looking to see how you handle problems. They want to know that if something goes wrong while they are at your restaurant, they will be treated fairly and with respect. Your response to the negative reviews can give them peace of mind. Remember that your response isn’t just for the complaining customer, but also all of the potential customers reading it.

Get Good Reviews

In the end, getting many good reviews will help weed out the bad ones. When someone had a great experience that they are raving about inside the restaurant, ask them to go online and post a review for your restaurant. Over time, if you are doing things right, you will be able to get many more great reviews than bad ones. This will help the poor reviews reflect just a rare poor experience rather than a foreshadowing of a likely occurence.

Getting a poor review on Yelp or TripAdvisor can be a frustrating affair that can cause many more problems if not addressed properly. By spending a little time to address the reviewers root issues, apologizing, and acknowledging their emotions, you can create a respectful rebuttal that helps to improve the situation. With a successful response you can help the initial reviewer feel better and hopefully convince them to return while also attracting new potential customers due to your professional response.