When it comes to negative experiences, our brains are a lot like Velcro, as Rick Hanson, Ph.D, psychologist and author describes it. As humans and customers we’re not only on high alert for frustrating experiences, we are also on high alert when comments, review or situations sting.
Positive experiences, on the other hand tend to look more like rain dripping off a pair of Teflon pants.
The feeling should be familiar to all you restaurant managers out there. Dealing with negative online comments and reviews requires you to be both Velcro – you don’t want to disregard a legit comment – and Teflon – you’ve still got to get on with your day and can’t let the negativity rub off on your performance.
Managing your customers’ experience means overcoming your own urge to negatively respond, while calling on your leadership skills to focus on solutions, positives, and even crisis management steps.
Here are some things to remember when you really want to put a customer in their place:
Don’t Dwell on the Negative
Take the advice of Ray Williams, Co-Found of Success IQ University and executive mentor – don’t dwell on the negatives. Focus on a response to the customer that is appropriate, brief, and mindful (as Yelp reminds us) your reviewers are paying customers with feelings.
Avoid Using Trigger Phrases
Give em’ an inch and they’ll take a mile. Even though the commenter has set you off, doesn’t necessarily mean you should do the same. Saying things such as, “I’m sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you,” can come across as dismissive if the customer left hungry, frustrated, or worse – injured or ignored. Acknowledging that their experience somehow didn’t live up to their expectations demonstrates compassion and caring and shows that you’re listening. This will create a sense of trust in your business that reaches beyond the person who commented, according to Vivian Wagner, Associate Professor and writer.
Be a Leader
Take a positive, leadership position but not a defensive one. Whether the customer is right or wrong is not the point. “I’m sorry you had this poor experience. We’ve been in business for over 15 years in this community and take every comment to heart,” reminds you of all the positive things you and your team do every day, and also feels sincere to the person who left the review and others reading it later.
Apologizing is critical and you want to recognize that your response is in a public forum. Provide contact information for the customer to reach you offline as a proactive strategy for a more meaningful resolution.
Not every customer who posts a negative review is a lost customer. Take a cue from crisis management and treat each as an opportunity to recover, to regain trust. Ignoring a comment won’t make it go away – people do not do well when ignored!
Train your staff on how to deal with negative customer comments both in person, but also with assigned staff managing reviews in public forums. This creates a cohesive, comprehensive approach to managing customer experience.
Whether they’re reported at the corporate level or to an individual store, negative reviews give you and your staff an opportunity to learn, improve and even win a customer for life.
They key to getting it right is to first check in (or out) with yourself. Manage your own internal need to fire back in defense. And then look to your own positive leadership and communication skills in your responses online just as you would in person. Negative reviews need not stick to you, to your customers, or to your business.