Every business, despite industry, will receive feedback on their products and services from guests that range from extremely positive to extremely disappointed.

In the hospitality industry, service is often subjective. Are you coming to the guest’s table enough? Too often? As hard as any manager may try to provide 5-star service, unavoidable delays can come up without a moment’s notice. From kitchen appliances not working to team members falling ill, a lot of factors influence the flow of a restaurant.

When a complaint is brought up in-person with a manager or server the most important thing to do is listen to what the guest is identifying as the primary issue. Whether it’s a problem with the food or someone at a nearby table, listening to the complaint, understanding them and finding a solution while the guest is still in the restaurant is the best way to leave a positive impression by the time they walk out the door.

However, not everyone is comfortable speaking to their server or manager about an issue that may have arose, so they decide to communicate online. Many people take their opinions to social media platforms such as Facebook or Google when expressing praise or disappointment for an establishment.

When a complaint is received through one of these platforms, this is what you can do to flip a negative into a positive:

ADDRESS THE NEGATIVE COMMENT OR REVIEW WITHIN 24 HOURS

Timing is of the essence with guest complaints. Showing urgency when replying to a guest online will result in the potential for further feedback on their experience which can help you identify areas of improvement for your business.

Showing that the business cares about the guest as an individual is important; replying to a poor review shows that you see the guest as a priority and genuinely appreciate the feedback.

TAKE THE CONVERSATION OFFLINE

Replying to the negative feedback with a response that encourages further communication offline shows that you value them as an engaged customer. The reason you shouldn’t proceed with the conversation online (in the comments of a Facebook review for example) is because constructive feedback to a manager/owner can be seen as a negative influencer to a potential guest.

GET IN TOUCH WITH THE GUEST

Reaching out to the guest over the phone (when possible) is the best way to personally apologize for any negative experiences. This simple gesture shows that you as an owner care about each guest’s experience and puts on display your willingness to go above and beyond for that person.

OFFER AN INCENTIVE TO MAKE IT UP TO THE GUEST AND BRING THEM BACK IN

Something as simple as a gift card mailed to the guest is a kind enough gesture to patch things up. Other times it’s nice to go that extra mile and welcome the group back for a tequila tasting or something unique & personal to make up for the negative experience. If they do come back, it’s important for the manager to make a personal introduction to welcome them and thank them for the opportunity to provide an improved experience.

SEND A FOLLOW UP

If the guest elects to come back to the restaurant, you should send them a follow-up thanking them for giving you a second chance. Something as simple as an email or quick phone call can leave a lasting impression on a guest that will have them telling their friends, family and colleagues about their experience.

This follow-up can also serve for further communication if that guest would like to book a reservation in the future. Having a personal contact makes the guest feel important and valued.

BRING THE CONVERSATION BACK ONLINE

Thank the guest for the feedback they provided to show that the complaint was taken seriously and efforts were installed to rectify the issue. If they change the rating or leave a new one, comment on the new review thanking them for the opportunity to make things right at your establishment.

 

Below is an example of a poor review we received at Baro:

 

The review was replied to within 24 hours and conversation was further encouraged offline. Our General Manager was able to get ahold of this guest and apologized for the poor experience he encountered and was sent a gift card redeemable at Baro. Later that week he took the initiative to go back to that review and change it to a 5-star rating!

It’s important to note that criticism that is constructive should always be addressed. A line should be drawn as soon as a guest starts belittling any of your team members or using offensive language in the review. Although the experience may not have lived up to their standards, it is unacceptable to accommodate guests that put down your team members rather than give them steps to improve upon.