Has your restaurant ever been blindsided by an online complaint?  It doesn’t matter if it’s about your online business, or an in-restaurant experience – it’s not a good feeling.  Whether it’s legitimate, or something totally unwarranted – you need to know how to respond.

Often it’s based on a misunderstanding or a failure to respond early, when a complaint is fresh.  A recent webinar from the National Restaurant Association had some tips on how to respond to these online complaints.

  • Don’t be the last person to find out about a problem at your restaurant, or with a takeout order. Get familiar with the tools.  Use Google Alerts, monitor Yelp.  Have systems in place.
  • This isn’t personal, so don’t get defensive.  Your goal is to neutralize these incidents.
  • Take responsibility online.  Denying that it happened is usually the wrong tactic.  If it’s a completely false or bogus complaint, contact the site (i.e. Yelp) and have them remove it.
  • Get the response public and prominent.  Don’t be the 75th person to comment.  Tell the complainant that you want make it right.  Make sure everyone sees it.
  • Treat your online communication as carefully and as thoughtfully as you would in-person.  You don’t want these things going viral.
  • If you are posting online, keep everything positive.  If a customer persists with negativity, take the conversation offline by suggesting they call you.
  • Train employees with your approach to handling complaints so that your staff speaks in one voice.
  • If complaints are routine or happening in patterns, it can indicate a weakness in your operation.  Use that information to your benefit and correct the issues.

Be persistent to make things right.  People tend to remember the last thing you did for them.  It could be a big problem or small dilemma, but if you bend over backwards to make things right, that’s what they will remember most.

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