As a franchise owner, your restaurant will most likely receive online customer reviews. The Internet has made sharing information and ideas far easier than ever before, and that includes both positive and negative feedback from customers. Many small business owners aren’t even aware of their online reviews, and this is a missed opportunity.
A single poor review can be frustrating. You may worry that other potential customers will be deterred by less than perfect ratings. While services like Google® and Yelp® rarely remove reviews, there are steps you can take to resolve issues raised by dissatisfied customers.

1. Take a Moment
Before responding to a customer, take a moment to calm yourself so that you can write a reply with a clear head. The idea of responding to a review is to show the public your commitment to quality food and customer service, so everything you write should keep that goal in mind. Reacting immediately can defeat the purpose of amending a bad review.

2. Stay Calm and Polite
If someone did not enjoy their time in your restaurant, make sure to apologize for the letdown. Ask how you can make it up, or detail what you’re doing to make it better. A valid complaint represents an opportunity to grow and improve, so don’t take it personally.

3. What About Bogus Complaints?
If the customer’s version of events differs from your staff’s, resist the urge to jump to their defense. You should make your staff feel supported and validated in person. Online, you should address the customer’s complaint without being sarcastic or argumentative. Write a response that demonstrates your commitment to making things right.

4. Focus on Action Steps
As a manager or owner, sometimes issues arise and, unfortunately, you’re not always the first one to hear about them. When these issues come to your attention via a negative review or complaint, you need to take appropriate action beyond your initial response. For example, if the review states there was a long wait and poor customer service, you could assess your staffing practices and possibly schedule additional employees during busy times. Or, you could come up with ways to expedite service. Whatever the solution, work on it as a team.

5. Remind Customers to Review Your Business
In general, customers expect good service and tasty food. Even if they appreciate your restaurant, they won’t necessarily stop to leave a good review. A simple, “Love Samurai Sam’s®? Review us on [Google®, Yelp®, etc.]” engages those customers who are likely to leave a positive review. You might even provide incentives like free menu items, gift cards or coupons for customers who leave reviews.

Learning how to handle customer reviews is an important part of business. The better you interact openly with customers, the better off you’ll be. Not only do potential customers read your responses, reviewers who are satisfied with your response may change their critical review to a positive one.

Samurai Sam’s offers training in a wide range of business practices, including customer service. If you have questions or concerns, feel free to reach out.