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How to Deal with Online Reviews

When you run a franchise — particularly a restaurant franchise — online reviews will make or break your business. We now live in a world where people decide where to spend their money based on what other people have to say about a business. Are people ranting or raving about yours?

Online Review 101

Today, anyone who has visited a business can tell others about their experience on sites like Yelp. These review sites let a customer rank his experience (5-star reviews are highly coveted) and share details about it. Others can see these reviews and make their decision accordingly.

Two Women Looking at Cell Phone at Cafe

Will a Negative Review Kill My Business?

I won’t sugarcoat it: a negative review isn’t great for your franchise. But it’s not a death sentence. Instead, see it as an opportunity to improve your operations (and to have the roadmap to make those changes, since the customer who left the review will tell you exactly what was wrong). And most people won’t avoid a business just because it has one or two negative reviews if the rest are glowing.

How to Deal with Reviews

The best thing you can do as a franchisee is to monitor all reviews of your business. Each time you get a review, read it and respond. If it’s a great review, thank the reviewer publicly (Yelp lets you as the business owner do this). If it’s a negative review, proceed as follows:

  1. Get to the heart of the matter. What is the issue the customer is complaining about?

  2. Avoid getting emotional. Yes, this business is your baby. But if you respond angrily, you will only make your company look worse. Take time to cool off if necessary.

  3. Apologize. Remember: the customer is always right. It’s easy to say “we’re sorry.”

  4. Make it right. How can you remedy the situation? Offer a meal on the house or to personally take care of the customer if he comes back.

  5. Ask for an updated review. If you get the irate customer back in for a second chance and he’s happy, ask if he’ll update his review to reflect your efforts to ameliorate the situation.

Always respond as quickly as possible to any and all reviews. You need to stay on top of your brand reputation, and you do that by knowing what people are saying about your franchise online.

Susan Payton is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, a marketing firm specializing in content writing and social media management. She’s written three business books, including How to Get More Customers With Press Releases, and frequently blogs about small business and marketing on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, The Marketing Eggspert Blog, and Tweak Your Biz. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.

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