How to Respond to Negative Feedback

Here at OwnerListens, we work with a lot of restaurant owners and managers who have come to trust us as a resource for how to maximize customer satisfaction, improve their reputation, and improve their business overall. By far, one of the most frequently asked questions is, “How do I respond to negative feedback?”.

As most of us know, customers can be very opinionated and passionate about their experience especially when something doesn’t go well – and this can have varying effects on your business. Ideally, you are already set up with OwnerListens so this feedback has come to your or your manager privately and directly so you may address it immediately… Not to mention gain great insights from the feedback and improve. But the unfortunate truth is, not all you businesses out there are using OwnerListens yet so perhaps a customer’s bad experience results in a damaging online public review, or a silent customer who just never returns… or worse, one who dissuades others from going to your business. 
Whether negative feedback comes via OwnerListens or not, properly navigating the situation takes effort and finesse. We will review a couple general rules and tips for communicating with customers regarding negative feedback that will help you increase your customer satisfaction, and protect your online reputation, and improve your business.
Sign up for OwnerListens
Why? Because it works! If you haven’t started using OwnerListens, you are really doing your business a disservice. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by using OwnerListens. Showing your customers you are listening is the best way to have any negative feedback sent to you directly and privately so you can address concerns immediately. We provide the materials to help get you started, and can work with you to make your own custom materials to match the look and feel of your business.
Communicate Effectively
OwnerListens sign
at Sandwich Bar
Generally speaking, communicating effectively with customers is the first rule to responding to unsatisfied customers. Not responding, or not effectively addressing the issue almost never results in any type of resolution – don’t let this happen to you. The customer may approach you in person, via OwnerListens (if you are signed up!), or a public online channel such as Yelp (if you are not signed up).
Follow these rules when communicate with a customer:
  • Listen the customer feedback entirely
  • Always remain calm and polite
  • Repeat major concerns to show you understand
  • Be empathetic and apologize where necessary
  • State your action plan/solution
  • Notify the customer when you have followed through
Address Feedback Promptly
Consumer behavior studies have shown that when a customer finally writes a negative review online, they do so up to 2+ hours after the have paid for the respective service. Typically, the customer has already reflected on the experience for some time, is stewing about it back at home or the office, and decides to just rant online. This means, on average, you have up to 2 hours to address an issue directly before it goes public. 
Showing customers you are available to help before they yelp is essential here. A few customers may speak up in person, but most will not because of various reasons: some are are too shy, others can’t take the extra time, and many just don’t want to say something negative because they are perhaps on a date or business lunch. An OwnerListens sign or bill folder with sticker is the best way to show customers you are listening and provide a convenient way for them to reach out to you privately, directly, and anonymously.
Invite the Customer Back
When you address negative feedback or follow up with a customer, you can never go wrong asking the customer to return. Whether it’s to redeem a coupon for a free appetizer as compensation, to communicate that you have corrected a problem, or to just to ask the customer to give your business another shot, you can easily do all of this by simply messaging the customer with OwnerListens. By inviting the customer to return, you express that you are confident about your service, are comfortable taking criticism, and are committed to providing even better customer service.
Repeat Over Time
While each situation is often it’s own case, the most important part of improving your customer service and increasing customer satisfaction it to continue effectively addressing negative feedback in the long run.
Keep your OwnerListens signs and other materials in places that catch the attention of your customers easily. Work with us to make custom signs should that fit your business better. Have questions on where to put your sign? Reach out to us at [email protected] and let us share what we have learned from hundreds of other business owners and help you get customer feedback directly.
As you continue using OwnerListens and engage with your customers, remember that we are all human and mistakes are bound to happen here and there… but what you do about them is totally up to you and we are here to help out. 
Whole Foods / OwnerListens Window Sticker

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