Risky strategies for tackling bad reviews

By Karen Errington

- Last updated on GMT

Errington: "Gone are the days when a customer made a complaint in person, allowing the business owner the opportunity to rectify things"
Errington: "Gone are the days when a customer made a complaint in person, allowing the business owner the opportunity to rectify things"

Related tags: Village

Allowing yourself to be drawn into an emotional exchange on a public forum is something to be avoided at all costs as it can never result in a positive outcome, argues Karen Errington.

Some time ago I did a bad thing. I was provoked into registering and responding to a customer review on TripAdvisor.

Following publication of my response (which wasn’t polite) all hell did not break lose as I feared. There followed a clutch of complimentary reviews and we all know a series of good reviews is invariably followed by an unfavourable one. We were steeling ourselves for the stinker that must surely come soon and it did.

With increasing confidence I posted another cheeky rebuttal, which made me feel better if nothing else.

Before you dash off to check our TripAdvisor page I want to let you in on an unexpected turn of events. People started to come to the pub asking who had posted the responses and often gave me the thumbs up and had a little chuckle. In fact, the responses had become a bit of a talking point and as the weirdest marketing tool ever had brought in new customers.

I am not suggesting that you all log on and start taking on the customers, but I think a well considered, humorous or curt response to an obviously unfair or untrue review can be beneficial. Gone are the days when a customer made a complaint in person, allowing the business owner the opportunity to rectify things. Many prefer to leave quietly and then compose a very public complaint.

Unrealistic expectations

Sadly, there are a lot of diners with unrealistic expectations about the ambience, food, even the table they have been allocated. All are issues that can spill over on to TripAdvisor, often in a vitriolic outpouring.

There is action that some of you can take in order to stay on top on this site. If you are located in a small village you will be grouped and ranked with numerous other outlets under the nearest town, as we were under our nearest town, Hexham.

I contacted the review site pointing out our location in the small hamlet of Anick and asking it to amend its records as this is both misleading and confusing for customers. A couple of days later, amazingly, our location was changed with the effect that we were now number one of one outlet in the village.

Sadly, if you are located in a large city or town, I am afraid you will have to fight it out or debunk to the country — but don’t forget, we all have the right of reply.

Alternatively, you could follow the sensible route and give the whole thing a wide berth.

Karen Errington is licensee of the Rat Inn in Anick, Northumberland

Related topics: Legislation

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