What are pub customers’ biggest bugbears and how upset are complainants?

By Stuart Stone contact

- Last updated on GMT

Venting online: Carlo Platia of Feed It Back highlights that complainants are far more comfortable giving feedback online than in person
Venting online: Carlo Platia of Feed It Back highlights that complainants are far more comfortable giving feedback online than in person
Customer feedback and online reputation specialists Feed it Back and market research firm YouGov have delved into negative online reviews to identify customers’ biggest bugbears and scale the language they use to condemn them.

These pieces of research follow an increasing number of cases of pub operators publicly challenging negative reviews submitted via platforms such as Google and TripAdvisor. For example, operator Calvin Dow of the Castle Inn in Skipton, Yorkshire, penned a poetic response​ to complaining customers and negative reviews.

Moreover, Heath Ball, the operator of John Smith’s 2018 Great British Pub Award winning Red Lion & Sun in Highgate, North London, recently fired back at a two-star Google review given because his pub’s food tasted like it ‘had been stored in the fridge’​.

How bad is ‘bad’?

A new study by YouGov has examined exactly how positive and negative certain descriptors are seen as being by compiling a league table of words that commonly appear in customer reviews.

YouGov asked respondents to score 40 adjectives on a scale of positivity from 0 to 10 – with 0 being “very negative” and 10 being “very positive”.

Of those tested, “abysmal” was seen as the most negative – with an average score of 1.21, while awful and terrible were considered slightly less condemnatory at 1.72 and 1.75 respectively.

At the other end of the scale, “perfect” was deemed the most positive feedback, with an average score of 9.16, followed by “outstanding” and “excellent” at 9.11 and 8.95 respectively.

YouGov created the following graphic ranking the 40 descriptors tested offering a measure of which adjectives are the most positive or negative in customer reviews.

YouGov’s research is available here.

Brits don’t like complaining in public

Feed it Back analysed customer feedback gathered between January 2018 and September 2018 from tens of thousands of reviews across leading platforms, Facebook, Google and TripAdvisor with findings revealing that the main drivers behind negative pub and bar complaints related to slow service (cited by 20% of respondents) and staff engagement - six of the top ten regular complaints made by customers relating to efficiency, engagement and attitude of wait staff.

Moreover, 19% of respondents were also disappointed with the taste of their meal, with poorly executed traditional dishes being the prominent drivers in negative reviews. Moreover, 20% of pub and bar diners’ complaints also referenced ‘atmosphere’, access to an ‘outside space’, ‘cleanliness’ and ‘value for money’.

Discussing the results, Carlo Platia, chief executive officer of Feed It Back commented: “As a nation, on the whole, we don’t like complaining in public – it’s just not in our culture – but we will vent on social channels, review sites and in person to our family and friends.

“Actively seeking out these complaints and understanding what is driving them is not only a crucial step to improving your online reputation, but an integral tool for increasing sales.

“In the current competitive environment, all brands have to look forward and innovate to stay relevant – standing still simply isn’t an option. The brands that will win the fight for market share over the next five years, will be the ones that truly listen to their customer and utilise all the data at their disposal to drive their customer experience.”

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