Review sites and social media conversations around restaurants have increased a thousandfold over the last several years. More and more customers are turning to online reviews when making restaurant decisions. While this is no surprise, what I found in a recent article did surprise me – people are using negative reviews as a means of getting something more from a restaurant, whether it’s a discount or other offer.
Otherwise known as cyber-extortion, there are people out there that are trying to get something in exchange for not receiving negative online reviews. In the article, this example was noted:
Sonny Mayugba, owner of the popular Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar in Sacramento. He described how a patron recently tried to shake him down after alleging they got food poisoning.
“He said, ‘I’m going to do a scathing review of you on Yelp!, I’m going to make sure my girlfriend does a scathing review on Yelp!, and then I’m going to report you to the health department. However, if you buy me a $100.00 gift card to Ella, which is a nice restaurant here in town, you’ll save me from doing all those things.’ To me, that was extortion.”
Unfortunately, this type of behavior will happen from time to time. Other types of “false” negative reviews can come from disgruntled employees or even competitors. While it’s almost impossible to stop it from happening, there are some things you can do to minimize it:
1. Don’t fall for this type of extortion: never give something in exchange for the customer not posting a bad review. This sets a bad tone, and if word ever got out, it would make your company look bad. You can’t stop people from posting their opinions online, and falling for threats should not be a common practice.
2. Tell your side of the story: in a professional, objective manner, respond to negative feedback that is posted on your sites. Hiding or ignoring it will not help, nor will responding in anger or unprofessional behavior. Showing that you care about dissatisfied guests will go a long way in minimizing negative feedback.
3. If it gets heated, take it offline: sometimes people just want to get a rise out of others. They may leave negative feedback and, when you respond trying to help, they may continue to lash out. Don’t get involved in an online battle. Instead, publicly invite the dissatisfied customer to contact you privately, or provide your email address so that they may send you their contact information, so that you can resolve the issue. Chances are that you won’t hear from them again since they won’t have an audience to play to. While there are times the negative reviews are just black hat attempts at making your company look bad, it is good to try to resolve issues as they pop up to keep your online reputation strong.
4. Remember that one (or two) negative reviews won’t ruin you: when customers are reading online reviews, they take in both the good and the bad and come to their own conclusions. If you have quite a bit of positive feedback with very little negative feedback, you don’t have to worry too much. Also, as discussed in a post a few months back, there are Negative Nelly’s that will be seen through easily, and many customers will take their opinions with a grain of salt. Typically, these are the same type of people who will threaten a business with negative feedback, so hopefully their words won’t have too much of an effect on potential customers.
If I had to guess, I’d say this cyber-extortion happens rarely, but it is good to be aware of in case it happens to you. It’s a shame that there are people out there who resort to this behavior, but it does go to show the power of social media – online reputation is important for businesses!