Navigating Online Comments and Reviews to Boost Customer Retention

Address negative online comments and reviews to bring back loyal customers.

It takes twice as much work to earn a new customer as it does to please an existing one, so don’t let one bad experience spell the end of a good customer relationship. If you think online reviews don’t matter, consider the fact that consumers now find a restaurant’s star rating to be the number one factor in choosing a place to dine, according to recent findings by

According to a Harvard Business Review Research Report by Michael Luca, for restaurants, a one-star increase in Yelp rating leads to a five-to-nine percent increase in revenue. So it’s clear that a restaurant’s online presence and reputation does in fact have an effect on its success.

Add to that the fact that 49 percent of consumers need to see at least a four-star rating before they choose to use a business, according to BrightLocal, and those reviews start looking pretty important.

If you’re thinking of letting customer reviews on Yelp, Facebook and Twitter slide while you manage the day-to-day of your business, you may not have a business left to manage after long. Here’s how to take control of your reviews, and possibly win over guests who leave negative comments and reviews.

Monitor Reviews Regularly

Social media monitoring programs now make it easier to track, post and reply to feedback that your business receives across a range of social channels. Check in with customer feedback daily and respond to the good and the bad promptly.

Don’t Hide from the Negative

You can’t please everyone, and it starts to look suspicious when your restaurant has received 100 five-star reviews. Embrace the constructive criticism and respond sincerely to those who have had a bad experience. Yes, it may have been easier if they approached you in the restaurant, but you still have a chance to show them, and others, how you’re able to step up and take care of the issue in a timely manner. Never put the blame on them by saying things such as, “You must have come in at a busy time.” Always accept blame and offer to rectify the situation quickly.

Show Them You’re Listening

When someone has posted an online complaint, it’s usually because they want—and expect—a response. A study by TNS Nipo of 2,000 social complaints showed 70 percent of complainants hoped to receive a response. Unfortunately, only 38 percent received a response. The study also revealed that the success of the response depended on three factors: the speed of the response; quality of the solution; and how well the business provided the human touch. Don’t let your online reviews go unanswered or you’ll quickly become the “owner who never responds to complaints.”

Address Individual Concerns

Since responding to a customer’s complaint online is likely to be the last chance you have to save the customer relationship, craft your reply carefully, while still keeping it brief. First, thank them for their feedback, and be specific about why they contacted you (e.g., “Thank you for contacting us about the long wait you experienced yesterday.”). Second, apologize and offer to make it up to them (e.g., “I apologize for the delay in receiving your meal and would love to make it up to you.”). Lastly, always provide an easy way for them to contact you off of social media (e.g., “Please contact me at your earliest convenience at

Statistics show an increase in visits and profits when business owners respond to online reviews, so keep a close watch on yours to prevent your loyal fans from turning into critics.