Food fight… when businesses bite back.

Food image

Once upon a time the word viral refers to the invasion of microscopic organisms on unsuspecting victims. Nowadays, the word viral also paints an image of a phenomenon, an occurrence on the internet that has caught people’s attention and is widely shared or circulated. The owner of Onefold’s response to a negative review by one of his patron, Michael U did just that when he called the customer a creep. The incident has been reported and discussed by a number of media outlets such as news.com.au and Fox 31 with some applauding him for his entertaining and outrageous, bordering on accusatory rebuttal. While his action has drawn public attention to himself and his café, the bigger question is how does this fit into sound customer relationship management principles? Will this cost him loyal customers and will it drive away new ones, which if true, will hit his business’s bottom line.

In business, besides producing and improving products and services that meet the needs of our targeted customers, it is also about maintaining and extending our reach by keeping our existing customer satisfied. Happy customers often repurchase, may become brand ambassador and promote the brand within their social network and help attract new customers.

The digital age has given restaurateurs great access to their customers, a medium to build their brand, understand their customer and extend the brand’s reach. But traffic does not flow one way and the online posts driven by customers, both positive and negative, are beyond the business’s control. Research shows 90% of those who writes review just want to help others make better buying decision. 72% say they trust online reviews. 50% of consumers learn about food via social media and people are increasingly reliant on reviews and comments from other customers for advice and opinions about dining out options. Thus social media may be an opportunity or a threat to a business.

Flicking through  Yelp, one such review websites, one thing is evident. It is not always about the food. Nearly all of the reviews are about the entire dining experience. When dining out, customers holds certain expectations about the food and the service. food critic or restaurant criticAs pointed out by Menublog, “the way we eat reflects our class, gender and generation.” Phil Blackett who was named Tripadvisor’s most prolific review of 2012 outlined six pet hates that turned him off any restaurant. Nearly all related to the service. Restaurant with high ratings would certainly set the bar high in terms of customer expectations just as a fine dining restaurant would be expected to be pricey but well worth the money.

It is paramount that businesses understand customers’ dining expectations and that at the end of the day, satisfaction comes when customers believe they got exactly or more value in their purchase than what they paid. As these are subjective, there will always be someone who feels short changed. Many experts believe the best way to manage negative review online is to “respond personally to each and every comment in the most engaging, funny and/or humble way possible.” Research also shows that businesses actually benefit when they respond well to negative reviews, with 33% of those who post a negative feedback subsequently post a positive review. 18% of those who got a response to their negative review go on to become loyal customers.

If the posts on Yelp Talk that followed Onefold’s response to Michael U were to go by, many customers didn’t take too kindly to the owner’s response and are planning to vote with their feet. yelper response  It is certainly not good for business.

In contrast, Gelato Messina handled a negative feedback with firmness but not with malice. Gelato Messina managed to call out the customer’s inappropriate behaviour while humbly accepting the feedback about the perceived bad service. Their response was praised by their peers and consumers alike. The take home message is not about preventing negative reviews. Your brand and reputation rest on how well you respond to negative feedback not whether you win the Word Match.

Hang Nguyen/hngu2204/Student ID:215192574

References

Collier, M. “New research proves that responding to negative feedback online benefits companies”. MackCollier, 24 March 2011, http://mackcollier.com/study-responding-to-negative/ Accessed 15/3/2016.

Mazereeuw, A. “Understanding why clients post negative reviews online.” Life Learn, October 2, 2015. http://www.lifelearn.com/2015/10/02/understanding-why-clients-post-negative-reviews-online/ Accessed 15/3/2016.

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