Keeping Your Cool About Negative Reviews (Lessons Not Learned From Pigalle's F-Bombs)

by Swipely Team on November, 30 2012 in Marketing


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When someone leaves an undignified review about your store or restaurant, it's perfectly normal to feel hurt. And if their review feels more like an attack, you might even get a little angry. But remember, they're angry too.

Earlier this week, a diner at Pigalle in Boston wrote a less than satisfied review on Facebook that spoke directly to the chefs, saying that the pumpkin pie "literally tasted like vomit" and that the $200 meal ruined her Thanksgiving. Instead of gracefully accepting criticism, Chef Marc Orfaly went in another direction, responding to the comment by dropping the f-bomb a few times, calling her the b-word and basically saying that he didn't want her money.

The resulting negative publicity from the stunt actually transferred right through Facebook and  caused their Yelp rating to drop to 3.5 stars too, as Yelp reviewers took out their disgust about the incident in the form of new 1-star reviews.

This isn't the first time you've heard about a chef or business owner attacking a patron for a bad review. Some have gone as far as trying to sue their Yelp reviewers. In this instance, Orfaly also took the next big step and wrote a post on Pigalle's Facebook wall that complained about uneducated patrons and told guests to complain in person. Well, in a few more unpleasing words than that.

Somehow, Pigalle's loyal patrons came to Orfaly's rescue, admitting that they didn't read the original correspondence but saying "whatever may have happened should have been discussed with Marc and Kerri and the very responsive staff, not whined about on Facebook." Others responded with, "we love Pigalle!" High-fives all around for having a strong following of loyal followers even when you tell a customer that they have a "fat face" and should "give up the pie".

Let's turn this into a learning experience, as I'm sure Orfaly has. The next time a negative review appears, keep these head-cooling tips in mind:

Be angry: It's cool, someone just insulted your hard work. Be angry if you want to. But, surely you've gotten criticized before, so how did you deal with it then?

Keep yourself open to other perspectives. Remember, they're angry too. Maybe the pumpkin pie wasn't as good as you thought. Maybe it was more than just this one reviewer who thought your pumpkin pie was too experimental. They didn't need to bash you publicly, but realize that the internet gives them that privilege.

Sit with it for a minute. Orfaly responded four hours later, but it's doubtful that he consulted any business colleagues before telling a customer to go F__ herself. If you choose to respond, wait until your initial reaction has settled.

Talk yourself down. You can let the resentment fester and rehash everything you'd like to say. Heck, write it down a few dozen times. Then, let someone else outside of the situation review.

Accept that you can't please everyone: Orfaly said that 98 out of 100 customers were happy with their Thanksgiving Dinner at Pigalle that night. Four percent of your customers will complain about everything, it's a fact. So if 98% of your customers are pretty happy, then let the remaining percent go.

Apologize endlessly: Embrace humility and try to make it right. Sure, Orfaly offered her money back, but he also insinuated that she couldn't afford the meal and that she had no experience with fine dining. A more profitable suggestion would have been to offer her a gift certificate so that she could come back and re-experience the restaurant for a second time.

Orfaly has since apologized, but judging by the growing number of angry comments, his customers (and those from afar who read about the incident) aren't quite ready to forgive just yet.

It's not easy to accept a negative review, but as past generations of business have taught us, "the customer is always right". If they don't like your pumpkin pie, let them hate it. Accept that you can't change their palette, apologize, make it right, and move on. A gift certificate could have saved a customer here and the negative publicity that followed.

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