There’s no such thing as a ‘Bad’ online review

There’s no such thing as a ‘Bad’ online review


How to turn negative reviews, fake or real into extra sales and PR.


There’s a lot of talk about ‘bad’ online reviews, and the negative effect they can have on a Pub or Hotel business, and, indeed many acres of print have been devoted to legal routes and fighting them. But we work with Pub and Hotel Businesses across the UK and have developed a different response that works to:

  • Reduce stress and time
  • Improve your PR whether the review is ‘good’ or ‘bad’
  • Help turn any review into extra business

These ideas have been adopted by leading Pub and Hotel operators across the UK, including former BII licensees of the year … and, by the way, they work.

So, what’s the secret and what do we do about these ‘bad’ reviews?

There are 4 steps:

Step 1: Accept that the world has changed and the customer really is in charge

  • Social media and online review sites have empowered the customer like nothing before: this is a genuine revolution in consumer behaviour, not a fad
  • Don’t swim against the tide, you’ll be like King Canute …. Pointless and frustrating.
  • Example of success: you see them every day in the news: Ebay, AirBnB, Uber etc

Point 2: Genuinely put the desire to give a ‘Great Customer Experience’ at the heart of all you do

  • In this new world, you can ONLY be genuinely successful in the long term if you change the ‘business mantra’ from:
    • ‘We’re here to make money, and we also want to be nice to the customer’.
    • To: ‘We’re here to be loved by the customer, if we do this well the money will follow, not the other way round’
  • This ‘customer communication revolution’ genuinely affects EVERYTHING you do, so you need to filter all your systems and processes through these beliefs.
  • Example of success: The Monkton Inn: small village pub increased turnover from under £1000 per week to over £12000 per week by genuinely adopting these principles

Point 3: Put proactive feedback systems in place

  • Don’t wait for the review to appear on TripAdvisor: it’s too late!
  • If you don’t actively demonstrate to the customer that you really DO care and really DO want their feedback, they’ll assume (usually correctly) that you don’t.
  • You must put proactive feedback systems in place to help them tell you what you need to know (to get Point 2 right!) These will vary according to the business, but may well include:
    • Tokens and feedback boxes (these work like magic in a pub)
    • Active Twitter engagement (customer like this)
    • Telephone feedback
    • Facebook page for feedback and engagement
    • Online systems
  • Examples of success:
    • The Bull’s Head Repton (amazingly successful pub run by former BII licensees of the year): tokens and feedback boxes
    • Café Nero: SIMPLE online feedback system

Point 4: React strongly and positively to all public online reviews: there’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ online review

  • KEY point: you are NOT responding to the individual, you are demonstrating your personality to the world – this is FREE PR and marketing, pure and simple
  • Calm your ego: customers are NOT always right (but they ARE always the customer)!
  • Respond to ALL reviews: otherwise it looks like you don’t care (This is VERY important)
  • Customers are 3X more interested in your response than the review: they know that people can be awkward: what they’re interested in is what you’re like when you respond!
  • Negative reviews are read 5X more than positive reviews: responding to these properly is a HUGE opportunity.
  • Example of excellence: The Rockford Inn, Exmoor (check out their TA reviews and responses!)

And lastly: ‘bad’ reviews: well, these fall into 2 categories:

‘Valid’ and ‘False’

For ‘Valid’ reviews, take it on the chin, ask them to contact you offline, and state publicly what you aim to be great at and how brilliantly you would have handled this complaint if it had been made direct to you at the time: Free publicity for how great you are.

For ‘False’ reviews, treat them exactly the same,

  • ask them politely and kindly to contact you offline
  • state your commitment to great customer experiences (and all the steps that you’re taking every day to make this a genuine reality)
  • apologize for what needs apologizing for, and state what you DO do and DON’T do (eg: you don’t need to apologise for not having a fruit machine if you don’t do fruit machines!) … and why this is.
  • state what you would have done if they had brought this to your attention at the time
  • reiterate your commitment to feedback and wanting to get it right for the customer
  • if you can manage it, add a little humour throughout: the reader will pick it up, and after all, pubs and hotels are supposed to be fun places!


  • Example of excellence: Pizzeria Delfina SanFrancisco: search for their response to false reviews on Yelp: it’s hilarious and supercharged their business.


If you manage all the above well, you should also get MANY more positive reviews online – that’s GREAT: it’s free marketing to the people who are interested! Fantastic!

So: there’s no such thing as ‘bad’ reviews, and, by the way, there’s no such thing as ‘bad’ feedback: it’s how you respond to it that makes all the difference.