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Socially Savvy: Owning Mistakes

Heather McNeil - July 10th, 2014

Comment: Beautiful beautiful view! Expect exceptional service with average food at very expensive prices. Filet mignon. NY strip, mushrooms, & sautéed broccoli and spinach were all good but not outstanding. My NY strip came out damn near well done when I asked for medium rare. When paying $200 for the meal, we expected much more.
Kristine N., Chicago, 3 stars.

Response: Hi Kristine, I feel that any meal that exceeds expectations is always worth the money and any meal that falls short of expectations is expensive, regardless of the price. While I am delighted your service was “exceptional”, we failed to deliver your steak to temperature. This is unacceptable and I’m very sorry. We are a steakhouse. We ask you how you’d like your steak cooked. It is a very reasonable expectation to receive it just the way you ordered it! Did anyone check in on you after you received it? Did we offer to cook another steak for you? This is also a standard at [our restaurant] and I truly hope we accomplished this. There are many great steakhouses in this town and you were right in expecting more from ours. Could we speak by phone? You can message me your contact information right here. Sincerely,
Restaurant Owner

This is a 3-star review, yet this guest would never return to this restaurant. If you put yourself in her position, would you? Responding to her review is the only hope of recovery. Responding publicly gives you the additional opportunity to influence your potential guest.

The majority of big cities in America boast plenty of steakhouses. Most steakhouses have very similar menus. What sets one apart from another is the ability to be consistent in service and quality as well as cooking the steaks to the requested temperature. It is essential to take ownership of such a mistake. People don’t want excuses and even a recook without acknowledgement of the mistake on-premise could be enough reason for the guest to go elsewhere next time. This is your one shot to earn back her business. Notice, I didn’t ask her to return, and I didn’t offer her a complimentary steak. These things come later and come privately. The goal in the public response is to say enough to encourage the next step, the conversation. Without owning your mistake, that conversation would not happen.

Heather McNeil is an online reputation manager and the author of Exceeding Expectations: How Yelp! Can Help. A 25 year veteran of the restaurant business, Heather McNeil consults business owners on best practices when responding to online reviews. She has a new webinar series, “How Yelp! Can Help: Increasing Revenues through Engagement and Recovery.” For more information, visit HeatherMcNeil.com.