Had a very thought provoking conversation this evening with restaurateur Marc Bianchini, owner of several very popular restaurants including Coa, Osteria del Mondo, Cubanitas and Indulge, all of which offer truly outstanding experiences.
I wish I had Marc’s comments on video to share with you, regarding the impact of online customer reviews from the small business owner’s point of view. Powerful stuff. Marc spoke about how seriously he takes customer feedback, how hard he works to correct any legitimate complaints, and how much negative reviews on sites like Yelp and Urban Spoon impact his business, his staff, and his family. Keep in mind, Marc’s restaurants are consistently rated among the best by various “professional” critics; yet, amateur critics – even some blatantly FALSE critics (competitors, perhaps) – seem to dominate in the online review space.
Seems to me, and many others I’ve spoken with, that people are generally a lot more likely to review a place on one of these sites when they are looking for a place to bitch than when they have had a good experience; yet, the average non-social-media-consultant (are there any of those left?) doesn’t think about that when looking at the reviews.
Many of us have become so accustomed to voicing our frustration every time an experience isn’t perfect that we do not stop to consider the impact that our actions may have on someone’s livelihood. I am of course not suggesting that we should stop sharing our negative experiences; but, I am asking that we make sure we balance it out with spreading at least as much love and feedback on our positive ones. It would really be a shame if we were, collectively, spending so much energy bitching online that we were damaging great businesses in the process. Wouldn’t it?
Sometimes, an experience really deserves a negative review. And sometimes, a taco is just a taco, and we might stop and consider working out our discontent with the business owner before telling the world that our taco was cold and we deserve better treatment, damn it.
You may not be aware – as I was not, until recently – that this past Spring, a class action lawsuit against Yelp! resulted in the site changing its advertising policies. The suit claimed that the site “runs an extortion scheme through which the company’s employees call businesses demanding monthly payments, in the guise of ‘advertising contracts,’ in exchange for removing or modifying negative reviews appearing on the website.” Keep this in mind when weighing reviews on the site into your decision making process.
Most importantly, spread some love for your favorite businesses. Please.
What do you think? Are we as quick with praise as we are with criticism? Do we need to be more balanced?