Negative Winery Reviews are Not Bad
By Courtney Holmes
America really got a good kick out of Amy's Baking Company - they were the only restaurant owners that Gordan Ramsey from Kitchen Nightmares has ever walked out on. He realized he could never help them, because they refused to recognize that they needed to change.
While, Amy is an anomaly, some of us do suffer at some level of her affliction. Granted, Amy is nuts. But aren't we all a little nuts? We often fail to see "mistakes" as a learning process. So instead of acknowledging our mistakes and learning from them, we continue to make them over and over again and our quality of our work suffers. But worse, we as individuals suffer when we have too much pride. Developing your brand and ones character are very much the same, they require adaptation.
The hardest part of learning from our mistakes is to know how to handle it with grace and dignity. Yelp and Google Reviews make it very difficult to swallow the negative criticism because it is so public. And the reviewers don't have to look into the winery owners eyes as they communicate their poor experience.
Wineries, Negative Reviews Make you Better
Yes, it stinks that negative winery reviews are public. But before such sites like Yelp and Google existed, it was very hard to give feedback to businesses. Even comment boxes were buried or left in the cobwebbed corners.
Now wineries get to hear more feedback from their tasting room visitors and can put processes in place so that the experiences are better. As a result, visitors will have better experiences, spend more money and tell more of their friends about your wine.
But They are Not All Bad, Man
It feels nice to hear praise, right? Especially if it is public. Reviewers aren't just bitching; they are singing hallelujah as well. Remember, the main motivation for online reviewers is to be helpful to their community by sharing their experience so others can make good decisions on how to spend their hard earned dollars. And when they love a business they are more than happy to share, because that business is a good value and they want people to know.
How Not to Respond to Negative Reviews about your Winery
Don't do what Amy did from Amy's Baking Company on Kitchen Nightmares. Don't lash out on the customers and the staff. And definitely don't publicly lash out on social media about being victimized.
Don't make it about the external, i.e. don't blame the customers, the staff, the weather or the culture. You cannot control those things. What can you control? You! The only thing you have control over is yourself. And many people do not realize the depth of their power when they think about what they can change about themselves or how they run their business. We are amazing powerful creatures. Harness that power.
Be creative and find solutions to the problems that the reviewers are experiencing. Put processes in place so that it doesn't happen again. And do it fast, because it is justified to make a mistake once, but 2, 3 or 4 times….. Come on!
Negative Reviews: When it is Not Your Fault
You cannot make everyone happy. Thankfully Yelp and Google give business owners a chance to respond to reviews publicly. Respond to every negative review, because so many more people read the reviews than write them. You are responding to the reviewer as much as you are the readers. Explain to the reviewer that you are sorry they did not receive the value they expected from your winery and tell them why.
My favorite example is from one of the limo guests who didn't make a reservation. They were turned away because the winery doesn't accept limo parties without reservations. They wrote a negative review because they felt rejected. Your winery cannot accept the party because it is against your policy. Your winery has this policy in the interest of your other guests, so that the tasting room doesn't get too crowded and so you can set up private space for the limo party. Explain this in your response so that the review readers see that your winery means well and is thoughtful.
But still go out of your way to make it right with the reviewer. Offer them a private tour or free tasting. In fact, go as far as to change your process for dealing with unexpected limo parties. Tell your staff that if they turn away any limo parties they need to offer a free tasting and private tour to the party host (for another day). Be sensitive to the reviewer, they were offended because they felt rejected and embarrassed. Make sure that no one feels rejected again by being generous to the next unexpected limo party, but don't change your policy for reservations.
Our Secret to More Postive Reviews and Less Negative Reviews
Yes, it can be done. We have a proprietary app that will publicly post your wineries positive reviews on Yelp and Google, but the negative reviews will be kicked off. Instead any negative experience can be handled in the privacy of the offline world. I know, it sounds too good to be true? See for yourself.