TripAdvisor and YelpOnce in a while, a story will spread online of a business owner who has responded to a negative TripAdvisor or Yelp review in a pointed manner. The headlines for these stories include words and phrases like “epic,” “perfect” and “hilarious take down.”

I get it. It’s your livelihood. Maybe the reviewer was nasty or unreasonable. It was fun to give them a dose of their own medicine. To take them down a peg. But here’s a question: what’s the business value of doing so? Do you believe it nets you a profit or a loss?

Unfortunately, I would not be surprised if some restaurant and hotel owners and managers believe they will be the next “viral sensation” by responding rudely to an “unfair” Yelp or TripAdvisor review.

Good luck with that approach. You are winning the battle and losing the war.

Flashback to Yesterday

I am about to take a short trip with my family (who, coincidentally, have spent a lot of time working in the service industry). We want to watch a football game on Sunday and there is exactly one restaurant, in the town we are going to, that will have the game on TV. My mom looked at the restaurant online and viewed their TripAdvisor page and was amazed at how the owner responded to a negative review.

Note: it wasn’t the negative review that bothered my mom. It was the owner’s response. She forwarded it to me, and I couldn’t believe how rude the owner was.

The negative review was pretty striking because the person described a terrible customer experience. But the response to the review was even worse. It was so condescending. Full of put-downs and excuses. If that wasn’t bad enough, it was poorly written grammar wise.

The restaurant owner posted his full name, so I Googled it and, sure enough, his personal Facebook page was the first listing. I opened it, only to see that he has recently shared two links to stories about restaurant owners leaving snarky responses to negative reviews.

Guess what? My family is not going to this restaurant. We are literally going to the next town over to watch the game, in order to avoid this establishment. The restaurant owner will never know about it. That’s why these sorts of responses are almost always a major mistake.

The Quiet

When you leave a pointed response to a customer, you are primarily going to be hearing from friends, family and random strangers who like a good fight. If your story goes “viral,” maybe you’ll hear from a larger group – most of which will never even visit your town, let alone give you any money.

For every one of those, there are an immeasurable number you’ll never hear from, who simply won’t visit your restaurant because you were unprofessional. They fear you won’t make it right if they have a bad experience. After all, you’ve already shown them how you handle complaints.

People might slow down to look at a car crash, but they don’t want to be in one.

Once time passes, all you are left with is a review – and a response. Whatever good feeling you felt by posting that response, that will go away. The press will die down (if you even receive any). Your friends and family will forget about it. But the review and the response will remain. And what you said will continue to impact your business.

Here’s a big hint: you want customers to see that you handled a difficult, unreasonable, rude customer with ease and tact. When they see that, they know you’ll deal with any problem in the same manner. When you respond in a rude, condescending way, that leaves them to wonder how you’ll react if they have an issue.

Let’s Break it Down

You don’t respond (just) for the individual.

You don’t respond to make yourself feel better, save face or protect your pride.

You respond for every person who will ever read the review and your response.

Negative reviews represent opportunity. Respond accordingly.