The Playbook to Negative Reviews Nic Faitos, Owner of Starbright Floral Design, shares his approach to critical reviews.

By Emily Washcovick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Starbright Floral Design
Behind the Review host and Yelp's Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week's episode of the podcast.

"There's a consistency to my story and that has been built into the brand and everything that we do," said Nic Faitos, founder of New York City's Starbright Floral Design. And as the city's leading florist for the past 27 years, consistency has been a key element to the business' success. In this week's episode, our former and first-ever guest on the show shares his step-by-step playbook to addressing critical reviews.

Nic's journey with Yelp actually started because of a negative 1-star review. "When I first discovered it, I said, "Holy mackerel, what is this?' And my Mediterranean temper took over. The next day, I was on the phone with Yelp in San Francisco, trying to take the review down," Nic recalled. Although that review never came down, Starbright survived. From there, he took a step back to learn all about reviews and the benefits and insight they can provide for businesses.

"Everybody who writes a review… we take the approach that they care. They care because they want to praise and amplify the business that did the right thing, or they care to relieve some inner frustration that they may have had as a client," Nic said. "Put personal feelings aside. Nobody should be offended by a bad review, and we use them as a teaching moment." Reviewers care because they spent money with your business and want their opinions and experiences to be heard. As a successful business that receives very few negative reviews, Nic takes the time to analyze each situation when they do arise. What caused this to happen? What did they do as a business? Did a part of their system fail? These questions are discussed in staff meetings and conversations. Then, a resolution is proposed depending on the situation.

Although emotions can run high, Nic never responds to a critical review impulsively or negatively. He actually strategically lets negative reviews sit for a day or two. That gives everyone time for the emotions to cool. He always drafts his responses first, where he'll read, reread, and make edits before officially posting a response to the review online. Starbright also always tries to track down the person via phone or email to offer a resolution at a personable level.

"The key words to us are, "We hope to make amends,'" Nic said. "To apologize and say "Hey, I want to make this right.' To throw it in the customer's hands, and ask them what we can do to correct the situation." If your response is sincere, customers will likely be more understanding. Oftentimes, they will even take the review down or update it themselves."

Throughout his decades of work, Nic has come to realize that critical reviews aren't always bad for business. If you post a public response online and explain how you resolved it, it can even be good for business because it shows your dedication to high-quality customer service (and it also makes your business look more "real" because no business is perfect). And for Nic and the rest of the team at Starbright, they'll continue to operate with the consistent motto: "If there's anything that went awry, please tell us right away and we will correct it. If you love what we do, please tell the whole world about it."

Here are some additional key takeaways from this week's episode:

  • Utilize bad reviews as a teaching moment. Take the time to analyze the situation. At Starbright, Nic evaluates reviews based on the following factors: quality of service, quality of product, presentation, and what they did every step of the way. And from there, they act accordingly.

  • Don't impulsively respond to negative reviews—draft a sincere response. It may be tempting to act impulsively when emotions are running high, but try to let it sit for a moment. Nic takes the time to draft his responses separately in Word within a document that can't be accidentally posted. In addition to responding on Yelp, reach out to the customer separately to make it clear that you want to apologize and make it right. "At the end of the day, sincerity is what it's all about," Nic said.

  • Follow up with a resolution online. Negative reviews can be balanced out if they are followed up online with a resolution. If the customer does not update their review, show how you resolved it.

  • A healthy mix of reviews makes you real. If you've been in business long enough or have enough volume, you're bound to have a few negative reviews sprinkled in. Starbright averages one 1-star review every two years—something Nic and the team are incredibly proud of.

  • Assume every customer will write a review. Although not every customer will write a review and share their experience, operating under this assumption trains you to always be at the top of your game and to give the best service as possible.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Nic, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers.

Emily Washcovick

Small Business Expert at Yelp

As Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily is meticulously focused on helping local business owners succeed and grow. Her expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management, and all things digital marketing. Through speaking engagements and thought leadership, Emily shares industry insights that entrepreneurs in any business category can leverage for the growth and well-being of their businesses. She is also the host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media, where each episode features conversations with a business owner and a reviewer about the story and lessons behind their interactions.

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