Yes, the platform allows ill-meaning people some easy air-time to have a dig at your business.
You've probably found yourself asking "why didn't they say something at the time?" before. But we can't lose site of the usefulness of it to genuine customers with an issue.
Let's be honest, not every pub is perfect. More and more are delivering excellent experiences for their customers, but even the best are going to drop the ball on occasions.
As a customer, the following happened recently and it made me think about Tripadvisor again...
I'd taken my wife to a local gastro-pub for a celebration. Nothing too exciting, a simple lunch whilst the boys were at school.
It's a well known site, a destination food pub next door to a golf course.
We'd never been but fancied a treat after some good news.
The website did its job - selling the venue, and making me look forward to the meal.
Sadly, that's where the good experience ended.
I won't go into details, but the entire meal is summed up with one word: Indifferent.
No welcome as we walk in and approach the bar - instead the three members of staff were having a chat amongst themselves.
Drink orders forgotten at the table.
Food disappointing, to say the least.
Our celebration, a rare meal out without children, all ruined.
I've had much better service in managed houses.
So it came to be time to pay.
Do I raise the issue here? I thought.
Do I ask for a manager? I wondered.
Or do I respect what my wife asked - for us to leave without fuss and never come back?
And this is where TripAdvisor comes in.
I have a policy of not using it given work in the pubs and restaurant business.
But for most customers, what are they going to do? Tell the member of staff who is the reason for the lousy experience, to their face, in front of other customers? Embarrass their partner? If indifference is the word to describe your lunch, why would you speak to a manager when you'd expect the indifference to continue?
So you can go home - or nowadays pull out your phone right there and leave a review without any fuss, stress or confrontation. That is the attraction of TripAdvisor for many.
Poor food is quite easy to complain about to a waiter or waitress - it's not their fault.
Poor service, when there's no clear leader around to speak to quietly about?
Not so easy.
So the next time you see a review and think "well why didn't they say something?" put yourself in their shoes.
How to respond:
- Thank them for letting you know.
- Apologize for the poor service, that's not the experience you want any customer to have.
- Ask them to get in touch privately so that you can make amends.
- Say you'll raise it at the next staff meeting – and do so.
If, instead, you write a 'confrontational' reply remarking on how nothing was said at the time, what do you think the next customer who has a similar experience will do?
- Raise the issue at the time, having seen on TripAdvisor you're quite confrontational?
- Or leave a review without fear of confrontation?
Yes, there are people that exaggerate or plain lie on TripAdvisor. But not everyone.
And we all need to be careful not to label the genuine reviews in the same way as the lies.
Instead show your excellent customer service skills to the average of near-50 other people who will read that review and your response.
In house, you can also make it easier for people to complain by training staff to check up on customers and ask for feedback during and after their visit.
Yes, you read that right!
When people complain, it gives you an opportunity to improve your business - again, not every time but often.
As for me?
I wrote them an email.
Not asking for money back or a replacement meal, but giving them details of our experience so that the next customer like us has a better time with them.
Unsurprisingly, I've not had a reply.
Ed Davies is a digital consultant who works within the licensed retail sector.