How to turn a negative review into a positive one

Alright, here’s the timeline. A guest stays at a hotel and has multiple issues while staying there. They left the review because they had an early check out and couldn’t speak to a staff member. A manager wrote a sincere response addressing the issues and followed up with an email to the guest. The guest ended up writing a new 4 star review, impressed with the way the management handled their issue.

Not every reviewer is going to be that easily swayed to change their mind. But this just shows the power of great customer service! This guest is likely to come back to this hotel now, whereas before they likely would have stayed away.

Here are the steps to responding to a negative review.

Step 1: Read the bad review, see where you went wrong

TA bad review


Step 2: Identify how you can fix the situation and craft a sincere response

TA response

Step 3: Customer reads the response & changes their mind (results may vary)

TA Good review

Did bad customer service shut down this cafe?

I was on Yelp for my hometown, scrolling through recent restaurant reviews. I stumbled upon one for a cafe I had never heard of. I won’t name it here, because they were bought out by new owners some years ago and it seems like they are turning it around.

It only took me a few seconds to realize why this cafe was likely sold. There are multiple Yelp reviews complaining of the owner’s rude attitude towards customer and employees. On TripAdvisor, it seems that all reviews posted during this time were deleted, and only reviews under the new ownership are left up. This leads me to believe that the reviews were most likely negative.

grain comment


This is the first review I happened to read, mainly because I saw an owner’s response below it. I come to find that the owner’s response is worse than the 1 star review it is responding to. The exclamation points, the all caps, the accusations of racism, and threatening to go to court (I’m not sure you can over an issue like this). If this is the owner’s response to a 1 star review, I worry what he had to say to customers if they complained in the restaurant.

It is worrisome and hurts the customer service part of my heart to see a response like this. As a kid you hear “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all”. I think the owner should have taken this advice. I believe his response did much more harm than good for his cafe.

Here’s how I would have responded:

“Hi (Name),

I want to thank you for taking the time to leave us your feedback. I am very distraught at the horrible experience you had with us. This is not something we ever want to see and we take full responsibility for it. Let me address some of the issues you mentioned. First, the poor quality food is totally on us. I hope you will accept an invitation to come back and we will provide you with proper tasting dishes on the house. As for the iced tea, this is something we will look into fixing. I never really noticed the small difference in size, but I will start looking into ordering larger cups so we can offer two distinct sizes. For the refills, I must admit that we do charge for refills as iced tea is generally more expensive for us to make than fountain drinks which we offer free refills of. I apologize that you felt you were pushed out of the restaurant. I hope you will accept our explanations and our sincerest efforts to fix this situation. Please call me at 444-4444, let me know about your Yelp review, and we can go about treating you and a friend to a meal that we can be proud to serve. Thank you again for your honest feedback.”

This message took me about 4 minutes to write. And look at the difference in tone! Had I left this negative review and received a response like this from the owner, I would give them a second chance. Offering a free meal to a customer is a no-brainer. This one meal can salvage a long-term relationship with this customer and possibly their friends and family. The cost of the meal, let’s say $10, is much less than the potential lifetime value of this customer if they continue to dine with you, let’s say $100.

It pains me to see owners and managers get defensive at negative customer reviews. Customers want sympathy! They want to be heard! They just spent good money at your place to have a nice time, something went wrong, and they want you to do something. Listen, accept responsibility, and respond sincerely.

The original reviewer ended up writing a new review responding to the owner’s comments. This all could have been avoided with some honest, sincere dialogue from the owner.

grain response

My Morning Routine

I don’t know why, but I love reading about people’s morning routines. I’ve seen some threads on various subreddits like Minimalism and Simpleliving about this topic, they always get tons of comments.

My routine sometimes varies, it depends on whether it’s a day off or when the library opens (I like working from the library to get out of the apartment).

Work Days (Library Opens at 10am)
9am Wake Up/ Check email on my phone
9:05 Take Ellie out for a quick walk
9:15 Make coffee, food for the library
9:30 Get ready to leave
9:43 Head out
9:57 Wait for the library to open
10-3 Work on various tasks
Then I come home, let my girlfriend take her Jeep to work,
workout at the gym or do Insanity, then do more work

Work Days (Library opens at Noon)
10am Wake up/ Check email on my phone
10:05 Take Ellie out
10:15 Eat a snack
10:20 Change and go to the gym
50 mins – Lift weights, use elliptical and read
After 11 I come back, shower, make coffee, eat something
11:43 Head to the library

Coffee is a big part of my day, I probably drink more than I should but I love the process of making it and then spending an hour or so enjoying it. I used to use a french press all the time (I have 2), but my girlfriend bought me a Aeropress for Christmas and a hand grinder. So I have been using the Aeropress a lot, and hand grinding the beans (tastes great!). The Aeropress is perfect for a smooth cup of coffee with no grounds in it. The french press often has a more thick, bold consistency and flavor. I like both of them, I don’t think I could pick just one. The french press just gives me a bit more coffee because I can put more water in it.

I tend to drink coffee in the morning, around 4-5pm, then at 8pm. I have been trying to skip the nighttime coffee, and I feel like it is helping me fall asleep better. My girlfriend comes home around 1:15am so I usually stay up to see her, otherwise I would go to bed earlier and probably wake up a bit earlier.

I’m going to do a post in the future that will go more in depth into my coffee making process.

I’ve been enjoying getting my workout in first thing in the morning. I find that if I save it until after I come home from the library, I sometimes convince myself not to do it. Usually if I’m not feeling up for the gym, I’ll do an Insanity workout.

That’s about it! I have another post about my social media work flow, I may need to update it though.


How to Make an Impression on your Customers

It’s not enough just to have a good product or service any more. You have to make yourself and your company stand out. Like Zappos with their amazing customer service or Apple with their attention to design. These companies are well known because they focus on some part of their business and become the best at it. Can you think of any other companies that do something similar?

I was prompted to write this because I had a bad interaction with a company recently. I had an issue with my bill, and tried to call customer service. I called within the hours stated on their website, but I just got an automated message saying to call during business hours. Frustrated, I turned to Twitter. I tweeted to the company and received a generic response telling me to go to a retail location, which are located in another state. I told them that’s not possible, and they said to email them. To this day, I still have not received an email back from them. I had also sent another email to a different address, and tried messaging them through my account. I chatted as well and was told chat could only help you with purchasing. I resigned myself to calling back another time, though long waits plagued this company’s help line. I eventually got the problem solved, and this customer service experience will remain one of the more memorable ones because of just how poor it was.

What gives? How can companies be so bad at helping their customers? That’s hard to answer. One reason could be that the customer service agents I interacted with have a strict script to follow. Another reason could be that they just don’t care. And another could be that this was just a rogue agent, unwilling to be of much help.

So what can you do as a business to make a good impression on your customers, whether it’s their first time seeing your brand, or their 10th time interacting and purchasing from you?

One idea, is to give your employees more authority to make decisions. When a customer calls and has a legitimate complaint, maybe the delivery driver brought the wrong meal or the store sold you a shirt with a hole in it, then that employee should be able to decide how to remedy the situation on their own.Titos coaster

Another idea is to surprise your customers with a random act of kindness. This could be in the form of a discount, gift card, a nice handwirtten thank you, or a product. My girlfriend recently received a nice notebook from Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Inside was a nice little notecard that was printed to look handwritten. In the past they have also sent her a nice leather coaster.
Another company that does this is Buffer. They have a blog post about the different ways they delight customers: sending mugs, stickers, shirts, moleskine notebooks. Getting something like this in the mail, just because you are using their site makes you feel a special connection to the company.

I’m sure the ROI for sending out these gifts is quite high. Getting a mug from a site like Buffer, means you aren’t likely to switch to a competitor like Hootsuite or Pagemodo anytime soon.

It’s important that if you are going to send out gifts, they need to be useful to the recipient, not just useful to you. What I mean is that sending out something like those cheap corporate gifts (you know the ones, pens with company logos, a lanyard, post it notes with their brand). Send them something you would want to receive, and that you’d be excited to share with others. A benefit to sending out nice gifts like these is that many people will share it on social media with their friends. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does it’s great buzz for your business.

How have you been surprised by a company? Have you ever received a gift that made you feel really appreciated by the business?

Simplicity means freedom

confucius quote

If you can live simply, then you can be free.

I know this definitely sounds like some kind of weird preachy mantra, but it’s something I feel like many people don’t think about. I’ve embraced it, not fully yet, but I know this is my path in the future.

If you can live without needing lots of things, then you don’t need a lot of money, which means you don’t need to work much, without needing to work much, you can spend your time how you want.

I’ve already planned to buy a small plot of rural land, and build a small cabin on it with my girlfriend. I estimate this costing just a fraction of what a typical suburban home would cost. It depends where we buy the land, and if we plan to build ourselves or buy prefab.

Once the land is purchased and cabin built, it’s deciding whether to live off the grid partially or fully. Depending where the land is also determines whether we can get utilities. But I’m not too worried about it, as I plan for self-sufficiency already. Problem is, I like my internet :/ I’m hoping by the time I do this there is something more affordable than mobile internet plans which are currently prohibitively expensive.

Another issue is hot water. But it’s something I’ll have to figure out.

The electricity can be a few options. Solar if sunlight is readily available (meaning an area free of tree cover and clouds), hydroelectric (if we’re near a flowing river), and human-powered (build a bike-powered battery charger). These won’t necessarily run the home all day, but they can be used to keep a light bulb on at night or charge a phone. Heating will be supplied by a fireplace. The toilet will use compost.

I’m estimating around $20,000 for land and $20,000 for the cabin. This totals $40,000 bought outright, no financing needed. To live each year, we’ll need food, water, gas for the car, health insurance (maybe), and property tax. I don’t estimate this to be a huge expense.

Annual Expenses

Food = $300/mo = $3,600/year
Water = $30/mo = $360/year
Gas = $100/mo = $1200/year
Health Insurance = $100/mo = $1200/year (for 2 people on low income)
Property tax = >$1000 (Ex. Washington State property tax on average is $1300/year)
Miscellaneous = $200/mo = $2400/year
Phone = $60/mo = $720/year

Total = $10,480 for 2 people per year

These are just estimates, but I’m just showing how cheap it can be to live! I’m sure I’m missing plenty of items, but this is just a rough idea. I like to think about this because I see having a job as risky. You can lose it at any moment! Then all of a sudden you have tons of expensive bills and no way to pay them. Plus, I love the idea of living how I want. I’ve always wanted to move away to the woods, live in nature, spend time fishing and raising some chickens and goats, then venture into town every so often for groceries or random necessities. I’m hoping to also be able to save money so we can travel. This will be frugal travel, but I think it’s totally doable 🙂

***If you happen to read this and think I’m missing some expense or am budgeting wrong, let me know! I’m happy to hear critiques if they will help me improve my plan 🙂

Lessons from Predictably Irrational

Great book! This past week I read Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. I had started it a few years ago, but things got in the way and I never finished. I just wanted to give some bullet points as to what I took away from the book. (If you’re interested in it, check out the synopsis on Amazon).

  • Money is powerful, people hold it to a high regard, but remove it even just one-step and people who wouldn’t likely cheat or steal will do so
  • Be careful when it comes to FREE, it can change your preferences
  • Social and market norms are very tricky subjects (Ex. A social norm is bringing a bottle of wine to a dinner party. A market norm is paying a mover to move your furniture). Mixing these two norms is not a good idea. (Ex. Paying someone for hosting a dinner party)
  • People will work for free or work for a reasonable wage. When working for free, it has to be for something good or as a social norm (Helping move a friend’s couch).
  • Gifts are effective, but put a price-tag on that gift and you’ve now introduced market norms
  • People primed to think about money end up being more selfish and self-reliant
  • People are not good at self-control, even thought they overestimate this ability
  • People require freedom but also need some boundaries/restraints to do their best work
  • We overvalue what we own. We need to place less emphasis on our ownership of things when it comes to selling them or getting rid of them. (Obviously not for sentimental items like photos)
  • A seller’s floor is a buyer’s ceiling
  • We focus on what we may lose rather than what we gain
  • We hate to close off all our opportunities, even if those opportunities are not as fruitful

This is What You Get When You Hire a Bad SEO Firm

SEO is a popular keyword that marketing companies love to throw around. Problem is, not many of them know what they’re doing. If you aren’t sure what SEO is, whatever they say to you sounds good and will make sense. But there are many SEO practices that can hurt your business and website. These older SEO tactics are easy to implement, and they used to work, but major search engines have caught onto them and will penalize sites that utilize them.

Take for instance keyword stuffing. This is when a page or blog post is just stuffed with the keyword you want to target. If you’re going after “Best kitchen knives”, a bad SEO company may create a blog post called “Best kitchen knives” and continue to put “best kitchen knives” in every other sentence. If you read a blog post like this, they generally aren’t interesting, and the keyword repetition makes them a terrible read. This repeated use of the same keyword on a page is “keyword stuffing” and Google may penalize you for it.

Now, there are still SEO companies out there that practice this. If you hire an SEO company, you better be on top of what they’re doing. The last thing you need is for them to go out and get your website penalized.

I wrote this post because I just saw an example of this (they’re all over the internet). I won’t give the name of this company, but it seems like they hired a bad SEO firm. I’ll go more in depth about these bad SEO tactics that you need to watch out for, but just check out the types of blog posts these guys write for this company. You’ll noticed right away the phony headlines using the keyword, the poor English (some SEO firms use Indian/overseas writers to save money), and just how boring and useless the blog is.

bad seo 1


These two paragraphs barely have meaning. It seems like whoever wrote it just tried to use the biggest words possible. Then they spend two paragraphs trying to say that content marketing is important and you should use different channels to market. There are also examples of the poor use of English, which is common with overseas blog writers if you don’t hire them carefully.