(This post originally appeared on Entrepreneur)
Online review sites, like Yelp and Google, are an important part of many businesses’ success. A few great reviews can create a buzz. A few bad ones? Well…
As a business owner you can’t ignore bad reviews or blame them on people being jerks (although I admit that will happen occasionally). But three new studies collectively show that you may be able to blame someone else: Mother Nature.
Researchers at Ohio State University collected customer reviews from 32 Florida restaurants and found something interesting: more negative reviews were left on comment cards by customers on rainy days versus dry days. And not by a little, either. The odds of getting a bad review when the weather was lousy increased almost three-fold. Higher temperatures and barometric pressure were also linked to the Florida respondents. Whether or not these were just a bunch of cranky old people was not taken into consideration.
“Restaurants can’t control the weather, but it may affect how customers review them,” Milos Bujisic, co-author of the study and assistant professor of hospitality management at The Ohio State University told Science Daily.
Anyone who suffered through the 2000 elections can tell you that it’s never a good idea to rely solely on any information coming out of Florida. Knowing that this could be fatal for their research, our plucky scientists from Ohio State wisely decided to repeat their exercise elsewhere. They polled another 158 people from around the country within a day of a restaurant visit and asked them to describe their experience — and the weather. The people who remembered the weather being good were more inclined to rate the restaurant positively. The people that couldn’t remember where they ate the previous day, or even the weather, were offered jobs at The White House.
A third study of 107 people in the Midwest, Northeast and Northwest regions of the country using similar questions yielded similar results. And yes, I’m kidding about the White House. Really.
None of these studies actually tested a customer’s online reviews, and we all know people can behave differently when leaving a review from the anonymity on Yelp or Google. Given how obnoxious some people are online, my bet is that the negative reviews would have been even worse. But the bottom line is still irrefutable: Lousy weather can turn into lousy reviews for your business.
It’s good information, and if you’re running a service business or a restaurant it’s worth taking note. Stepping up your game when the forecast is bad is probably worthwhile. You can offer special discounts or promotions to your customers but, better yet, is focusing on your employees.
That’s because, despite the delightful experience of having you as a boss, it’s probable that your people are in a worse mood than your customers when the weather turns bad. Can you blame them? Not only did they get up early to wash dishes and clean up after slobs, but they’re doing it on a gloomy day to boot. “A rainy day may put employees in a bad mood and that will affect their service,” one of the researchers said. “Managers need to explain that to their employees and work to keep them motivated.”
So bad weather means worse customer reviews. What will you do now that you know this information? Play happier music? Turn up the lighting? Offer more breaks? Cough up a few extra bucks? Tell a few more dumb jokes?
Please, not that.