Sip Mounlath is the owner of Mt Eden-based eatery Bolaven, which opened in May and has 15 staff.

Customer reviews seem to be a norm in the hospitality industry. Can you tell me about the role they play in your business, especially with Bolaven being relatively new?

I think customer feedback is always welcome, because it's a tool for measuring business performance. We monitor reviews to make sure we're performing in a way that meets our expectations but we also try not to take them personally because there are lots of other ways to measure your success in business. Repeat business is the most important measure for our business and when you start to see regular customers you know you're on the right track.

How do customers leave their reviews? What channels are the most popular?

Customers will often tell you directly about their experience in real time. We've also seen reviews written about Bolaven on Instagram, Facebook, Zomato and TripAdvisor. So far we've found that Instagram is the most popular channel. Customers will often take photos of their meals and make a comment or tag their location while they're still on the premises.


Customers can also email us directly to give us some feedback.

How do you monitor your customer reviews?

We're active on Instagram and Facebook because we have our own profiles on those sites that are maintained daily. We receive notifications and will respond to reviews where it's possible and appropriate. In some circumstances it's just as simple as 'liking' a comment and others require a little more diplomacy.

Who in the business responds to your reviews?

My manager and myself are the only two people who respond to reviews. If there's a situation where the feedback is negative we'll consult each other on it before responding to make sure we're going through the correct processes.

I think business owners can be scared at the prospect of getting negative reviews, but what's your take on that?

Before we even opened the doors we worked with business coach Zac de Silva to develop a customer experience plan that included working out exactly how we would respond to any positive or negative feedback. We decided early on that any feedback is good feedback, because it's either a pat on the back for the team or something that we can learn from. We use customer feedback as a tool for motivating our team.

How do you do that?

When we receive good feedback from customers I'll personally relay that to my team. I think it's important that they feel appreciated and their hard work is acknowledged both by the public and myself. Often a simple thank you is enough. Equally, if a customer makes a fair observation that's constructive we'll discuss it and take the lesson on board because we always want to make our product better.

How do you respond to any negative reviews?


With negative reviews we'd adopt the practice of 'the customer is always right' and try to fix the matter to the best of our ability. We'd then look internally to see what went wrong and where our systems failed us so that there isn't a repeat of the situation. And in some situations we just have to accept that not everyone will appreciate our offering and that's okay, as long as we've maintained our standards from our perspective.

Are false reviews placed by competitors an issue in the industry?

We're aware that false reviews do happen but we believe in our product and offering and we'll always maintain our own standards regardless of what competitors are doing. We don't conduct our business that way and if others choose to behave in a negative way then that's a reflection on their business practices and not ours. We won't ask anyone to give us a good review if we don't deserve it and we won't post false reviews on others. The industry is hard enough without all the dirty tactics.

Lastly, what are your top three tips for handling customer reviews?

1. You will never be able to please everyone.

2. Have a guideline from day one for how to handle feedback, as it is inevitable.

3. Focus on the positives and use them to give recognition to staff.

Coming up in Your Business: What are small business owners doing to make their operations more sustainable? What measures are they putting in place to ensure they lessen their impact on the environment and improve their bottom line? If you've got a sustainability story to share drop me a note: