This is a guest post by Noelle Schuck of Content Blitz.
A lot of “famous quotes” sources give P.T. Barnum credit for saying: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”
Doesn’t matter who said it. It stopped being true about 20 years ago when the Internet became the new information superhighway.
Social media sites like Facebook, Yelp!, YouTube and Twitter give words longer lives and further reach, which means yesterday’s news takes a lot longer than 24 hours to become … yesterday’s news.
In the Internet age, there IS such a thing as bad publicity, and it can live a very long and public life, especially if you don’t actively manage your online reputation.
Case in point: Amy’s Baking Company
The Scottsdale, Ariz., restaurateurs from Amy’s Baking Company (also known as ABC) gained notoriety in 2013 after its owners engaged in wars of words with Yelp! users landing the restaurant on Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares” in May 2013 and becoming the first restaurant that Ramsay gave up and walked out on.
ABC’s problems started around 2011, when users posted comments like the one below, and its owners responded in kind:
Two and half years later, Samy and Amy are still biting bait that Yelp! users cast their way:
The restaurant has become somewhat of a tourist attraction thanks to “Kitchen Nightmares,” and the owners told a Phoenix-based Fox News reporter that they get a number of customers who come in just to see if they can provoke a fight. Bad publicity has been good for putting butts in seats at ABC’s tables, but it hasn’t been good for the owners’ reputations as purveyors of fine food.
What Amy and Samy Did Wrong
The Bouzaglos used negative language and defended themselves, and argued with their customers. The saying “the customer is always right” isn’t meant to be literal; it means, let them think they are right, otherwise, they’ll tell their friends and smear you on social media.
Respond with positive language and avoid defending yourself, regardless of who is right and who is wrong.
Suppose Amy and Samy had responded to Carl T and Tony S this way: “We’re sorry you didn’t have a good experience at Amy’s Baking Company. We take your feedback seriously and have already talked to our vendor about the quality of the salmon. We hope you will give us another chance, and allow us to buy you dessert.”
The lesson: The public will judge you less on the mistakes you make and more on the way you respond to them. Unless, your goal is to be on reality TV; then go ahead and make fools of yourselves.
What We Can Learn from ABC
- Monitor your online reputation. You’ll find several free tools that help you do this, including Google Alerts, and if your budget allows, consider a reputation management firm.
- No matter how much a customer pisses you off, don’t air it publicly. Hit happy hour with a few friends who own small businesses and vent to them; they’ll likely have bad customer stories to swap.
- Write a response and don’t publish it. Beat the hell out of your keyboard with finger-banging keystrokes as you spew venom at the person who damaged your good name. Save the file on your desktop, and don’t touch it for 72 hours. A broken keyboard is easier to replace than a tarnished reputation.
- Take the high road. Craft a response that is not defensive, accusatory or overly apologetic. You’re sorry that the customer did not have a good experience with your business. You’ve taken steps to investigate what happened and will use this as a learning experience. You hope the reviewer will give you a second chance.
- Keep it short. ‘Nuff said.
- Don’t take it personally. Some people are jerks.
- Find your sense of humor. Remember when Alec Baldwin got in trouble on an American Airlines’ flight because he refused to turn off his phone while playing Words With Friends while the plane was parked at a gate? He poked fun at the incident on “Saturday Night Live” and again subtly in a Capital One commercial.
The Bouzaglos of Amy’s Baking Company told Fox News that they’d signed to do a reality show of their own, which will portray them as the zany, likable people that they swear they are. The Fox report didn’t include a network or release date, and an Internet search returned no details.
Watch this space. Or maybe not.
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