It’s not a matter of “if” but “when.”
No matter how hard you try, there’s always a chance you’re going to have unhappy customers who decide to vent their frustrations about your restaurant, food, or service via social media.
Then POW!--just like that one negative tweet or Facebook post can quickly turn into an online rant session that can be incredibly difficult to contain.
I know it can be incredibly frustrating. In fact you might think they’re being totally unrealistic. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore their comments.
Take a few minutes to clear your head, let the sting of their online barbs subside, and gather your thoughts. Once you feel like you’re good and ready, it’s time to map out your response.
Acknowledge Customer Comments
Frustrated customers want to know they’re being heard. This can be especially difficult for local restaurants since most aren’t going to have a dedicated marketing department (or marketing person) to monitor online chatter 24/7.
But that doesn’t mean your customers still aren’t going to expect an immediate response (within minutes or at least within the hour). If your restaurant has a social media presence you need to keep an eye out for any questions, comments, and concerns throughout the day.
Once something does appear on your radar, the best way to keep frustrated customers from becoming even more frustrated is to acknowledge them.
Thank them for reaching out. Apologize for their frustration. Let them know you’re looking into the issue (and mean it). And then do everything you can to take the conversation offline.
The last thing you want to do is risk the potential of having something trivial escalate into an online bitch session.
Even when a customer says your plants smell like cat pee...
Address the Issue
It’s not enough to just say you’re going to take care of the issue and then put it off for later. If you feel action is warranted you should always address the situation sooner rather than later.
Before we go any further, I want to stress the importance of determining whether the situation is worth a response.
As a restaurant owner you know better than anyone else that there are always going to be those cases where someone is just trying to score a free meal or game the system and, no matter what you do, they’re never going to be happy.
In those cases you still want them to feel heard and to defuse the situation, you just don’t want to find yourself giving away free meals or establishing any bad precedents.
Always remember—frustrated customers have a way of getting more frustrated.
If they’re upset because you have trash in your parking lot or snow on the sidewalk, that’s usually a pretty quick fix. If they haven’t left yet, there’s a good chance they’ll see that you’re already addressing the issue and that’s always a good thing.
In this case, the customer literally offered to address the complaint herself. I’m not sure how this one was ultimately played out as the restaurant didn’t follow up with her online, but that could have potentially been a fun and creative way to turn negative feedback into something positive.
Once you’ve addressed their comments and concerns, the last (and arguably most important) step is actually let them know. I know it might sound like a no-brainer, but sometimes it’s easy to overlook.
Following up is a great way to give frustrated customers some closure, show that you value their feedback and that you’re responsive, and turn negative feedback into something positive.
How do you handle social media complaints?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
By: Shawn Graham
[Image: Flickr user Merete Veian]