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Sarah Haston: READ through the social media feedback

Sarah Haston • Updated Feb 20, 2018 at 1:00 PM

Have you ever pulled up to the drive-thru window of a fast food restaurant to only be so disgusted that you were reluctant to take the bag of food you were rushing to get? Have you ever been on a family outing that you were so excited about that you anxiously awaited Saturday all week, to only use the restroom while you are there and the floor alone is too disgusting to describe? Have you ever tried to make a purchase in a retail store, to only have the cashier stare at you and hold their hand out for your money without so much as saying a word? 

If your answer is yes to one of these, I think that is one too many. Whatever happened to the idea of always putting your best foot forward? Are you a consumer wondering now to yourself if the amount of bad service you receive out numbers the amount of exceptional friendly service you desire? Are you a business owner wondering if your customers have this experience with you? 

There is a customer service example about a negative experience that is always used to make a point about service that goes something like this… a person who has a bad experience will tell at least 10 friends, and a positive customer experience is rarely shared. 

Now, of course, this could vary and is obviously an old statistic, because in the world of social media today, a bad experience can go viral and tell thousands if not millions with the right execution. So you have to ask yourself, at what point do you choose to go to social media as a consumer and start “Facebook shaming” and how would a business even begin to try to recover from such a horrific experience? 

I think the obvious answer here is to hire, train and retain the right individuals within your business or organization to potentially avoid such situations, but realistically, we as professionals or adults cannot control how other adults choose to behave. Or can we? 

In the last few weeks, we have visited the idea of creating strong company cultures based on service. Can exemplary service still exist in the world today? Sure it can. We cannot fairly say that all millennials are careless and lazy, just like we cannot fairly say all baby boomers are not relatable because they are simply too old to understand technology. These are both unfair and illogical slippery slope arguments that we do not need to use in our day-to-day business thinking. 

We should include in our company mission, vision and values all people should be treated with respect, and this includes employees and customers. So does this mean you run such a tight ship that that people are scared to make a mistake? No, I don’t think so… just like with raising a family, we as leaders must teach others and help guide them to make the best choices. But as the “boss,” you must instill your values in your employees, and those values must be so important to the team they are trained, drilled and retrained on the values. The attributes of the employees bring the better experience to your customers, and so on. 

So how do you respond to an unfortunate Facebook post before it gets out of control? Here is a breakdown of some simple steps you could incorporate into your social media policy you have for your business. The acronym for this process is easy to remember because you will READ each post that you are mentioned in or tagged. 

I also must mention here you should set up an online alert to notify you when your business name is mentioned on the internet. This is a basic rule to managing your brand. 

• Respond: Rule No. 1 is respond to the post. It doesn’t matter how negative the post is or how untruthful and explicit it is. You, as a business owner with accountability to have a presence on social media, should respond to all comments, questions and complaints about your brand online.

• Empathize: You must empathize with their situation and complaint. The consumer is so frustrated at this point they have chosen to post in all fury their concerns to the whole world on social media. Try to empathize with how they feel, because they have such passion for what happened at this point. It almost doesn’t matter who was right and who was wrong. 

• Apologize: You must acknowledge their complaints and concerns and simply apologize, just like you would if they were standing in front of you. Apologize in sincerity for the situation and for how this has escalated to the point they are at. Let them know you are here to help, and make it better for them for the next time because you do want them to come back. 

• Disarm: You must disarm them by moving the conversation offline. Put out there your contact information so they know that you are happy to discuss this further with them and come to a resolution. Tell them you appreciate the feedback and are happy to help. Let them know they can call you at any time at the number provided and help them when they call. It’s important here to give your name if your page is a business page. 

As for the consumer who has the bad experience, here are a few thoughts before you pull out your cellphone and socially shame a business. Let the business know about the issue in a calm, respectful way. Ask to speak directly with a manager and give them the opportunity to handle it. I am sure they will welcome the feedback as they are probably anxious to hear how a new employee is doing and need to understand gaps in their training program. 

Also, they might be working on determining how many employees they need in certain roles and perhaps need to know if they are struggling with delay times. 

Your criticism is most likely going to be helpful to the small business owner and will serve a greater purpose if you simply talk to them instead of turning to social media. 

Sarah Haston is the economic development director in Lebanon.

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