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Restaurant complaint that sparked a Facebook crisis

Crisis on Facebook: knives & pitchforks

Crisis communications can be a nightmare for small businesses who use social media. In the past month I’ve seen two Manx cases where firms should have thought twice before posting – but then climbed down, deleting the posts and pretending they never happened.

Why is that so bad?

Screenshots and Google.

Nothing you ever read on the internet is every truly lost. Let’s take the most egregious example: the Manx restaurant owner who took to a fairly opinionated group page to insult their customers.

This is what started the whole thing:

Restaurant complaint

The complaint that started a Facebook crisis

The owner went onto the group to respond “f*ck you, losers”.

Now, I have friends who run restaurants and no matter what they think of a customer, it’s always easier to grit your teeth, apologise and offer the meal for free than to run the risk of 258 comments.

Yes, 258 – on a closed group, too.

And it gets worse when you check TripAdvisor, with some fairly stinging replies to lukewarm reviews.

It’s bad. Bad because the Isle of Man is a very small place. Too small to risk offending customers for the sake of saying “Sorry you had a bad experience, have a free meal” and defusing the whole thing before it began. I’m not a restaurateur – but even I know the old adage that says happy customers tell three friends but unhappy ones tell ten.

Since the Facebook group row went viral (I discovered it via screenshots posted to Twitter), the owner’s deleted the pretty angry replies and the admins have turned off commenting. So now what do I know about that restaurant? Only the screenshots which still survive, and the effect they’ll have on Google rankings in future.

What can you do?

Everybody gets a bad review now and again. But bear in mind four tips:

Don’t get defensive!

Social media mobs love to grab the pitchforks. And if your words are there in black and white, I guarantee if the comments that first gave offence were bad, their replies to your anger are going to be orders of magnitude worse.

It’s a tip that could have staved off the whole row to begin with. We all know social media isn’t always the most pleasant place to read about yourself, but on the other hand staying away from an argument and offering customer service to those you’d much rather not is a far better route for your company’s reputation.

Lest you forget: the people reading your comments are potential customers. They’re not all the awkward, spiteful ones you may be addressing. Let it go – and reach out. Your customer service skills are only really tested when things go wrong.

Take the blame

Yes, you can delete your posts. No, they are not gone. Yes, you can refuse to discuss it. No, that doesn’t mean the conversation online is over.

Hold your hands up to it and apologise. If necessary explain it’s a stressful time and that you snapped without considering other people or the consequences. But don’t let the critics carry on without you: that way madness (and embarrassing search results) lie.

It is hard, of course. But trying to remove a stain from your online footprint is much, much harder. An apology is by far the quickest route back to some sort of normality, especially if the row is following you around on various websites. To err is human – to apologise is superhuman!

Post where the crisis happened

Most people won’t be visiting your webpage or Facebook page or Twitter feed to find out about the whole fuss: they go where the argument is. That’s where you need to be to. In this case, I know quite a few people who joined the group just to find out what the fuss was about.

If that’s where people are talking about you, that’s where you need to post. Again, deleting what you said earlier doesn’t work – cached and saved copies of pages will still be around, as well as screenshots.

Keep people updated

If you do have a bad review, keeping your Facebook or Twitter page up to date on what you’re doing to set it right is far, far better than going to ground or pretending it never happened in the first place.

And if your service and charm do win out, well then there’s a victory to post about right in the place where you may have slipped up to begin with. Every crisis is an opportunity – if you know how to respond!

If you’d like to find out more about the social media training we can provide to companies of all sizes on the Isle of Man, click here. We can help with marketing, content and crisis management as well as explain the potential legal risks you run when you or your employees post online.

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