Today’s guest post is by Peppercommer Julie Hoang.
Recently, I had an unusual experience that really put Peppercomm’s mantra “Listen.Engage.Repeat.” into perspective. While we often talk to clients about the meaning of the tagline, I understand it a whole lot better after actually having to live through its meaning myself! Here’s the story…
About two weeks ago, I went out to eat with my parents. That same night, we started feeling not so great. A little later, we felt worse. Needless to say, the rest of that experience didn’t end well with me taking almost three days to gain my strength and return to normal.
Once I had the strength, I attempted to call the restaurant, but to no avail. That led me to write a review on their Yelp page (which I don’t normally do) as I saw they were responsive in the past. I did not hear back from that either. To my surprise, I was instead contacted by the Department of Health (DoH)! I would’ve never imagined it, but the DoH has a Yelp account and actively monitors the platform. They saw my post and contacted me to speak so that they could better understand the situation (this is still being scheduled). I was dismayed that a third party was able to get back to me before the restaurant did, but applaud the NYC DoH for their great job at listening and actively monitoring the site for potential health complaints.
To figure out why this restaurant had such a lack of care and customer service, I made one last call to them last week. It took two days before a manager called back. He explained he had been off-site for a few days and that they don’t currently have anyone actively managing the Yelp reviews. He did apologize for the whole experience, and offered to refund the cost of the meal, which was great, but as a PR pro, opened up a much bigger issue they needed to address internally.
Yelp is a great way to interact with customers, but it’s also important to acknowledge and address their comments and issues in real time – before someone else does. In a world relying increasingly on relationships, brands NEED to show they care or customers will show them that they don’t. For this particular restaurant, this could have all been avoided if they initially addressed my problem offline. Instead, it escalated rather quickly and for a company in an industry where enough negative reviews could force them to shut down, this is not an issue to be taken lightly. When the “Listen.Engage.Repeat.” model is not practiced, dire consequences – in this case, having the DoH contact me – could result.
My final piece of advice for the restaurant? Go on Yelp and acknowledge you’ve addressed this with me offline. Then look into these tips for handling on-line reviews and read this from the NYCity Health Department. As for a pending discussion with the DoH, I still intend to hold one, but will explain that it was finally addressed by the restaurant. What would you do in this situation?
Usually I don’t learn post on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very pressured me to take a look at and do so! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thank you, very great article.
I’m trying not be be APPALLED that you applauded Conn’s.
Seriously, I’m glad that the NYC DoH is taking its job very seriously beyond just rating food cleanliness. Those places get regular inspections. There was a soul food joint in Clinton Hill that I used to like but it was getting sketchy and had “Grade Pending” signs all the time. Yesterday I saw DoH closed them up.
I have seen other businesses on Yelp get right on top of customer complaints. Then again, there’s Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, whose motto is “Scream. Dellude Yourself. Steal.” http://www.businessinsider.com.au/kitchen-nightmares-amys-baking-company-2013-5?op=1#amy-and-samy-bouzaglo-are-the-owners-of-amys-baking-company-in-scottsdale-az-samy-runs-the-restaurant-while-amy-runs-the-kitchen-1:
Nice post to share Julie! Your experience sounds terrible. But at least the reaction of NYC DoH is warm and comforting! I didn’t know that they are actually doing this job. Interestingly, I was talking with a friend last night about her experience buying a box of facial tissue from Target- terribly scattered inside… She complained on the company’s customer forum and the manager actually called her the next day. Then she was visited couple days after with a compensation. My friend was happy and said to me she would still be their consumer! We were talking about later that everyone understands companies could make some accident or have some sort of crisis. What differentiates a good brand is how they can recognize and fix the problem effectively. By listening, engaging and repeating of course!
That’s some story, Julie! I’m happy you got your refund but agree that the restaurant needs to work on its internal and external communications. Being reactive to feedback is one thing, but being proactive about listening and responding to customers (or clients) can take your business to the next level. I think the moral of this story is that “Listen. Engage. Repeat.” can translate well in any industry, and should be the number one priority for all employee or brand ambassadors, no matter who they are or what their role may be. If this restaurant was proactive about your complaint from the get-go, they could have resolved the issue before the DoH got involved… or worse, the RepMan.
Hope you feel better. It sounds like you are getting more help than the lady in Texas, where even NY Times’ The Haggler can’t get past Conn’s refusal to step up and say ANYTHING: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/20/your-money/the-haggler-many-are-knocking-but-the-door-stays-closed.html?smid=fb-share
Jessica, I couldn’t agree more.
Peter, thank you. And the experience this woman had with Conn sounds absolutely terrible. I’m applaud at their lack of regard for brand reputation even after the NYTimes article was published. I’m interested to know if this story ever has a happy ending.
**appalled at their lack of regard
I certainly don’t applaud it.
Thank you, Laura! Hearing from the NYC DoH was both surprising and comforting.
Great post, Julie! First, your experience sounds terrible. Second, I am so pleasantly surprised that the NYC Dept. of Health actually listens and uses social media to help curb any possible health code violations.