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?