I live in a wonderful community made up of a bunch of little towns and cities about 45 minutes east of Orlando. Although our county is 73 miles long and boasts a population just over 500,000, word spreads fast. Like wildfire. Treat a customer badly, and it’s likely that within 6 degrees of separation (or less), people will know about it.
Anyway, on to the story. Last night a friend of a friend posted two copies of a receipt from a local merchant. In a nutshell, a customer went in to this bar, completed her meal and tipped the waitress. Two hours later the receipt was reprinted and the tip changed (photo on left). The customer came in the next day, asked why the charge was different on her bank card, the manager said the receipt was confused and another customer signed it by mistake and that the customer should dispute it with her bank. The bar did not want to refund her then because they say customers have come in the past, asked them for a refund, and still asked for the chargeback from their bank.
In the comments, someone did post that unfortunately, you are guilty until proven innocent on social media. Having handled customer disputes for local businesses, I agree to some extent. There are people out there that just want to take advantage of a business, but this obviously was not the case this time.
Here are my tips to how this business should have handled this matter:
- Handle customer concerns right when they happen- First, this should have been handled when the client came into the bar. Refund the customer right away, apologize for the confusion, do what you need to do. No, the customer isn’t always right, but when they have been charged an incorrect amount, you should do everything to accommodate the customer.
- Don’t post customer information on the internet- it was very easy for me to doctor this image to blur out the name. Even then, you shouldn’t put up customer receipts online. Defend your case if you must, but don’t put up her info.
- Build trust from the get go, and customers will have your back- When I read ‘ The Social Media Strategist‘ by Christopher Barger, one of the things he recommends is building trust through your social network. When you interact with your clients, put up things that show off your personality, and have a genuine rapport with your online community, they are more likely to go to bat for you when crap hits the fan. If you never do this, like this bar (who only puts up their own promotions and never interacts with customers), and have a reputation for bad customer service, small issues like this will blow up in your face. I happen to have a bad personal experience with this bar and several others on the original thread did too. Not ONE customer stood up for them. This is a giant red flag. Build trust with your customers during their visit, online and have a genuine interest in them. You will be rewarded when your business is going through a difficult time.
The bar ended up taking down the receipts, but the harm was already done. As a PR professional, the only thing I would suggest is to be truthful. It’s hard to swallow your pride, but your customers will respect you and you’ll save whatever reputation you have. Be truthful and say ‘ We were wrong. Our employee was dishonest and we have taken care of the situation. We apologize for the way this was handled. Please ask for the manager during your visit if there are any issues’. It’s not too late to start a policy of good customer service.