Truth builds trust: Why you shouldn’t lie on social media

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.

Image( don’t you love the little astronaut on there? did I mention we’re Florida’s Space Coast?)

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.

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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Travel reviews for businesses

One of my primary job duties for my clients is to manage their online reputation on travel sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and Google Places. This is increasingly becoming more and more important for businesses in our area, as we are a tourist hotspot with Disney being a little over an hour away. Positive and negative review management are equally important in my book. 

I stayed at the Grand Beach Hotel in Miami Beach, FL during the ING Miami Marathon last January. We actually purchased it on a daily deal site, so my expectations were a little low, and with previous South Florida hotels being less than stellar, I was bracing myself. But we were in for a very pleasant surprise. Not only was this chic, clean and comfortable, it was outright beautiful! So I submitted a TripAdvisor review. And within a few days, I had a response thanking me for staying at their hotel. What a lasting positive impression.

Here are my tips for managing your reviews, both positive and negative

  1. Be prompt- No matter if it is positive or negative, be quick to answer. Timeliness is everything, Customers usually expect a negative experience to be handled within 24-48 hours. You have to budget a day for your response to be posted on TripAdvisor, so the quicker you can respond the better.
  2. Address things they mentioned directly- It can be counterproductive to make your answer like it was spewed from a robot’s mouth. So if they commented on a specific dish, a certain staff member or the price of an item, address that directly. A personalized and specific response is more genuine and the customer will feel like you have listened to them.
  3. You don’t always have to apologize- Sometimes, the customer isn’t right. I had a restaurant client of mine where the customer was irate because she though a certain dish was supposed to be presented a certain way. Never mind that the chef has been making the dish the same way for 28 years and is classically trained in his cuisine. Even after management tried to resolve the issue they threw a big fit and put things in the review that are outright lies, such as the staff pounding their fists on the table. Don’t feel like you have to apologize for every bad experience! If the staff did everything to try to resolve the matter in a respectful and acceptable manner and the client is still not pleased, explain your side of the story (without blaming anyone) and ask them to contact you further if they feel an appropriate solution has not been offered to them. For all the honest reviews that are out there where people genuinely bring up matters that need to be brought to the owner’s attention, there are people out there that just want something for free. Resolve the matter if possible, but know you won’t make every customer happy.
  4. Get your best customers to submit reviews- When I worked in retail and customers would comment on my job performance and what they could do for me, I would tell them to submit a letter to my manager commenting on my performance. Same thing goes for business reviews. Your customers want to help? Give them a call to action and ask them for a glowing review. And feel free to reach back out to them with a thank you discount. 
  5. Share reviews on your social media pages- If someone has raved about your dish or your hotel room, share it on your Facebook page! Even people that are passively engaged with your page with see a pattern of great reviews and will unknowingly have a much more positive view of your brand. How many times have you caught yourself saying, “I heard that dish was good” after seeing a positive online review? My point exactly.

If you haven’t checked out your travel reviews, do so now and register your businesses so you can be immediately notified of new travel reviews. Remember, in the social media world and in travel reviews, silence is not golden. It’s harmful.

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The coffeehouse and other perks of being self-employed

Following last week’s post about How to Stay Creative while transitioning to self employment, I took Connie’s advice and came to the coffee house today. I’m already feeling much more accomplished as I keep crossing things off my list while enjoying some delicious coffee at my local shop, Juice and Java . If you can think of Friends and Central Perk, that’s pretty much what this place is. If only Central Perk was on the beach. Love the surf decor here.

ImageIt  got me thinking of the work life balance that is often advocated for employees, then I stumbled upon this article on buzz feed.

http://www.inc.com/young-entrepreneur-council/8-start-up-perks-for-the-summer-months.html

Some of the advice that caught my attention

1. Take Beach Breaks

Well I think I have this one dialed in. Although I haven’t taken a beach break yet (not sure why, I’m only 3 blocks away), this one coffee break has made me feel so much more focused and accomplished than I usually do at home. Maybe it’s the coffee, maybe its the energy of other people around me. Either way, I feel refreshed and recharged.

3. Implement GSD Mondays

Well, all Mondays should be GSD Mondays for me, but sometimes it’s hard to get into that rhythm, at least right now that I am starting out. However, one of the first things I did this morning was to make a to do list for the week. I have a client meeting tomorrow and knowing that I have today to prepare for the meeting means I have to organize myself. 

The link between most of these is that proverbial work-life balance. Have people get outdoors, leave earlier every now and then, be healthy and you’ll have a happy productive workforce.

I have to keep reminding myself that just because I am so hard on my work ethic, it doesn’t mean that coming to a coffee house to do my regular work or going to the beach to take a thinking break isn’t working. In fact, I think it’s making me a better strategist for my clients and happier self employed me.

What have been some of the dogmas you’ve had to reteach yourself when you went to work for yourself?

 

 

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Staying creative during this transition

Today was my first day officially going part time to start my social media business. Although the last few weeks I have stayed at home one day during the week, this week I am officially part time at my nonprofit job. When you’ve been mostly working at a desk for a large portion of your professional life, it can be difficult getting up from my home office desk during the day. I still feel like I need to be in my chair for at least 8 hours a day. 

I’ve made good headway into creating my new logo and am getting familiar with Corel Draw. I’ve been wanting to learn basic graphic design for a while now and this was one of the reasons why I wanted to go part time. After being terrified of the prices of Adobe Creative Suite, I was delighted to hear from my graphic designer friend just how competent Corel Draw was. I am testing it out for 30 days, but I have a feeling I will like it a lot. It is super intuitive and works much like Quark Xpress, a desktop publishing program I am used to. 

But after editing to many nodes on my vector image, I was about to lose it. 

I’m lucky my husband was kind of tired at working at his office, so he came home for lunch. At around 3 pm, I was burned out. I had been editing images for 7 hours by then and my brain had checked out. 

So we went to go see a movie. 

I was delighted to see this infographic by Socially Stacked. If you haven’t checked out all the apps that ShortStack offers, you are missing out. Many of them are free, and will make your facebook pages look a lot better. They’ll also help you run contests, provide menus, etc. 

I immediately tried

#4- Get Away from the Computer

#21  Break the Rules ( I technically left work early)

#28 Have fun

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I often work nights and weekends and really felt I just needed to step away. Sometimes, when you come back, your mind is clear and you’re able to tackle what needs to get done. Like this long delayed blog post! 

What gets your creative juices flowing?

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Did that guy just flip me off?

I had quite an experience this morning. On my way to work, there was a car in front of me that had several ‘Sheriff’s Association’ stickers and a big plate attached to his real plate that made anyone from here to Mars realize he gives to the Sheriff’s Association. I always wonder if this really gets people out of speeding tickets.

Well that wasn’t really the problem this morning. It was a 45 mph zone and this guy was going 35. I naturally switched lanes without honking or anything and suddenly the guy gives me the one finger salute. I pulled up next to him and gave him a look like ‘What was that for?” and he just kept looking at me as if he had done nothing wrong. Then to top it off, I see a large magnet stuck to his driver’s side door announcing he was a driver for ‘DS Shuttle Service’. Unbelievable.

When you hire people to be part of your organization, these people are your representatives, your face in the community. Likewise, with the growth of social media, this is more important than ever. Now, I’m not saying you need to police every single thing your employees do online. But a simple social media policy that asks them not to discuss politics, race, religion etc. is appropriate, especially if they’ve plugged your name into that employer box. Think of your employees logging on every day to talk to reporters. That’s how social media affects opinions. Never forget people buy from people and when they don’t like those people, the damage is sometimes irreparable. Your social media policy can be short and to the point, and will help cover you when an employee has clearly stepped out of line in saying something negative and you wish to take action. Otherwise, you don’t have a chance.

Now, I’m on to find more about this company and be sure this guy’s employer knows what terrible

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Are you looking for my running blog?

I’ve recently changed my wordpress address. My running blog is now on correlemartha.wordpress.com . Check that out for running and veggie eating goodness. This blog will transition to my social media blog. As a graduate of the University of Texas El Paso in Communications, I’ve grown with social media and am now training and consulting for local businesses. I also work for a major nonprofit in my community as a Communications Coordinator. Lots of exciting stuff is changing in our landscape and I hope that together we’ll navigate it all more smoothly!

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