A number of years ago I was traveling in upstate New York and went to a Friendly’s restaurant. For those who don’t know the chain, it’s a family restaurant. You wouldn’t necessarily expect the service and food to be stellar but you would still have an expectation that someone says hi, comes and takes your order in a timely manner and gives you food that is halfway decent.
That particular evening as I was sitting in this restaurant it became pretty clear that they didn’t care about me, my money or my experience. I sat in this mostly empty restaurant for nearly 20 minutes before I even got my glass of water and gave my order. I then waited nearly 30 minutes for my fairly simple meal to find it’s way to me. This meal was mediocre at best.
When I went to the front counter to pay the cashier, without looking at me, she asked how my meal was. With a simple glance, I knew that she didn’t really care about my experience. She wasn’t going to do anything with a complaint. I’m sure you’ve experienced it.
I simply replied, “It was okay." I was just didn't care if they improved since I would never be back.
Her response, without look at me, was, “That’s good to hear."
Recently my family had an experience at a hotel that wasn’t just a bad experience but a downright awful experience. We had booked a number of hotel rooms for a group and the entire group had a bad experience. When calling and complaining to the manager on duty, the response was, “Well, when we checked them out and asked them how their experience was, they said it was good.” When calling to complain to the general manager, the response was the same."
I know that the experience was downright terrible because I received the complaints. In my company I believe in delighting my customers so it simply made me angry.
The fact of the matter is if your customers are upset, they will often do what I did at the Friendly’s restaurant and just cut their losses and say nothing. If you are lucky, they won’t say anything bad to their friends. If you are really lucky, they won’t say anything on a review site like Trip Advisor.
But, if they do choose to be vocal and it gets to a review site, there is nothing you can do to make it go away. Even if they lie through their teeth about their experience, it’s there for the world to see and there is nothing you can do except manage that by responding and hoping that your fans will come to your defense.
Reputation management is a key activity that you need to conduct if you work with customers in any way. Your customers that don’t complain will often spread the word to their friends about their bad experience. In fact, they will tell more about their bad experience than they ever will about their good experience.