Flaming the Fans
There’s a dive bar in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C. called “Dan’s Café.” It really is a “joint” in the truest sense. It’s dirty, dark, cash-only, and self-serve. When you order a drink, they give you a plastic cup, some ice, some mixers, and a bottle of liquor. They famously serve mixed cocktails and shooters in plastic condiment squeeze bottles.
Have at it.
They’ve pretty much been doing the same thing since they opened in 1965. They’re not anxious to change anything, and they don’t really care. They don’t have a website or any official social media channels.
They do, however, have such a reputation that they have a parody Twitter account.
National magazine Politico recently published a blurb about two up-and-coming Capitol Hill aides who met, fell in love, and got engaged at Dan’s Café. The parody account posted a statement:
“We are aware of an alleged incident involving an engagement at our establishment. We are deeply sorry and will do our best to ensure it does not happen again.
We understand that we are a safe haven for singles, bad decisions, one-night stands, and other customers simply hoping to forget. Love is not something people want to see in our dimly lit bar and the fact that it seems to have happened around Valentine’s Day is all the more sickening.
We have already reduced bathroom and floor cleaning frequencies and lengthened the amount of time that champagne can be left uncorked in hopes of discouraging future incidents like this one so that our degenerate customers will once again feel at home in our bar.”
As you can imagine, with a reputation as famous (or infamous) as Dan’s, the reviews are all over the board. And in this day in age, there are a thousand places to post them, with thousands more eager to do so. But Dan’s has never responded to a single review. Never. Technically, without a social media presence, they can’t. Furthermore, they don’t want to. They are who they are, and they don’t want to change.
Shut up and drink your squeeze bottle.
Not all of us have this luxury. No matter the nature of your business, there’s an outlet somewhere that will allow people to vent, and they’re increasingly anxious to do so. What, then, do you do when someone flames you in a review or comment?
First things first: Reply to every review and comment – good, bad, or indifferent. If it’s a rave, thank them. If it’s 3 out of 5 stars, thank them for the review, and ask what you could do to earn more stars. If they’re genuinely disappointed, apologize.
This part is key: It’s important to be honest. If you’ve screwed up, say so. Whether you’re at fault or the client is being unreasonable, you understand their disappointment and have a keen desire to make things right. These sentiments should be at the front of any response. While you need not offer a specific resolution in your response (refund, free service, etc.) express a desire to rectify the situation and end with a desire to take the conversation off-line. “Can you email me at Bob@Bobswidgets.com” or “Call me at 804-555-2112…” You don’t want your dirty laundry to be aired in public any more than it needs to.
Here are some examples from clients that we’ve worked with:
- A tenant left a bad review for an apartment complex due to service issues. The elevators were forever out-of-order, it took her forever to get a replacement key fob, and there was a general lack of responsiveness from the building’s management. She decided not to renew her lease prior to posting her review.
“Jessica: We’re very sorry to hear about your disappointment in the level of service at The XXX. We’re pleased to be able to offer a number of amenities and conveniences to our residents, and our goal is to pair that with responsive customer service. Your comments will certainly be shared with our team as we strive to do better.”
No real resolution for Jessica, but anyone reading the comment will see your commitment.
- Bee Green Recycling offers cash for scrap metal. A customer left a bad review, claiming that Bee Green shorted him cash on a load of brass. He had light fixtures, door knockers, candlesticks, etc. Bee Green examined his scrap and determined that very little of the material was pure brass.
“Bill: Much of what you brought to us was a brass/alloy mix. Everything that was not pure brass will need to be remediated before it can be recycled, and that drove down your payment. We follow the markets closely, and update our prices almost daily to make certain that our customers get the best prices for their scrap metal.”
There really wasn’t anything to apologize for and no reasonable resolution, but anyone reading the review will see that Bee Green treated the customer fairly.
Sometimes, however, you have to fire a customer.
One of our clients runs a sports bar and had to kick out an unruly patron. The next day, he proceeded to leave bad reviews on Facebook, Google, Yelp, and every other platform he could find. On Facebook in particular, he left his review and then commented on every post from the previous month – dozens in all. They all had the same message: “Don’t go there. The owner is racist.”
This is person that you don’t want to engage with. Whenever possible, remove the comment or review. If you own the page (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) you can likely block them from commenting or interacting with the page. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter will allow you to report for trolling or spamming your account. Most of your platforms have a button for SUPPORT or to REPORT a problematic post. Use it.
Whenever possible, include the commenter’s username (their @ handle). Explain that you are the business (page) owner, this is the situation that led to the review, and this is what the commenter is doing. They are harming your professional reputation and their criticism is unreasonable. If you can, include screenshots of their comments. It often takes a few days to reach a resolution with the platform, and not every platform is going to be responsive, but you have to take it as far as you can.
No matter the platform, they call it “social media” for a reason – it’s a conversation. And not every conversation is a pleasant one. But like any exchange between two people, if you’re honest and polite, you can defuse a potentially negative situation.