$500 For a Bad Review

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It was reported this morning that The Union Street Guest House in Hudson, NY will charge guests $500 if a negative review is posted on Yelp and other social media sites. Since the story broke and as of this writing there have been 39 new 1 star Yelp reviews 29 new 1 star Facebook reviews and countless Tweets. I’m not surprised by these numbers and they will continue to grow. It’s no longer word of mouth,  it is now word of the internet. One negative post, review or article can be damaging to a business, especially if it is picked up by a news organization or goes viral. Because of this, a business really needs to be attuned to the needs and wants of their customers.

Since I started to work with customer service oriented companies, in helping them with their social media presence, I tend to pay much more attention to stories like these and can see their unfortunate impact. Some have more staying power than others, but I have a feeling if The Union Street Guest House does not change their policy, it will be talked about for some time.

I have never stayed at The Union Street Guest House and know from experience that Yelp reviews may not be 100% truthful. However, this is not a solution to their problem and will probably just deter more and more customers.

As of 12:00 PM on Monday, August 4th they posted the following on their Facebook Page:

“The policy regarding wedding fines was put on our site as a tongue-in-cheek response to a wedding many years ago. It was meant to be taken down long ago and certainly was never enforced.”

The post was flooded with comments and taken down.

This afternoon, the policy was removed from their website.

To make things possibly worse, it was just covered on the ten o’clock news. So much can change in a day. It will be interesting to see where this goes in the coming days.

The One Thing that Jack Bauer and Social Media Have in Common

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Jack Bauer never sleeps, and neither   does social media. Social media is a 24/7/365 machine. Anything can happen at any time. 6:45 AM on a Wednesday, 10 PM on a Friday or 9 AM on a Saturday.  At any hour, minute, or second someone can be posting or talking about your brand, even if you do not have a presence on the platform. This also goes beyond the typical engagement of people adding comments to your status updates and becomes a concern when it comes to customer
service related issues. Good or bad.

Facebook and Twitter have turned into customer service portals, almost by default. People are much more likely now to go on to social media sites and post their question, concern, rant or review than to pick up the phone or send an email. We now live in a world of immediacy, and sometimes anonymity, and need to be available to our customers around the clock as much as possible.

Always respond to comments and reviews. Never delete them. If you reply and assist the customer and resolve their issue to the best of your ability, they may update their review or post, and publicly and thank you. However, It’s not always possible to have an answer for every question right away. In some cases, you might not have enough details, to give a concrete answer or solution. The best thing to do, at minimum, is to acknowledge the post and invite the customer to call you or a representative of the company by providing a direct phone number with an extension. By doing that you show that you are listening and that alone can put the customer at ease. There is now a public record of your response which can be seen by other customers or members of your community which gives you more trust and credibility.

It’s imperative to listen at all times and have tools and a plan in place to monitor and take care of customer service inquiries should they arise. It will benefit your customers and your bottom line. Customer retention is just as important, if not more than customer acquisition.

Monitor. Reply. Repeat.

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