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Restaurant’s Response to Yelp Review Causes Lost Customers and Media Backlash August 4, 2010

Posted by StrategicGrowth in Social Media, Strategic Growth Concepts.
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Social media, for some a marketing opportunity unmatched by any medium to come before; for others, the worst thing to happen to their business.

Those who have read previous articles on social media on this blog are aware of Strategic Growth Concepts position that social media is meant to provide an opportunity to effectively communicate with a business’ customers and potential customers.  Using social media correctly enables a company to gather opinions from consumers, to shape consumers’ opinion, to share information, and to interact in a way that not only enables their business to grow, but also makes consumers feel that they’ve had a role in helping the business to do so.

However, using social media incorrectly can cause a myriad of problems, not the least of which is the loss of customers and a potential public relations nightmare over which a business will have no control.

Unfortunately a pizzeria owner in Scottsdale Arizona is now learning  about this the hard way – though she doesn’t yet seem to be learning the lesson.  Below is the story.

As most of you are likely familiar, Yelp is a social media site that enables consumers to provide reviews of businesses they interact with, and to provide opinions about things like customer service, a business’ facility, it’s products and for restaurant’s – ratings on the food that is served, pricing, atmosphere, etc.  In recent months the site has garnered a lot of national attention and a signficant increase in consumer participation.  Many articles have recently been written in national publications and the blogsphere about the need for business owners to be aware of the potential that consumers are rating their business on Yelp and similar sites, and that other consumers are paying attention to these ratings – very close attention.  Further, many articles have also been written advising business owners to become familiar with the sites, and to learn how to effectively interact with consumers using them so that any negative situations have the potential of being turned into positive ones.

It appears the previously referred to Scottsdale Arizona restaurant owner hasn’t read the articles, because she did the exact thing that business owners are warned not to do; she took the occasion of a negative review on Yelp, responded very inappropriately  to the customer via the site, and now because of the tenor and content of her response, the whole incident has become a media firestorm and a public relations nightmare!

Joel Latondress, the customer, wrote a Yelp review of the pizzeria, Amy’s Baking Company, that indicated dissatisfaction with his experience when eating at the restaurant.  When Amy’s Baking Company’s owner responded, she attacked Latondress personally, likening him to a tramp and a loser and telling him to “Do us a favor and keep your ugly face and your ugly opinions to yourself.”  Click HERE to read the complete story and see a video by a Phoenix area publication.

Owner Amy is now dealing with the repercussions of that decision.  Not only has the incident garnered an incredible amount of national press, but consumers are now responding with extremely negative reactions to Amy’s response to Latondress and vowing to never visit her restaurant.  Therefore, one negative review has now lost Amy’s Baking Company thousands of potential customers because of an inappropriate response.

Could this situation have been handled better and received a different result?  ABSOLUTELY!  If Amy had done her homework and been aware of the appropriate way to use social media (as well as had a bit of common sense), she could have responded to Latondress’ posting with sincere empathy for having provided him with a less than positive experience during his visit.  She could have invited him back with a substantial discount, or even for a free meal, to provide the restaurant with an opportunity to change his opinion to a positive one.  She could have shown concern that her business did not meet his expectations as a customer, and vowed to improve.  At the very least, she could have apologized for his dissatisfaction and asked for an opportunity to change his mind at some future date, expressing her concern as the business owner that all of her customers be left with a positive experience after visiting her facility.

Any of these responses would have resulted in, at the very worst, one negative posting being on the site if Latondress had decided not to enable the restaurant to have another opportunity to change his mind, and that would have been the end of it.  Instead, Amy’s owner has taken the negative experience of one customer and turned it in to a nightmare, for herself and her business, one which the whole world is watching.  Personally, I’ll be surprised if her business survives, and reading the postings that are continuously being added to her Yelp site, it appears that a majority of consumers would prefer that it didn’t.

Let this be a lesson to all business owners, CONSUMERS ARE GOING TO BE TALKING ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS ON SOCIAL MEDIA.  Therefore, do everything you can to insure they have a positive experience to talk about; and if by chance they report a negative experience, use common sense and basic customer service skills to do everything you can to turn that situation into a positive.  Don’t end up like Amy!

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  7:37 P.M. 8/4/10:

I have been monitoring the community forums on Yelp to keep up-to-date on this situation.  Unfortunately, it appears Amy is unreceptive to all the advice that is apparently now coming her way about the way to interact with customers on social media.  Below is a quote from her that ran in the Phoenix NewTimes and was re-posted in the forums:

“Based on Amy’s most recent comment on the New Times article, she is very clear that no one should feel bad for her.” Julia T.

Amy B says:

If you are all so ignorant and naive to believe that my restaurant will close because of your ridiculous comments then you are all in for disappointment.

My husband and I opened this restaurant for Fun and as a Hobby. We paid to keep this place closed for ONE YEAR while I was in Prison.

I sincerely appreciate all of the attention that this is bring to our restaurant. What is that age old saying? “There’s no such thing as Bad Publicity?”

None of you were my customers before that Tramp Joel came into my restaurant trying to Hustle a free dinner out of us. And none of you will ever be welcome in my restaurant!

We have the pleasure of choosing our customers, who in turn always end up loving us and becoming members of our family.
All of your verbal attacks and advice to use a PR Firm or hire some “Social Media Group” only proves my initial impression from the beginning of this entire situation. You are all so willing to advise me to hire a PR firm and you are all sending me tweets and emails offering your services so what is this some feeble attempt to try to “Shake Me Down?” You people have no idea who you are playing with.

If Joel had a valid complaint and truly there was something wrong with his Pizza that night I would have graciously offered him something else, however from the moment he sat down he was trying to get something for free. He wanted to order the $3 olive Tapenade but changed his mind when he found out it the bread was an additional $3. Is his way of trying to support local business coming in on a Saturday night to order a $3 appetizer? If this is the type of customer that you all represent then PLEASE feel free to go to any other restaurant in this State! My husband and I save our energy for our true customers who don’t have a hidden agenda. And as for me being vicious and mean perhaps you should all take a look at the things you are saying and see who is truly being vicious. All I did was stand up and defend my business. Since when become a crime to fight back against negative reviews when they are untrue? My loyal customers don’t care about negative reviews that are being written or the verbal attacks you have launched against us. They are smart enough and classy enough to not lower themselves to your level.

Here is the link to the chain of comments.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  9-7-10

The following comment was received today from restaurant owner Amy B.

From amy b on Restaurant’s Response to Yelp Review Causes Lost Customers and Media Backlash #

We have actually been very busy, so I suppose your article is incorrect.

Given Amy’s response, apparently her restaurant has not been adversely affected by the media frenzy surrounding her postings, but in this author’s opinion, she also hasn’t really learned any lessons about appropriate communication within social media.  A more appropriate comment, in my opinion, would have been to apologize to Joel and those who were offended by her postings, to reiterate how much she cares about the opinions of her customers, and to list a few of the lessons learned during this ordeal.

I hope for Amy’s sake this article is wrong and she is not experiencing the business reductions that the social media commentary would seem to indicate, but I would find it surprising.

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  5-14-13

We are disappointed to see that it appears that almost 3 years later Amy has not changed her behavior, though she has apparently gained an even larger audience – on Reality TV.  http://now.msn.com/kitchen-nightmares-couple-are-posting-angry-comments-on-facebook .  All we can say at this point is WOW! Frankly, am very surprised that this restaurant is still in business, but apparently the people in her community have a high tolerance for horrid behavior.

____________________________________________________________

The author, Linda Daichendt, is Founder, CEO and Managing Consultant for Strategic Growth Concepts, a marketing / management consulting firm focused on start-up, small and mid-sized businesses.  Areas of specialization include:  Mobile Marketing, Social Media Marketing, and Virtual Events production.  Linda is a recognized small business marketing expert with 20+ years of experience in a wide variety of industries.

Linda is available for consultation on Mobile Marketing and other topics, and can be contacted at Linda@StrategicGrowthConcepts.com.  The company website can be viewed at www.StrategicGrowthConcepts.com .  For more information on Mobile Marketing please visit the Mobile Marketing section of the Strategic Growth Concepts website.

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Comments»

1. amy b - September 7, 2010

We have actually been very busy, so I suppose your article is incorrect.

2. Cheap Las Vegas Hotel accommodations | All Shows In Vegas - August 4, 2010

[…] Restaurant’s Response to Yelp Review Causes Lost Customers and Media Backlash « Marketin… […]

3. Katryn Harris - August 4, 2010

Great story Linda! I was recently very favorably impressed by the reverse – a franchise (Druxy’s) that took great advantage of a complaint in hours and got lots of positive online pr. The story is here (http://annefleetwood.wordpress.com/2010/07/01/an-excellent-reply-from-druxy%E2%80%99s/) and Peter Druxerman is fanatical about responding to all online comments related to Druxy’s. Nice to see people doing this well 🙂
– Katryn

StrategicGrowth - August 4, 2010

Hi Katryn –

Glad you like the article. Thanks for including the link to your positive story; will definitely check it out!

Regards,

Linda Daichendt

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