STOP! Don’t hit send. I know you’re mad. I know you feel justice will be served if you spew a list of profanities blasting a business on a public forum. You’ll show them what happens when they disrespect you and blatantly disregard all of the doctrines of customer service that you feel they should follow based on your experience with customer service. I beg you…. Please… WAIT… Take a minute… and read this before you post that bad review.
We have ALL been there. We all have our horror stories about a bad experience with a business. And now more than ever we have the opportunity to voice our opinions in a very public way. From a business perspective, it’s good and bad. We can’t fix problems without knowing they are there. We rely on customer feedback to help (because that’s exactly what you are doing… you are helping a business) make sure we are doing our best. While we are all entitled to share our opinions, I urge you to consider the following before you choose how to handle your concerns.
- Is this incident the result of something within the control of the business? So many of us have bad experiences because of things unrelated to our purpose for visiting the business. For example, if it rained while you were at an amusement park, it could ruin your experience, but is the park to blame for this? If the business failed at something they could and should have handled differently, continue to the next consideration.
- Is this an isolated incident? Maybe I’m a romantic, but I like to think that most businesses do not start their days with a staff meeting about “how can we upset the most people today?” In fact, a lot of businesses spend lots of money and time on building their staff to better serve their customers. That being said, things happen. You will have a bad experience. If you have visited the business 100 times and on your 101st time, something happens, ask yourself… “Is this bad experience so bad that it outweighs all of the times I’ve been here with a good experience?” If yes, continue to step 2.
Okay, we’ve established that your experience was serious and within the control of the business. Let’s walk through some tips about how to make the most impact with your concerns.
- With the convenience of social media, it’s hard to avoid the temptation of leaving a bad review as you are walking out of the business. While this does get the attention of the business, it doesn’t give them a lot of opportunity to help you. Before you resort to public shame, consider giving the business the opportunity to fix a problem. At the theater, we have had some bad reviews from people who were too hot or cold during their movie (sometimes both complaints from the same movie). It’s a very frustrating position for us because if the customer waits until they get home to tell us, the damage is done and it’s hard for us to fix that specific problem for that customer. Generally, something like the temperature is an easy fix and we don’t want our customers to suffer. Ask the business. Lots of times, they are willing to help you out and fix your problem. If not, they probably deserve your bad review. As a general rule, businesses appreciate the opportunity to make your experience pleasant.
- Are you being reasonable? Many employees greet you by saying “How can I help you?” And they mean it. Your satisfaction is definitely our priority, but if you can’t help us help you, we are both stuck. If you are complaining because you feel personally attacked and just want to see the business suffer because they made you suffer, that’s your right and you can leave your review. If you have a specific remedy in mind, it’s okay to communicate that to the business, but a public forum may not be your best option. Many businesses will not publicly offer an expensive solution to your problem because of the precedent it would set. If you call or email the business privately, they can give you much more attention. It may feel like putting them on the spot in public can get you a better response, but often the business will want to speak to you personally so they can apologize directly to you and offer a remedy while also getting more information to prevent this occurrence in the future.
- Have you considered what will happen if you make your post? If there’s nothing the business can do to make up for what happened to you and you choose to post something negative about your experience, you will influence others. You may not feel your voice is very loud, but lots of us look at reviews for guidance when choosing what business to use. If you are temporarily mad, you can cause permanent damage to a business with one bad review. It may not seem like a big deal, but for small locally owned businesses, this can be the difference between our survival and closing our doors. I would hope that one bad review wouldn’t destroy a business, but your comments are definitely helping set the tone for the business. It takes 9 (NINE!) 5 star reviews to bring up 1 (ONE!) 1 star review to a 4.6. (This is also why your 5star review is super important!)
- Is there a better way for you to communicate your frustration? Often, you will get better results if you take a few minutes and collect yourself and thoughts before you approach the business. There’s a lot of truth to the saying “Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.” For some people, it can be difficult to articulate their thoughts on paper. For others, the idea of talking to a real person is more terrifying than watching IT. Pick a venue that you are comfortable with and clearly explain your situation. Don’t leave a business confused about what you are asking/expressing. We can’t help if we can’t understand and we want to understand.
- Do you have all of the facts? If a misunderstanding is involved, you will get much better results if you are calmly speaking with the business. You can tell the business all of the details that you might not want to share in public. They can explain policies or laws that contributed to your experience and you can explain the details of your experience. For example, we recently had a parent upset with us because we wouldn’t let his 17-year-old daughter purchase a ticket to a rated R movie. He was upset because she would have to drive to Knoxville to watch the movie. This is not our theater’s decision. The State of Tennessee has a statute (TCA 39-17-907) that says “no minor under 18 years of age” can be admitted to the Rated R movies. If Knoxville allows minors to purchase tickets, they are in violation of the law. You may be upset and screaming at the manager may make you feel better at the moment, but if you calmly discuss your concern with the manager, you may discover something (like the law) that can help you with the problem.
I’m going out on a limb and speaking for all businesses when I say that we wish every person could have a flawless and amazing five star experience every single time they interact with us. Unfortunately, that’s just not possible. We all have bad days and pet peeves. My hope is that if you’ve read to this point, you will think a little more critically before you blast a business in public. If you do choose to continue with a public comment, I hope that you will be thorough and helpful in your review and that you will give the business another chance.