Combatting the Critics

26 June 2019

Social media has completely transformed the way people interact.  In many instances, it has improved how we communicate, breaking down geographical and physical barriers and allowed us to share information instantly.  On the flip side though, it also means negative feedback can be published by disgruntled customers immediately, gain traction quickly and sometimes cause irreparable damage to a brand.

Complaints that clubs may have typically received in a private manner, be it verbally in person or over the phone, or written in a letter or email, are now available for everyone to see, comment on, and even share! Proper preparation is necessary to ensure the negative effects of social media don't potentially keep you from experiencing that positive benefits of increased contact with customers.

So, what do you do when negativity arises online?  Perhaps a member didn't even raise the issue of the hair they found in their food at the venue, and just chose to leave a scathing review later at home.  Or, perhaps, security turned away a patron who didn't meet dress regulations, and the disgruntled individual has chosen to go on a keyboard tirade in retaliation.

In Edward McQuarrie's A Sociology of Taste, Audience and Publics, a study showed that 29 per cent, 34 per cent and 30 per cent of patrons sometimes, often or almost always read reviews before dining at a venue for the first time.  First impressions count, and unfortunately these may be formed before someone has even stepped inside a venue.

For this reason, it's extremely important to acknowledge your customer feedback - both positive and negative - and respond accordingly to ensure future customers aren't deterred by the negative.  It can be helpful to draft a range of sample responses that are customisable to the particulars of the feedback.  This promotes a more consistent, timely response, as the responder is not writing each individual reply from scratch each time.

Be sure to address the poster by name and acknowledge their complaint, concern or compliment.  If a solution or explanation is suitable but cannot be offered immediately, communicate that, but revisit the post and reply once one is available.

Depending on the severity or seriousness of the feedback, you may choose to continue to conversation with the poster privately.  It's important to respond to public-facing comment as well though, ensuring others who come across it know the compliant hasn't been ignored.  Encouraging the poster to respond privately gives you a chance to placate the situation without publicising issues further.

Finally, if your club has made a mistake, own up to it!  Admitting fault, apologising and rectifying the situation is much better than avoiding the problem.

Unfortunately for your brand but fortunately for impartiality, reviews cannot typically be deleted.  Reviews that are completely misleading or unsubstantiated may be damaging, but unless they violate a platform's terms of service or community standards, it's unlikely reporting it will result in removal.  Implementing the tips above and encouraging positive reviews to tip ratings back in your favour is the best course of action in this instance.

(SOURCE: Gioenne Rapisarda, ClubsNSW Communications Officer, ClubLIFE June 2019)


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