No doubt by now you’ve heard of the nightmare that United Airlines has conjured up in the last few days. I’m not here to discuss what they did and why it is wrong, but I want to talk about the public backlash they are dealing with online.
Their online reputation is taking a beating and it’s getting uglier by the minute. Backtrack through their Facebook news feed and comment after comment on every post is an outraged individual offering their perspective of the situation.
The problem here is things have gotten so out of control there is no managing it until it dies down. I really do feel bad for whoever is managing United’s social media because it’s a worst case scenario right now. They’ve got an angry mob of people attacking from all angles and there’s no keeping up.
There’s a valuable lesson here for the local business owner. It doesn’t matter if you’re a restaurant, barber shop, dental office, or a gym. The public perspective of your brand – everything that makes up what your business means to the customer – is highly influential towards other people.
More and more people are consulting social proof these days before making a purchase or selecting a doctor to visit. They want to see the experience other people have had and if it’s worth moving forward. A quick Google search will pull up all relevant web pages about the business… if you’re ranking well enough you’ll be included in the local pack (that’s the top section of Google where the map is displayed… only 3 businesses are listed there.)
Your reviews will show on the page as well, granted you have any. Having no reviews is equal to having poor reviews. It looks like no one wants to do business with you.
But here’s the main issue with online reviews. Most people are too busy or too preoccupied with other things to take the 5 minutes out of their day to leave a good review. But if you take one step out-of-bounds and turn the customer to the dark side, well hate has an almost endless supply of fuel. Meaning, if you create a dislike in a customer’s eye, they will be fueled with a burning desire to see you burn. This means leaving a scathing review.
Now, we want to avoid the bad reviews but this is real life… there are bad apples amongst us. You’re going to get negative reviews for the most mundane reasons. Aside from apologizing, the worst thing you can do is ignore it and let it sit there.
The reason I mention not to apologize is because in some circumstances you’re not going to be wrong. But the customer is always right as long as you want their money. So, the best thing you can do is offer to reconcile the situation. Your response to the negative ad should be simple and direct. You want to take the conversation offline or at least to email where it’s private.
Mention to the customer that you care about their experience and you would like to straighten things out. Ask them to reach out to you via email or phone. Easy as that. Do not leave a lengthy rebuttal to why that customer is an asshole even if they are. Other people will not be aware of the situation or who the customer is. They will make their own assumption about your brand. And not to mention you open up the door for your competition to cash in on your mistake. Southwest Airlines social media is on point!
In the case of United Airlines, the internet has made it’s decision… the new company slogan is United Airlines: Not enough seating, prepare for a beating.