Don’t let a natural disaster lead to a reputation disaster!
Each week, Erin Jones and I take a look at the most interesting reputation management stories, answer your questions, and share valuable ORM tactics. In this week’s episode:
- Looking for bottled water in a hurricane? $42 a case is NOT a Best Buy!
- Panera Bread learns the importance of always being respectful to a customer.
- A new Stanford study suggests we’re not just examining the reputation of the companies we do business with.
If you have a question you would like us to tackle, please leave a comment below or on my Facebook Page.
Transcript (forgive us for any typos):
Andy Beal: Welcome back. We have another packed show for you. If we didn’t have a packed show, we wouldn’t be here, because we have a policy that if we don’t have anything good to talk about, we’re just going to shut up and let you get on with your day. But, we do have some good stories.
We’re going to kick it off with one that you’re probably already aware of, and that is Best Buy. Now, we’re going to pick on Best Buy, because I had to start somewhere. There are a lot of companies that did some foolish things during the hurricane and messed up their reputation. Best Buy, basically, charged $42 for a case of water in Texas. Word started spreading quickly that Best Buy was price gouging, because hey, if you see a case of water for $42 at a Best Buy, you’re going to think that they’re trying to cash in on it.
Well, apparently, they were trying to do the right thing, but it was a pricing mistake. Because you see, they don’t sell water on a regular basis. Somebody there didn’t know how to mark up the pricing, and so marked it up per bottle and that’s how we got with a $42 price tag. They were trying to do the right thing, but at the same time, as well, they were also trying to get in on something that was going on. So, it’s hard to say, “Hey, well, were they really just being altruistic, or was there something else they were trying to do?”
We saw a lot of case studies just like this. Erin’s had firsthand experience of, I think, with one of her clients, where there was … others were price gouging, but your client was doing the right thing.
Erin Jones: Yeah. I actually got really lucky working with some people with a good set of ethics after some of my bad experiences with companies like Best Buy. I think I’m a little bit jaded.
There was a situation going on where there was a shortage of a product, and most vendors were doubling, even tripling and quadrupling, prices of this product to try to cash in and take advantage of people who really needed it. My customer decided to go the other route, and they actually dropped their prices below MSRP. They didn’t make a ton of crazy revenue during this time, but still have customers coming back saying, “Hey, you stood up for the little guy during a tough time. We’re never going to forget that. We tell our friends about you. We’re your customers for life.”
We talk about the lifelong cost of a client or a customer or the lifelong benefit of that customer. They may have cashed in on the short-term, although with the social internet out there, I don’t think they did even cash in on that, because people know now. The word got out that they were doing it, whether it was intentional or not, it made them look terrible. I think that that long-term cost is going to be large for them.
Andy Beal: Yeah. It’s interesting. We should all know that during a disaster or during a shortage of a product, or whatever it may be, that’s not the time for getting rich. There should be something inside of us that says that price gouging is wrong. If there’s not, you deserve all the heaps of negative reputation you’re going to get.
However, there’s also something to be considered here in terms of when you do something right. When you lower your prices, when you volunteer your staff’s time, when you open your doors as a shelter, or provide resources, don’t do it in a way that you’re beating your own chest and self-promoting yourself and saying, “Hey, look. Look what we’re doing.” It’s one thing to not do the wrong thing and price gouge, but also, be very careful about trying to earn good will points.
Let consumers, let the public, let customers, be the ones to promote that. Let them be the ones that take the Instagram photo or post to Facebook, “Hey, look what this mattress store is doing. They let first responders come in and sleep in between 12 hours shifts.” Let them be the ones to spread the word. You focus on just doing the right thing.
Erin Jones: Yes. We need to quote that. If more brands would just focus on doing the right thing … I know that I’m Kumbaya about spreading good will and doing good things for others, but I feel like it comes back to you 1,000%, whether that’s in loyal clients, whether that’s in not getting bad reviews. Doing good brings more good to you.
Andy Beal: Right.
Erin Jones: Even if you are thinking you’re going to get rich off of a quick weekend, I actually read that Best Buy definitely wasn’t the worst offender here. There was a Best Western hotel that was tripling their nightly rates. Best Western has since come back and refunded the people that paid that rate and removed their franchise license from this location.
Andy Beal: Wow.
Erin Jones: It could have some serious long-term effects well beyond what these people are thinking on making a quick buck.
Andy Beal: Right. Absolutely. Hopefully, you guys can understand and get some good ideas from this that there’s another hurricane coming, right? This is not the time to get cute with your social media boasts and say, “Hey, come in from the rain and enjoy Happy Hour.” I’ve seen that just today. I saw things like that. It’s not the time to do that. You think you’re being cute, but be smarter. Just give some thought to any kind of promotion you’re going to do.
Honestly, people are worried for their homes, they’re worried for their pets, they’re worried for their lives. They’re not really worried for Happy Hour, so … All right. Let’s move on.
Erin Jones: Right. Really quickly-
Andy Beal: Yeah, go ahead.
Erin Jones: One thing that you remind people often, and I think this is another good time to put in that reminder, is turn off your automated promoted posts. This is not a time for that. Drive down somewhere, hand out some water bottles. Send $50 if you can. Do something for others, instead of working on your own self-promotion with this time.
Andy Beal: Great reminder.
Moving on, Panera Bread. Now, I just saw this one recently. I don’t know if anybody else has seen this. I know Erin has, because we discuss all the stories. Panera Bread, one of those situations where we see it often, the employee decides to write something nasty, or maybe he thought it was comical, on somebody’s receipt, bill, invoice, whatever it may be. On someone’s receipt, apparently a woman wanted just to change something in her salad. It said on the receipt, the receipt that he handed to her, said, “Add watermelon for this stupid witch.” Except, it wasn’t “witch”, it was the word that rhymes with witch.
There are so many lessons to be learned from this. This has been going on for a long time, hasn’t it, Erin, this kind of stuff?
Erin Jones: It has, and first of all, I want to know what is possessing people to still do this. Is this not part of employee training? Back in the Dark Ages, I worked at a restaurant. It’s a very popular chain restaurant. They, back then, were even smart enough to have the tickets that employees could write notes on did not get printed on the customer copy of the receipt. The notes were supposed to stay internal, but they didn’t always do that.
We had a bar tender who would take to-go orders and use very blunt descriptions of the people who put in the order, because they didn’t always have a seat number or a table number that they were sitting at. He would use things like, “desperate housewife,” or, “bald, paunchy, cheating-on-his-wife guy.” Those were on the mild end of things. He would put that on tickets.
So, it never failed, we would have a new server come out. They would bring a to-go order out and yell out, “Hey, so-and-so, I have the order for the desperate housewife,” not thinking … I don’t know if they thought it was a friend of his and it was a joke or what, but he would inevitably come out and shush them and take the order and then deal with the customer and give them their order.
I always wondered, did people just not make a stink about this, because there wasn’t a place to make a stink about it like there is now with social media? Did they go home and just never come back? Did they really not notice? I don’t know.
Andy Beal: Maybe they got the response that this customer got. She spoke to the manager, and he was indifferent to it, and just basically said, “Would you like me to remake your salad?” She called corporate and corporate wasn’t much better. It wasn’t until she posted a photo of the receipt on Face book and it went viral, that she got the apology and the employee was terminated. She went through that, but now we have social media, so now everybody has a voice, and you could get pretty quick action.
Erin Jones: We are learning this. My parents are not very tech savvy, and they know this. They’ll call me and say, “Can you put this on the Twitter?” whenever they have a situation. But, why? Why are we still setting ourselves up for this? Why aren’t managers and leaders learning that if they do not address something, and address it well on point, that this is going to get out there. Some people, I think, don’t even complain anymore. They go home and go straight to social media, because they get a bigger response.
Andy Beal: Yeah. Let’s go back to what actually happened. You should be creating an environment at your company, whether you’re the owner or whether you’re the manager, where it’s never okay to mock or disparage a customer even in private. Because, you never know when that email or internal note, whatever it may be, is going to go public.
I’ve used a CRM service, we both use it, Zendesk, and there was the option to reply publicly to the client. Then, there was an option to make a private note. It scared me to death to make a private note, because I would be worried that I’d hit the wrong check-box, and all of a sudden, the customer’s seeing the private note. You should have that mentality that everything that you write, or even say, could the customer find out about it?
I’ll give you an example. This happened on our flight back. There was a conversation between a passenger and a flight attendant, where the passenger was just confused as to where the restrooms were. The flight attendant didn’t really help them. So, there was this back and forth, and the person ended up using the wrong … Heaven forbid, he used the first class restroom, right?
Well, I later heard the flight attendant not only mocking the customer, but actually twisted the story to her narrative that made the customer look like he was a jerk, as opposed to it was just an honest mistake. I heard all of that. I’m thinking to myself, “I can’t believe you just had this discussion.” Later on, I heard them referring to customers by descriptions, like you said.
It should never happen. This is so bad, because it reflects so badly on your company. Create an environment where it’s never okay to do that, and then you never have to worry about it.
Erin Jones: Absolutely. This is something else that I know you’ve brought up. Even if the customer you’re talking about isn’t in earshot, another customer may think you’re talking about them.
Andy Beal: True.
Erin Jones: People, instead of having one offended person, you may have seven offended people, because however many people asked about the restroom may now be concerned that you’re bagging on them. There’s just no good can come from this. There’s no way to talk bad about people and have it reflect favorably upon you.
Andy Beal: Now, let’s talk about the outcome, because it seemed like it was a textbook … Somebody’s opened up Reputation Management Crisis Control 101, and they went through the process of public apology, fired the offending employee.
I’m wondering, was that the best option? Because, maybe the employee just needed some education. Maybe they needed some training. Also, what about maybe sitting the employee down face-to-face with the customer, having the employee apologize, like an adult, for their action. And maybe, announcing some kind of training program for your employees to ensure that they’re getting trained with customer service.
I would like to have seen a more sincere apology. I would like to have seen some kind of training initiative, sensitivity training, or something like that, coming out of this. As opposed to just, “Here’s your sanitized apology, and we fired the employee who’s now going to be somebody else’s problem.”
Erin Jones: And, be bitter and do the same thing again. How wonderful would you feel if something like this happened to you, and a few days later, you got a hand written note in the mail from both the manager and the employee, saying, “You know, I’m really sorry. This is in no way acceptable. We would love an opportunity to make this right. Can you please come back and let us try again?”
Andy Beal: I think it would be useful. Let’s be honest, if you’re a small business owner, right? Let’s say there’s just six of you, five or six of you. I admit, you probably can’t afford to fire that employee, because now you’ve got … Maybe they’ve worked for you for two years, and maybe it takes six months to find a replacement. So, don’t always think that firing them is the only option that you have. It’s great if you’re a large multinational company and you’ve got people submitting resumes every day. But if you’re a small company, don’t always think that firing is the only answer here.
I think that a sit down, an apology with the customer, even if the employee doesn’t do it, but maybe if it’s the manager. You invite them in, “Hey, we’d like to do a special …” You know, it’s Panera Bread, but, “We’d like to do a special dinner for you. We’re going to cordon off the upstairs, candle light. You and up to five guests. We’re going to do a special meal for you. We want to apologize and make this right for you and treat you right.”
Maybe the employee comes in and apologizes, but there are ways where you don’t have to put yourself through the automatic process of firing the employee. That’s still an option, and maybe it was justified. I just know I’m a small business owner, and I’ve laid awake at night thinking, “Dear God, please don’t let any of my employees do something stupid, because I can’t afford to fire them.”
Erin Jones: Well, and people are people, right? There’s always that human element that you can’t guarantee that, no matter how well you’ve trained someone, they’re going to go out and do exactly what they’re supposed to do because, things happen. They have things going on outside of work that can affect their behavior or their response to something. You’ve just got to do better. I think that firing someone is the easy way out in a situation like this. There’s not a lot of effort shown in a situation like that.
Andy Beal: Right. All right, let’s move on to the last story. We have a study from Stanford. This is interesting. They analyzed 9,000 Airbnb. The VRBO, the, “Hey, I want to rent a room. I want to rent your house, whatever it may be. I’m coming into New York for the weekend, da, da, da, da, da.”
They analyzed 9,000 users, and they were shown mock profiles with varying demographic and reputation information. What they discovered is, that they showed more favoritism towards those with a great reputation over even those with demographic similarities. Even if the person looked like you, was about your age, maybe had the same kind of education, same kind of interests, that kind of thing, who you would think would be the people that we would gravitate towards. And, we do. But even moreso, if it was a person that looked nothing like you, was a different age, different skin color, whatever it may be, but had a very high rating, they looked more favorably on that. I thought that was interesting, Erin.
Erin Jones: I did, too. I really enjoyed reading about this study, because as humans, whether we’ve tried to train ourselves out of it or not, we are more comfortable with what is similar to us. Most of the time we’re going to gravitate, like you said, towards someone who is similar to us in appearance, in lifestyle, in education, what have you.
This is showing that other people vouching for someone who may be different than you, gives you a favorable opinion to that person over the comfortable similar place that we’ve always gravitated towards. I think this is a lot bigger than just vacation rentals. I really got a lot out of reading this.
Andy Beal: You’re right. It goes beyond that. We were already exposed to some of these ratings and reputations. If you think about, if you’ve ever bought or sold anything on eBay, then as the buyer, you have a rating as to how quickly you paid, how great your communication was. If ever you’ve left a review on Yelp, we often think about the ratings and the reputation of those that are being reviewed, the restaurant or the store, whatever it may be.
But, there’s also the, whether it’s transparent or not, there’s the rating of the Yelp reviewer. If you’ve not got the certain profile where you’ve got enough reviews and enough compliments, whatever it may be, then people are not going to trust your reviews. Also, Yelp is not going to trust the reviews. Next time you make that complaint, they may think it’s suspicious and not even show it.
Then, you’ve got … last one I can think of is Amazon. We’ve all gone there where we see a product, and maybe there’s somebody reviewing, they’re completely trashing the product. Then, we look at their review profile and it’s the only product that they’ve ever reviewed. That seems really suspicious. We have these rating now, that are really pervading a lot of our lives. I think it’s going to continue.
Erin Jones: I think so, too. To build upon that person who’s only written one review and it’s been negative, there’s also that person who only leaves negative reviews.
Andy Beal: Right.
Erin Jones: You go look at their profile-
Andy Beal: I know that person.
Erin Jones: I think you’ve probably come across them a few times in your business. But, they’re out there. I’ve actually been able to comfort clients with the knowledge that, “No, you’re not running a terrible business. Look at this person. They are miserable. All they do is complain, whether they’re trying to get something for free, or they’re just angry all the time. Who knows?”
It’s a lot easier to take those negative reviews with a grain of salt when that’s all they know how to do. We probably all have a friend or a family member who operates this way, too. It’s not the kind of person you want to be. So, if you’re that guy leaving negative reviews and never taking a minute to leave a positive one, stop it, because people don’t want to be around you. [crosstalk 00:20:14] there.
Andy Beal: No. I think that adds to the broader pictures, and that is your actions are being watched. That first impression, it’s no longer about the clothes you wear or how you style your hair, it’s your rating, your scoring. We don’t even need to know who you are. We’re going to look at what kind of language do you use in your reviews? Do you only leave negative reviews? We’re going to look at, on Amazon, how many people found your reviews useful? That’s just in an eCommerce.
Now, that can expand to so many other things. It may not have a specific rating or scoring, but we’re going to start looking at the amount of likes you get on Facebook? How many retweets you get on Twitter? How many lists have you been added to on Twitter? This is all combining and adding up towards your personal reputation.
Even if you feel like, “Well, I don’t really have a reputation. You can’t find me on Google.” Well, I could probably find you somewhere where you are active, and there’s probably some metric that can be used within that platform, like scoring, retweets, whatever it is, to help me to understand if you are trustworthy or not. I’m going to make a decision on whether or not I do trust you, whether you have a good reputation. That’s going to affect me a lot more than how good your profile picture looks and how carefully crafted your bio is.
Erin Jones: Absolutely. Spelling and grammar, language used in posts, as far as vulgar language or speaking to your level of education. If people don’t think can affect their everyday life, whether it be employment, the way other people in your community look at you, they are very, very strongly mistaken. Because, I check up on people. If I’m looking at working with a company, the first thing I do is look at the personal profiles for the people who work for that company, because that’s going to tell me a whole lot more than a sanitized brand pages.
Andy Beal: All right. Let’s end with that PSA, and that is that, take care of your reputation, otherwise Erin’s going to check up on you.
Erin Jones: I’m coming for you.
Andy Beal: Yeah. If that’s not motivation to craft and curate and take care of your personal reputation, I don’t know what is.
All right, guys. That’s our show for this week. As I said, lots that we’ve had to discuss this week. If there’s any question you have, any story you would like us to cover, please head on over to the Facebook page /AndyBealORM, or just go to AndyBeal.com, find any of the podcast episodes, leave a comment, and let us know what you’d like to hear, whatever topic, questions you may have. We’ll certainly get to those.
As always, Erin, it’s always a pleasure chatting with you.
Erin Jones: It’s always a pleasure to be here.
Andy Beal: We thank you for listening, and hope you’ll join us again next time. Thanks a lot, and bye-bye.