There’s a new TV show on the FYI network called “Say it to My Face“. It’s a typical restaurant repair show with an online reputation twist. Hosts Andrew Gruel and Anthony Dispensa of the Slapfish Restaurant Group bring a restaurant’s harshest online critics into the establishment for an old fashioned sit down with the owners. Their hope is that the face-to-face criticism will force the owners to change.
I watched two episodes of the show and was amazed at how easily owners of failing businesses’ dismissed the online complaints. They branded the customers as liars or picky people who just don’t understand the restaurant biz. One owner went so far as to reverse shame the complaining customers, saying that their public demands were taking food out of the mouths of her children.
I had to laugh, because just yesterday I read a report from Lithium Technologies that said 42% of the corporate execs they surveyed said customers use social media to shame their companies into doing what the customer wants.
82% of these same execs said that customers have higher expectations than they did three years ago. And 60% said it was tough to meet customer demands.
Are we all being that unreasonable or are companies slacking off? Or maybe it’s just that customers have a public and powerful voice now, so we’re using it to demand what we’ve always wanted.
Rob Tarkoff, president and CEO of Lithium Technologies says,
“Yelp has changed dining experiences and made it possible for everyone to be a food critic. Uber has forever changed urban transportation. Airbnb has pressured the hotel industry. Netflix has changed the way we watch TV. And of course Amazon has changed the rules of retail for every retailer—online or otherwise. Whether a company competes directly with these companies or others like them, the Internet has created a consumer expectation that all companies now must meet.”
Back at the restaurants, Andrew and Anthony work with the owners to correct the issues that led customers to complain, then they take it a step further. They craft dishes that are literally designed to look super on Instagram and create a unique atmosphere that gives Tweeters something to talk about.
I watch a lot of these business repair shows and this is the first one I’ve seen that deals directly with the social media response. It’s very smart but not as easy as they make it look. I can’t imagine that these mom and pop shops will be able to continue turning out camera-ready meals when the dining room is crowded with demanding guests.
The show and the report are good reminders of the power of online reviews and social media. They can hurt a business, for sure. But they can also help. Instead of complaining about the complaints, businesses need to take control of their online reputation by publicly and calmly responding to issues and then delivering an experience that people will want to share along with a string of positive adjectives.