News and what makes the news has undergone a drastic transformation in the last decade. With the rise of reality TV, smartphones, and social networks, just about anyone can create their own news story about just about anything. It’s freedom of the press gone wild, without rules or boundaries. Forget about big brother watching you, because everyone has an itchy trigger finger when it comes to the record button on their cell phones.
While in the grand scheme of things, these stories are just flashes in the pan, don’t forget that they can have a big impact in the short term. Once these stories go viral and the comments start piling up, major news outlets like CNN pick them up and damage control can become a life or death struggle.
Foodservice in the spotlight
Whether you want it or not, a customer photo or video, praise or complaint can draw the heat and light of national attention. Something as simple as a Facebook post or a Reddit contribution can quickly take off. Foodservice is not immune, in fact the intense level of interaction that caterers and cafés have with customers seems to attract this sort of viral activity. Lately, there is no shortage of news stories about encounters at foodservice establishments.
Whether the news is good
In March Chili’s touched us all when a kind-hearted waitress fixed a “broken” burger for a little girl with Autism, winning them millions of new likes on Facebook.
When Morton’s Steakhouse surprised a traveler with an airport delivery after he jokingly Tweeted an order, it was dubbed “The greaetst customer service story ever told.”
Last week it was the crazy restaurant owners who took their insanity to Facebook after Gordon Ramsay walked out them on Kitchen Nightmares.
In March it was the restaurant that was took to Twitter to out and shame no shows.
In January it was the Applebee waitress who was fired after sharing a pious (and cheap) customer’s receipt, drawing negative attention to everyone involved.
Sometimes the story has little to do with the business, it just happened in their establishment. Like when an immature Olive Garden customer found an odd solution to dealing with a bad date.
What can you do?
Short of banning smartphones, recording devices, and making customers sign a confidentiality agreement, there isn’t a whole lot you can do. People like to communicate and share their experiences, especially when they run on the extreme. Customers will always be the variables, but what you can do is keep the ranting to a minimum by providing an excellent experience worth raving about—whether it’s to their best friend or everyone on the Internet.
Focus on customer service—If you’re in the service industry, this should be a no brainer. You’re not always going to be a hero to a little girl or an airport traveler, but you can take steps to consistently meet and exceed customer expectations. Using systems like TRAX Platform to add customer convenience and increase efficiency and accuracy will go a long way.
Be good to your employees—The reputation of your business is often in the hands of your employees—disgruntled employees provide lousy service. And remember, as much as customers want excellent service, they also want to know you treat your staff well, too. A caterer made headlines last week for pocketing gratuities, resulting in a civil suit brought by a customer.
Don’t be crazy—This one goes without saying. Lashing out at customers and staff will definitely draw the kind of negative attention that can threaten your livelihood. And, just in general, being in good health will help you run your business.
And don’t worry, when the customer is at fault, the ever-present social reporters catch them, too.