Earlier this week, Sarah wrote about a guest house in Hudson, New York, whose policy of fining guests $500 for posting negative reviews on sites like Yelp went viral. The bed and breakfast’s Facebook and Yelp received hundreds of extremely negative comments.
After a week of trying various tactics that included removing the policy, posting a rather lame excuse for the policy (that it was a tongue-in-cheek joke and had never been enforced, which was quickly debunked), taking down the post, and then posting a long note of explanation that again included the “joke” notion, the owner has given up and shut down the inn’s Facebook page altogether.
What seemed to fuel the whole controversy –beyond the policy – was inn owner’s negative brand voice. Hundreds of angry comments were posted about the the inn’s other policies detailed on its website that posters found to be rigid, self-serving and written in inhospitable language. The tone made it easy to believe the fine for negative comments was for real, and that the owner didn’t respect or like his guests very much. Other posters called out the owner’s defensive, insulting, angry responses to negative reviews on other websites.
When the owner tried to explain, apologize and just generally make the whole thing go away, he was unsuccessful. He had no consumer good will to draw on after the voice he had established. Why would anyone want to forgive and forget?
When we advise our clients in times of crisis, one of the most important factors is their reputation and brand voice. Customers are quick to forgive or even defend a beloved brand on social media when something goes wrong as long as the company has established a positive relationship with them that includes respect, honesty and transparency. After a crisis occurs is too late to start being nice.
I don’t know how – or if – that little hotel will survive this. But they are a great cautionary tale that says how you interact with consumers day-to-day is just as – if not more so – important than how you treat them when something goes wrong.