Head in the Sand

It’s no secret that I can be a dick. Let’s get that out of the way. Sometimes I take this attitude onto twitter, especially when I’m out somewhere and there is beer involved. A few weeks ago I decided to head out and go somewhere different on a Wednesday night. I ended up in Canton. In Canton I ended up at JD’s Smokehouse. This was my first ever visit to JD’s and I hate to say it, but it will most likely be my last. I’ve heard good things about JD’s from numerous people, but with the lack of people I know that will actually say something negative about an establishment, I always take these recommendations with a grain of salt. It was burger night, half-off burgers. Was kinda jazzed… but this isn’t a Yelp review. Let’s just say the $1 shot of Jack with my burger was far and away the best part of my evening.

During this visit, I was annoyed enough at the level of service that I received that I went to twitter to make a comment.

Granted, I was very unhappy at this point, but it’s not the point of the post. This is about do you do more harm than good by sticking your head into the sand or plugging your ears. Let’s take a look at JD’s Twitter Profile.

In a year and a half they have 12 tweets? Follow 9 people and have 70 followers? Obviously they are really paying attention to what the Twitterverse is saying about them. This is a problem. You simply can not put yourself out in social media and then forget about it. It makes your business look bad. Especially when the single post turns into a conversation that involves close to a dozen people. When you are put in solely a negative light in a conversation like this, you need to know about it. There is no saying that you had a chance to rescue the relationship with the person that started the whole conversation, but you might be able to rescue the relationship with the other people affected by the conversation. When you are mentioned at least 20 times in the course of an hour, it should be pretty obvious that you need to pay attention. There is little excuse as Twitter did turn on the “E-mail when Mentioned” by default, which means someone was being told that negative things were being said on the internet.

Things got really interesting in this context when another twitter use decided to be funny and fake a retweet of a fake response from JD’s.

This is by far the biggest reason that their lack of monitoring of their social media presence is a big deal. This far and away made them look bad as it made it look like two things:

  • They made their first ever mention on twitter and made it in a “rude jackassery” way. (Credit to @ingloriousBOH for the term).
  • They realized it was a bad idea and then deleted their tweet, trying to cover it up. Since by the time I say the tweet from @CDoubleIPA, I couldn’t find the initial tweet from JD’s.

If I was one of the owners of JD’s and saw that tweet, I would be furious. That tweet is detrimental to my business and could be damaging to my reputation, but since I don’t actively monitor the social media accounts I set up, I’ll never even know that it happened. Even if @CDoubleIPA mentions later in the thread that it was a joke, how many people are going to see that? It is the classic case of how many people ever see the retraction after a highly inflammatory story?

Am I being unfair? I don’t know, it’s 2012 and quickly approaching 2013. Even small businesses need to start realizing, you make a presence on social media, you have to keep up with it. Once you make that step into the social media world you have monitor it. It begs to ask, if they didn’t have a social media presence on twitter would this story even be happening? Most likely not. Why? Because there would be zero expectation in a response.

In the end, the real question through all of this is:

Will you go back?

The short answer? No. It was a really overall poor experience, but add in the fact that they can’t even monitor their own business’ brand, that bothers me even more. A simple, response via social media would have made for a different answer. If they bothered to worry enough to keep an eye on things and respond and say they wanted me to try them again and come in again and retry what I had that night because they stand behind their product, I would definitely be back. (There is actually another blog post coming about doing this properly with a  Yelp review I wrote about Red Brick Station).

What is the point of all this? The point is: If you aren’t going to pay attention, don’t step into the roadway. It’s safer to never get in the car than get started but stall out and stop as soon as you get on 95.

Don’t stick your head in the sand. You’ll find it simply makes things more complicated for you when you finally pull it out.

Lines of Communication

When people talk about almost any aspect of life involving interaction with others, there is always one phrase that shows up again and again:

Communication is key

Some might say that this phrase is overused and has become less relevant with the advent of social media. I say social media has made the need for communication even greater as customers now expect an open dialogue with the places they do business. A customer wants to be able to tweet you and ask if you are open or if a certain special is still in effect, and a failure to respond can result in them taking their business to a competitor. Do not think for a moment that social media is the only place where you need to concern yourself with communicating, but it is fast becoming the primary and most visible method that people are using to gather their information.

I recently came across an example of how not to disseminate information about a specific special case scenario. The story is of a local bar, a kitchen floor, three days, and a lack of proactive dissemination of information.

Brewer’s Cask closed on a Tuesday to allow them to work on repairing the floor in their kitchen. They placed a note in their door (I unfortunately did not take a picture at the time) that stated they would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday of that week and would be re-opened on Thursday. Maintenance of the restaurant is always a valid reason to temporarily close your establishment, so there is not fault there. The problem comes when there is no proactive notice to their clientele. No Facebook postings, no tweets, no note in the door in the days leading up to the closing. This means that the only way for a customer to find out about the closing would be to arrive at the bar only to be turned away by a note that says closed. There is no simpler way to lose a customer than to waste their time, and this is true across all industries.

It is not that Brewer’s Cask doesn’t have the conduits to communicate this closure to their customers. They have a WordPress powered website, a Facebook profile (subject of an entirely different coming post), a Facebook page, and a Twitter account. That’s four proactive methods available to communicate the fact that the business would not be open for two days that week. The first news of Brewer’s Cask being closed did not come from them, but instead another local bar that happens to be very proactive about their lines of communication to their customers.

Brewer's Cask Closed

No Idea Tavern’s owner posted the tweet above at almost 7:00PM on that Tuesday. This is almost a full 4 hours after Brewer’s Cask is regularly scheduled to open. This is not a good sign when your competition informs people of your closing before you have the opportunity to communicate this to your customers. This puts you in a damage control mode that is purely reactionary at this point, and reactionary measures are never as effective as preventing the problems in the first place. It unfortunately took a full 12 hours to receive a response as to what was happening at Brewer’s Cask. In a scenario where you have unexpectedly shut your doors to customers, you absolutely can not wait that long to respond once the issue has been broached.

Response

Once the response was actually put out, you find that there is one major problem: It is a reply to a message. This means that the majority of their followers will not see this tweet unless they follow both Brewer’s Cask and my twitter account. This simply may as well be not mentioning being closed on Twitter at all. It is much like putting a note in an empty office, the possibility that anyone will see it is quite slim.

Once Thursday came around, I tweeted at Brewer’s Cask asking if they’d be open as expected. The response was that they wouldn’t be opening until Friday now.

Not Opening Until Friday

This is where you can begin to frustrate your customers. Not only did you not informed anyone that you were closing, but after passing your initial time frame you failed to post an update that says you would not be opening until Friday. I did not make the trek down the street to see if they had updated their sign in the door, but with the lack of communication it could lead one to reasonably assume that it did not get updated there either.

Facebook on the other hand was completely silent during this entire period, with not a single update to either their page or profile. The profile had an update the night before telling people to come in for Trivia Night. And then, nothing. The business page is updated so infrequently it is actually hardly even worth mentioning its existence. The profile itself wasn’t updated again until the 22nd.

No Facebook Updates

What needs to be examined here is not the lack of communication itself, but the question:

How much did this lack of communication cost Brewer’s Cask?

It is very basic math to calculate the tangible loss for not being open those three days. Take the average gross profit from each day, add in product lost due to spoilage and you have a rough guess as to how much money was lost directly by not being open. The part that becomes nearly impossible to quantify is how many people won’t come back or will never come in because they came by the restaurant to find it closed, especially if they had looked online at Facebook or Twitter and found nothing that said they should not come to Brewer’s Cask that night. Say a single customer was lost to another local bar and they will now become a regular at that establishment. Say said customer spends an average of only $20 a week at their new regular hangout. Over the course of three years they are looking at $3120 in lost revenue. What if that customer spends $50 a week? That’s $7800 over three years!

Nothing is to say for certain that a few internet updates would have prevented this customer from moving to another bar or never coming in again. But what if they did? What if a few quick tweets, some Facebook posts and a little blurb on the website could have kept this customer around and they were the recipient of all the business that would have moved elsewhere? Think about the fact that 4-5 Facebook posts, 4-5 tweets and one minor webpage update would have at most taken 20 minutes of their time depending on how detailed they were in their postings. That effectively equates to them making $156 per minute of work based on a $20 a week customer. That’s $9360 per hour. Just think about that for a moment and ask yourself, if it was you, would that be enough to make you ensure that your customer base was well informed?

How much is it worth to you to communicate with your customers? Be proactive, keep customers informed, because a single customer could be worth much more than you ever realized.