I was attending a Meetup at a local coffee shop in Charlotte, NC recently when six customers walked in sat down at one of the reserved tables and chairs for our group. The night was young and we were not using the space yet although our gaming group members sat all around them. We greeted new attendees and welcomed them into the various board games started around the room. An hour and a half after the customers sat in our reserved space we asked them politely to move to the bar seating and pointed out the signage at the table they sat around clearly had the name of our group, time span, and in all caps RESERVED. What followed was disturbing and had never occurred before.
The leader of the non-group members, let’s call her Peggy, was clearly upset. We asked Peggy if she and her friends would like to join in the gaming fun of the evening. She said no and that she was a member of a local group who had a scheduled meeting at the coffee shop the next month. We congratulated her on scheduling a future dated meeting and pointed out the calendar of events clearly visible a few feet away. Peggy then huffed and approached a staff member making coffee and complained about our group. The staff member politely explained that Peggy’s meeting space would also be reserved with visible signage in the same way the next month. Peggy would not accept any of the alternate seating suggestions for her or her friends. She instead loudly told everyone who would listen she would destroy the coffee shop on social media. Peggy and her friends then stormed out. Our group leader sent a text to the coffee shop owner and let him know what transpired.
Within an hour Peggy made good on her promise to post on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. What’s worse is Peggy said the coffee shop made no attempts for alternate seating or any accommodations. The coffee shop stays open an additional two hours for our gaming group because we buy coffee and snacks, in other words our group makes him quite a bit of additional income. The owner contacted Peggy and even refunded her money. Peggy said no matter what she would continue to post poorly of the shop on social media.
Our group leader asked anyone who attended the Meetup or had a legitimate good experience at the coffee shop to post an honest review on social media. We were also asked not to respond to Peggy’s posts or engage her in any way. Our group members sprang into action and rallied around the business owner with their positive reviews and posts.
We later found out that Peggy’s group had a reputation for taking over venues and threatening to post negative feedback if they did not get their way.
What ultimately happened was Peggy was the only one star review about the coffee shop on any of the coffee shop’s social media or third party internet review sites. The coffee shop’s rating actually went up on all platforms due to our group’s additional positive reviews and postings. Negative reviews on sites like Google or Yelp cannot be erased. Immediately engaging the reviewer and working with your loyal customer base can minimize and in some case improve your brand ratings and rankings.
All small business owners should ask themselves:
- How fast do you respond to social media and reviews?
- Do you have a communicative relationship with your customer base?
- Could you survive a negative comment or review?
Social media is a new frontier for bullies and small business owners. How you respond could mean the difference between brand degradation or a brand ranking boost.