Facebook and Yelp! have been at the center of a social media firestorm The saga of Amy’s Baking Company began with some stinging reviews on Yelp! in 2010. Co-owner, Amy Bouzaglo, lashed back in forceful fashion.
More recently, Amy and her husband, Samy Bouzaglo, sought out the counsel of Chef Gordon Ramsay and his TV show, Kitchen Nightmares, to validate the food and service quality of their Scottsdale, Arizona establishment.
“Validation” is not what Gordon Ramsay does. He is knowledgeable, blunt, and impatient.
The assumption is: If asking for emergency damage control for your restaurant. One must listen; not make excuses, and be eager to implement his advice.
OPINION: I am not a big fan of reality or competition shows of any kind. Too much of the alleged reality is heavily shaped, or scripted. As a contestant or participant, one must agree to be filmed at will (whether you are aware you are on-camera, or not), and must agree to that editing may show you or your business in unflattering light. That being said, it would be impossible to create the content for the Kitchen Nightmares finale, simply with slick editing.
An internet search for Amy’s Baking Company yields results an amazing array of news, opinion, analysis, and public relations lessons. There is coverage from major news outlets (such as The Washington Post) to local, Phoenix-area publications (such as New Times – Chasing Amy: Overcooked Reality and the Decline of Western Civility).
Social Media Lessons to be Learned
I predict there will be case studies, public relations books, and perhaps a mini-series based on the Amy’s Baking Company social media debacle. For small businesses, in the wedding industry, and generally, a little schadenfreude is understandable. If one misses the teachable moments, though, the next firestorm may be at your doorstep.
“Yelp! is unfair” and so is life
Most customers are not looking for trouble. They are seeking a good customer experience, and should there be a bump-in-the-road, they ask to have it solved, quickly and with a responsive attitude. The crowdsourcing of opinion, on Yelp!, Amazon.com, TheKnot.com or any customer-driven website is an imperfect word-of-mouth system, but extremely important to understand.
People who utilize posted customer feedback as a source of ideas and opinion learn how to interpret and identify the different types of reviews and personality traits of reviewers.
Your tone is key: Even if the assertion of a negative review seems absolutely unfair and wrong to you, resist the temptation to fire back, angrily and publicly. Such a review is particularly annoying if it refers to an issue, you could have addressed, at the time… but it was not brought to your attention.
Your response needs to be measured and fair, almost to a fault. I recommend drafting the response, sleeping on it, editing it, have it reviewed by a peer that you trust, editing it again, and the posting it.
You cannot just ignore it: The goal is not always to win the argument, but at least diffuse the situation. Failure to calm the storm and neutralize a potential string of negativity has larger repercussions. Getting a website to remove inflammatory reviews is difficult, bordering on impossible. If you search YouTube for tutorials on the subject, you’ll find a slew of choices.
FACEBOOK is the 21st Century Town Square
Sharing opinions and stories on social media, exists… period. Bad news travels fast… a lot faster than good news. Video pratfalls become TV shows. Flawless wedding ceremonies rarely go viral, except the occasional brilliant toast.
Pre-Kitchen Nightmares, Amy’s Baking Company Facebook Page had about 7000 followers. It now has over 103,000 followers.
I can assure you, from the FACEBOOK comments, most of the ‘followers’ are curiosity seekers. Some want to get in their own jabs, just for sport.
Alexandra Petri’s article on the Sun Herald website: How to lose a fight online is a superb analysis of “what not to do.” Please read her entire article, but my top three (which Amy includes in her list are):
- “TYPE IN ALL CAPS.
- Explain that God is on your side. (God responds)
- When the backlash starts, insist that your website or Facebook page were hacked.”
Amy’s Baking Company: A Cautionary Tale
Should you watch (or have already watched) the Kitchen Nightmares finale, you may conclude that Samy and Amy Bouzaglo appear to be unhinged. That may or may not be the case.
When it comes to defending our own business, employees or customer service challenges, we don’t always get it right. It is fair to believe ‘the customer is not always right’; however, in today’s age of social media reviews and potential ‘sharing-gone-viral’, it’s healthy and wise to breathe, take your time to deliberate, and respond with patience and courtesy of saint-like proportions.
Being right almost always feel good, for a moment… but, appearing too defensive and self-righteous is a prescription for world-class backlash.
Wedding Marketing Expert
The Wedding Marketing Blog