6 steps to take if your company is criticized in a blog post

Dunkin My last blog post recounted a less than desirable experience a colleague and I had at a New York Dunkin' Donuts store.  The manager was an amazing example of what not to do.

When I write about specific brands or experiences I've had, I try very hard to be respectful of the brand and to only call someone out when there's a lesson to be learned.  I never do it out of spite or to cause anyone any trouble.

If the specific name of the company isn't relevant — I might not even mention it.  But when a donut shop that tops the 2010 Customer Loyalty Index delivers abismal service, I'm going to talk about it.

Within 24 hours of my blog post going live, I had a voice mail message from the Director of Customer Relations, Kathy Murphy.  Naturally, I called her back.  We had a very pleasant conversation and I was suitably impressed.

Let's look at all the things Kathy did right…on behalf of her brand.

She was monitoring:  There's no way she could have found out about my blog post without some sort of monitoring tool, like Google Alerts.

She talked to me like a human being, not a corporate drone:  There was no jargon or convoluted language.  She wasn't reading from a script.  She was just very human.

She apologized.  Several times:  She wasn't at the store, so it wasn't her fault.  And I wasn't mad.  To me it was a marketing lesson.  But to her it was a customer who had been exposed to lousy service.  And she genuinely felt badly about that.  If I had been mad, it would have been completely disarming.

She told me what she was going to do with the information:  She made it clear that she was going to share the story with the franchise owner, so he could explore additional training for his manager.

She never chastised me for writing about Dunkin' Donuts or asked me to alter or remove the blog post:  Let's be honest here — no one wants their company to appear in a blog post that calls them out for bad service.  And my blog post really called them out.  So I'm sure it was tempting to ask me to take down the post…or amend it in some way.  But she never even hinted at it.  

She dealt with the issue completely, before offering the goodwill gesture:  Kathy made sure we'd covered it all and that I was content that she'd followed up before she offered to send me some free coffee to apologize.  (There are no Dunkin' Donuts in Iowa, so she couldn't send a gift card).  I didn't need the coffee to feel better about the experience.  Kathy had already accomplished that.  But I am sure that the MMG crew will enjoy the gesture!

The only additional step I would have added is — I would have suggested to Kathy that she jump into the comments on the original post.  She could have started the conversation with me there so the other commenters would have seen it as well.  After all, if I hadn't written this post — you wouldn't have known she had reached out.

But overall, there you have it…an almost picture perfect example of how to respond if your company gets sideways with a blogger, reporter, customer or critic.  Kathy handled the situation with sincerity, a desire to learn from the experience and incredible grace.  Bookmark this post — so you can follow her model if you find yourself in the same boat!

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Comments

  1. says

    Drew

    I went back to the original post and then read this one again – wow. Your initial post nailed the key take-aways, and this follow-up makes me feel that there is a chance that some organizations get it.

    Though I understand your point regarding Kathy’s decision to call rather than post a comment, I like the direct and personal approach. Calling the customer and handling it like she did (great job!) is personal and caring, the blog comment approach strikes me as a wee bit cold, calculating, corporate and focused on PR rather than the individual.

    Great case study – but I would love to see what the outcome is at the store level.

    Best,
    Pat

  2. says

    Wow, that’s really good to hear. I’ve always been really happy with Dunkin’ Donuts was surprised to hear about that situation. However, it makes me more impressed that management actually cares. It’s really easy for large companies with a huge amount of franchises to cast off.

    It takes a lot of guts…and ultimately humility to call you. Way to go Kathy, you’re doing it right!

  3. says

    Drew,

    Great to hear that Dunkin’ is one of those brands that doesn’t just let it slide.

    If I were in Kathy’s shoes, I would have preferred to make a personal phone call to you. However, I would have at least left a quick note in the comments of your original post to apologize and let you know that I’d be in touch shortly to discuss a resolution.

    By doing so, current readers and anyone poking around in your archives would be able to see that your concerns did not fall on deaf ears.

    Cheers,
    Desiree

  4. says

    Hey Drew,
    Great case study; thanks! I’m taking it that Kathy did all the right things except perhaps engage with you on the blog itself. It occurs to me that she was able to reach out to you because you identified yourself personally. I also notice that you require such identification on your blog. Cool policy.

    What is your recommendation about anonymous posts, in particular on other blogs. That is, how might Kathy have responded if you hadn’t identified yourself?

    Thanks for all you do for the community.

    Regards,

    David

  5. says

    Hi Drew!

    You consistently take on the tough questions and make ‘em right. And then make ‘em righter. That’s usually not finding fault but introducing wonderful new ideas.

    In this case, I bet Dunkin’ gets measurably better from your focus. At least there is a good chance.

    Thank you for showing us how important blogging can be!

  6. says

    Just went through this with an unjustified attack. Glad you addressed this, it took me a few dollars to consult a PR firm about handling this new kind of slander.

  7. says

    Drew, Read this over at ScLoHo, wanted to comment here as well. What’s impressive about these is the simplicity; nothing here is hard, tricky, or even expensive. It’s really just common sense and smart customer service.

    Listening (monitoring) is the starting point, always critical. Love that the rep didn’t ask you to change the post, took your side and intended to forward the info to the store in question, so they can make the necessary changes. Good stuff, thanks.

  8. says

    Pat — I would love to hear how the story ends too. Maybe I’ll con my friend who lives in the town to go back.

    If I do, I’ll let you know how it plays out.

    Drew

  9. says

    Brandon,

    Hmm, I hadn’t thought of it that way, but you’re right. It did take a great humility to reach out. But a brand that is humble enough to recognize they are not perfect and it’s okay to admit it is going to thrive in this new economy and time.

    Thanks for giving me a different way to look at it.

    Drew

  10. says

    Desiree,

    As you know, she did call me. Which is wonderful and as you say — much more personal.

    But…if I had not written about it, the rest of the blog readers wouldn’t have known that DD had reached out and handled the problem as beautifully as they did.

    That’s why I thought she should have also jumped into the comments. To “hedge her bet” as it were.

    Drew

  11. says

    David,

    Yes…Kathy did it all right. As I said to Desiree — the value of also connecting on the blog itself is that it tells all the readers (especially if I hadn’t written about the encounter) that DD was listening.

    I don’t believe anonymous comments or postings have much place online anymore. If you have something to say — have the courage to put your name to it.

    Just my take.

    Drew

  12. says

    Dick and Andy — Thanks for your take. These are the kinds of conversations we need to be having so that everyone can deliver even better service/products.

    Drew

  13. says

    Pablo — sorry to hear you had to go through that.

    Sandy — Happy to share, as you know! ;-}

    Davina — I totally agree. There was no denial or excuses. They owned it and completely shifted the dynamics of the conversation by doing that.

    Drew

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