Optical Nightmares

I recently wrote about online reviews and the best way to handle both negative and positive reviews. The subject of Yelp reviews has been a Gordon-ramsey-2constant source of discussion in the online forums, such as Alan Glazier’s OD’s on Facebook forum. Whether you like online reviews or hate them, they are here to stay. There are even industry rumors that Facebook itself will soon be incorporating reviews for company pages on the site.

How many of you have seen the May 10th season finale for Kitchen Nightmares featuring Amy’s Baking Company? The show, which I had never seen until this PR debacle, features Chef Gordon Ramsay, winner of 15 Michelin stars. Aside from being an accomplished chef, he is also a TV celebrity known for making cooks and restaurateurs cry with his no nonsense take no prisoners demeanor. His Fox Network show, Kitchen Nightmares features Chef Ramsey visiting a new restaurant each week with a variety of problems, most of which he is able to correct over the course of the show.

The season finale for 2012-2013 featured his visiting Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale, Arizona at the invitation of the owners, Samy and Amy Bouzaglo. This episode features video of both the owners yelling at customers, making threats to customers, firing a server for nothing more than asking a simple question, and pocketing the tips that were supposed to go to the servers. It is quite frankly a very scary look at a restaurant that you would think must be doing some things right as they have been in business since 2006.

The full episode should be available on HULU by the time this article goes live, however as I write this, it is still locked down by Fox. However, by the time you read this, it should be available here http://www.fox.com/kitchennightmares/full-episodes/29299267648/amy-s-baking-company .  In the meantime, here is a YouTube of Part1 of the episode http://youtu.be/G6LY7TJ16pg . As I write this, the video has been seen 2 million times. Watching the first 6 ½  minutes should be enough to scare anyone.

The purpose of bringing this to your attention has little to do with food or cooking or even how to run a restaurant, though I am sure it does have great ideas for those who do. Instead I am writing about how to deal with customer complaints the right way. There are lessons to be learned for any business by this. Since the show’s airing less than a week ago, videos of the show, the owners attempts to blame everyone but themselves for any problems in their restaurants (they have gone through over 100 staff members in one year) and most importantly, their insistence in arguing publicly with their online critics has gone viral. Here is a screen capture of some of their comments on their Facebook page as responses to their critics. The Bouzaglo’s now claim their page was hacked, but it’s a little hard to believe given the video evidence of how they run their restaurant.

 Gordon Ramsey

Their insistence in winning every argument has grown from a few complaints to hundreds of thousands of views on social media networks forever solidifying their reputations as bitter angry restaurateurs. Keep in mind, what you and others post online will remain online virtually forever.

Right or wrong, it’s virtually impossible to win an online argument. Your back and forth with whomever is complaining, especially online only makes YOU look bad. Instead, you need to reach out to those who feel they had a bad experience and try to rectify the situation. Ask them to contact you directly. If you have their email or phone personally reach out and try and communicate one on one. By doing so, you are able to take the issue offline and out of the public eye. In most cases you will succeed, in some you won’t. However, when you choose to fight fire with fire, all that will happen is you will end up burned as these restaurateurs obviously have. In all honesty, my guess is, if these two owners were watching the show featuring any two other restaurant owners they would be appalled at how the owners acted at customers. It’s a lot harder to take criticism than to give it.

The Bouzaglo’s turned a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to promote their business to a national audience into a visit tocrazy town” by their reluctance to hear complaints and their insistence that they were always right and their complainers always wrong. Does this remind you of any of your Opticians or Optometrists? If it does, perhaps it is time for them to go. However, more often than not, this sort of inflexibility comes from the top and filters down to others. So the question needs to be asked, does this remind you of you? If so, perhaps it is time for a few days off.

Who wants to shop or dine in an establishment with that sort of toxic environment? Put yourself in your customers and patients shoes. Yes, the customer is not always right. Yes, we all have bad days. Yet, when you escalate the fight, when you fail to take any criticism, when you insist you are right no matter what, you will have won the battle, but lost war for customers. Keep in mind, the customer you think is wrong, who might be tough to deal with today, could be the customer who recommends a dozen people for your practice once you make them smile.

No one is perfect. No restaurant gets every dish right every time. No Optician fits every frame perfectly ever time. No lab makes the perfect pair of glasses every time. No Optometrist gets the prescription perfect to ¼  diopter every single exam. No marketing firm gets the message perfect every single ad. How we all deal with our errors is what makes us a success or a failure.

Daniel Feldman, is a co-founder to the Visionaries Group, an optical consulting firm specializing in helping eye care practices achieve success at the.vg or on Facebook.


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