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In the past, if a business acted in bad faith or provided unsatisfactory service, it usually meant that the affected person would share their experience with family, friends, etc., and the issue would be localized to that person’s network. This could still affect the business but usually not drastically.We all know Google reviews are important. It seems quite obvious, but they are far more powerful than most business owners realize. They can literally destroy a business. The AMC incident is proof of that. Now, AMC, being a 1.5 billion dollar company, probably isn’t going to be hurt too badly, but after employees kicked a 90-year-old minister out of the theater for using his own chair in the handicap section, and the news reported on it, negative reviews began pouring in, hundreds of them:
“Terrible employees that could care less for the disabled.”
“The management should be fired for discriminating against Bishop Barber and his disability. Me or my family will not be visiting this theater again.”
“I AM HORRIFIED BY YOUR TREATMENT OF PASTOR BARBER!!! SHAME, SHAME ON YOU!!!”
So now, when someone is checking movies in the Greenville area and pulls up the AMC listing in Greenville to check movie showtimes, this is what they see. A 1.5 billion dollar company or not, this is not a good look, and it will affect their business. All because some power-hungry employee decided to exercise his or her imagined authority that day.
The situation itself is quite appalling. If I were one to frequent movie theaters, I would absolutely not support AMC Greenville again. I don’t, so I’m not going to have an effect on them at all… But we can learn some lessons from this from a business perspective. The power of people has shifted; people can cause detrimental harm to a business by sharing and reviewing their experience, so it has never been more important to:
- Establish a clear set of guidelines with your staff about customer interactions.
Perhaps use an AI tool like ChatGPT to generate situations that you never thought of to help create solutions.
- Give staff easy access to these guidelines so they can reference them if needed. A simple web-based option with a search function would be super easy in this situation.
Lastly, as hard as it may be in some instances, simply let the customer have their way, unless it’s causing a major safety concern or something similar. Let it go, as it’s simply not worth the blowback anymore.
I’m reminded of a performance car part company that makes custom car parts to customer specs. All over their website, it says “No Refunds” in big bold letters, then at checkout, the same thing. So, you are warned many times during the ordering process to order what you need; you will not get a refund if you make a mistake and order the wrong specification. Their review section is full of people who did just that, are super unhappy because they ordered the wrong thing. The business is 100% in the right by all accounts. The customer arrives on site, places a custom order, acknowledges it’s final, checks a box doing so, and then inputs a wrong specification. Now, they are mad because they bought the wrong part and want an exchange. The company did nothing wrong. He was right… Now, we look at another company that started a few years back doing the exact same thing but with a different attitude. They started with a small shop about 8 years ago and accept refunds and exchanges, no hassle. They restock the item and save it for the next person that may order that item… Fast forward 8 years, and they are now one of the largest companies in the industry due to their customer support. The other guy who was “right” still exists, but he’s not doing nearly as well.
So, I’ll wrap this up with this: with Google reviews and the viral nature of social media in play today, the old adage of “the customer is always right” really is true now, even if they aren’t. You can absolutely be like guy #1, who is technically right, or you can be like guy #2, who lets the customer be right even if they aren’t, and grow a massive business. Your choice.