Unbelievably awesome response to a complaint on social media

I had the great pleasure of working with the fine folks at the Dallas Zoo last week, and I heard a story about how a complaint that came in via social media was handled. It reminded me of one of those “mind blown” headlines, only this one was all substance, and no fluff.

Laurie Holloway, Senior Director of Marketing & Communications for the zoo, told me how monitoring the zoo’s online presence had become a 24/7 endeavor, and that one day she happened to get an alert that someone was less than happy with a meal they just purchased.

Being a hands-on leader, Laurie was already out in the zoo when this happened, and was actually very close to the food venue the guest was referring to.  She looked up their profile picture and went to find them.

She approached the guest and asked if there was anything she could do to help, or possibly replace their meal.

When asked how the guest reacted, Laurie said, “she was very surprised, especially at first. But we had a nice conversation about it, and laughed, and she ended up thanking me.”

I gather she was surprised because deep down, she probably thought her post would just go to her friends and maybe she would get a “so sorry for your experience, here is a coupon” response from the zoo, but that’s about it.  I would imagine she didn’t expect such a quick and personal response.

And I think that’s one of the issues with social media… being able to complain, post and defame in relative anonymity – a pillar of modern day interwebs-warfare. But that’s another post for another time…

In this case, though, interaction on social media allowed a leadership team to be alerted to an issue very quickly, and to turn that into a positively memorable and personal experience for the guest.

So many people ask if and how they should respond to negative comments online.  My answer has always been yes, you should.  (Would you ignore a person who was complaining right in front of you?  I hope not).  Online or in person, the goal is to be respectful and solve the problem.

I think this example goes to show how important it is to respond, and to respond personally.  Especially if the guest is still at your park, zoo, aquarium, farm stand, bank, store, museum, waiting room, or restaurant, you have the opportunity to make an incredible impression on that guest, and solve a problem at the same time.

To do this, though, you have to monitor your online presence carefully, and have people like Laurie who love your guests so much that they are ready to run right out and see if they can help.

That just might be the new model for customer service and service recovery.  Something to think about.

Thanks for reading!





About the author: ICYMI, Matt appeared on Diane Helbig’s Blog Talk radio show earlier this week.  They talked about burnout and leadership and employee engagement.  Click below for the replay of the show.

Matt Heller Blog Talk



2 thoughts on “Unbelievably awesome response to a complaint on social media

  1. Thanks for sharing her story!
    Companies are taking way to long to adapt to this social media generation, and not taking advantage of it. Giving feedback and rating online has become more and more popular, because it is easier for the guest to type in their experience than doing it in person (personal exposure, risk of not getting to say exactly what they are thinking in a way that reflects their experience).
    After smartphones has taken over the phone industry, most online activity happens at the same time it is happening in real life. Only a few years ago we would experience something, then a few years later you would get an email from tripadvisor to rate your experience. Now the guests are writing a review while eating in the restaurants. This story is such a good motivator for companies to spend more time on social media, and understand how guests use it to give feedback! I hope this story gets spread so that everyone can get inspiration from it, and understand the wide range of oppertunities one has with social media.
    Again, thanks for sharing Matt!
    Have a great week 🙂

    • Thanks, Erica! I agree that I hope it motivates companies to pay more attention to the (new) way their customers are providing feedback. I also think this gives great insight in how to respond to it. I think our initial reaction is to respond only where the comment happened (in this case, online). Just like when someone comes to complain in person, we respond in person. I think this shows a need for a potential hybrid approach… making the initial connection online, but then also connecting in person to really solidify the relationship.

      Thanks again for your comment, Erica! Please feel free to send this around! :o) I agree the message needs to be shared!

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