No aspect of social media seems to unnerve restaurant chains more than the prospect of a public complaint. Because anyone can post anything, brands fear they’ll be slammed in full view of customers by whiners whose gripes might not even be reality-based.
If our recent Facebook wanderings were any indication, fretters can hit the Delete button on that concern. For one thing, compliments outnumber the gripes by at least a margin of 10 to one, based on our visits to pages for about a dozen chains.
For another, the chains have learned it's not really a problem. They've found ways of contending, usually in one of four ways:
1. Restrict wall posts. More and more chains are avoiding the problem altogether by not opening their Facebook walls to outsiders. The rank-and-file can only add comments to posts from the page’s administrators. It’d be tough to sound off about a botched drive-thru order when the topic is the chain’s latest beverage LTO.
2. Have a stock response ready. We were surprised that Dunkin’ Donuts, long the poster concept of social media best practices, would fall into the canned-response camp. Yet with three complaints that came in short order, the response was the same:
“Hi [first name of the complaint poster[! Sorry to hear about this! Our Consumer Care Team is here to help at 800-859-5339 (Mon-Fri 8:30AM-5PM EST).”
For the record, the complaints dealt with a bad attitude on the part of staffers, a dry muffin, and the tendency of a particular unit to run out of lemon-filled donuts.
To its credit, Dunkin’ responded within minutes in each case.
3. Ignore it and move on. A case in point: Chipotle Mexican Grill. The big burrito apparently doesn’t respond publicly to posted complaints at all, even when the posting party voices frustration.
Here’s an example:
“We get Chipotle at least once a week...I am not sure what happened but yesterday we ordered 3 bowls and all 3 of them were cold!! We have never had that problem before, almost wonder if they got put in the refrigerator instead of the warmer. We order online and pick up 15 minutes later...it wasn't our normal girl making our food ;-( I send a message yesterday on the website but haven't heard anything back yet.”
Maybe it’s a Mexican-food thing. Here’s a complaint that Taco Bell had yet to address publicly:
“Taco bell you are slacking! Two times in a row now you have screwed up my order and on top of that my Mexican pizza looks pathetic. The chess [sic] is suppose to cover the top of it not just a two inch portion of it. Very disappointing. Will post a pictures at a later point . Very sad”
4. Deal with it. Taco Bell’s unresponsiveness was surprising because its sister brand, KFC, takes a much different approach. We found two mistakes posted within the week prior to our visit to the KFC page. Note this response from the chicken chain to a post about a take-out order snafu:
“I am so sorry to hear about this terrible experience you had! Would you please emal the exact restaurant locations to KFCCares@kfc.com so I can follow up with the restaurants? Thank you so much for telling us and for being such a loyal customer. Again, I am really sorry this happened.”
The other gripe deal with a bad experience at a store in Europe. Here was KFC’s response:
“I am so sorry this happened - I will be sure to share this with our colleagues in the UK. Thank you for telling us.”
KFC was also relatively quick to respond. In one case it’d posted a reply in about three hours—especially admirable when you consider that the complaint was time-stamped 3:54 a.m. The response gap for the other complaint was eight hours, but the gripe was posted at 11:16 p.m.