I recently had a bad experience at a restaurant. The kind where my wife told me to sit down, eat, and not make eye contact with the manager. I obliged, though I am not sure what she was worried about. I already gave my verdict: they were getting a letter. Ok, this is not technically accurate – this is a holdover from pre-Yelp days, where if I was slighted I would make a mental note, and assuming I was still teed off by the time I got home I would sit down and write a scathing letter. Sometimes the act of writing it was therapeutic enough that it would end there, but usually once that boulder was rolling, it was not stopping until intersecting with a stationary object of equal or greater mass – which was often the price of a postage stamp. Then the internet came along and the $0.25 postage stamp obstacle was removed (yes, postage was a quarter in the not-so-distant past). My paper letter writing days’ demise began with the utilization of customer support emails, but social media apps like Yelp and Google Reviews sealed the deal. Now, if I am even the slightest bit perturbed, all I have to do is yank out my phone, click on my app of choice and let ‘er fly.
To be fair, most of my Yelp reviews are of the 4 and 5-star variety, but if you are a genuine, card-carrying butthole to me, the gloves can, and often do, come off. This isn’t to say that I have never spoken with a manager about a bad experience, but it is rare. It has to be something pretty serious – like a health or safety concern or the server not honoring my $5.00 off coupon, and yes, I know it expired last month – now that you point it out, but the fine print is deceptively small. On the flip side, if we are talking about posting a snarky note online, I have zero issues with this. Of course, I recognize that, unlike talking to a manager where I might get a discount or some other type of credit for my trouble, the only thing I get from my online review is satisfaction.
So why? The reason is friction, or rather, lack thereof. Yanking out your phone and pelting out a zinger is a whole lot easier than going up to another human being, who has feelings too, and telling them about your experience.
The same is true for your people. They would much rather go online and post a negative comment or review about you or your company than go directly to you and tell you themselves. The difference is that by going to you directly you can do something about it. By going online all they are accomplishing is making themselves feel better, and just like me and my overcharged cheese quesadillas (I mean really – it is a tortilla and cheese) at the end of the day, this is what we are looking for.
This is why you need to remove as much of that friction as you can. Exit Interviews, Engagement Surveys, and Stay Interviews are all great tools but at the end of the day you have to be approachable. You may never be as easy as a nasty, anonymous Glassdoor review, but you can at least make it to where coming to you first is something worth considering. Your employees need to see you as approachable, as someone they can come to with their beefs and not be worried they are going to get their heads bit off. This is friction in its finest form.