This is a story you can file in the “Too crazy to be true” genre. Our customers have shared with us today stories from TechCrunch, Business Insider and other sites about a small hotel in Upstate NY that charges a wedding party $500 per occurrence if they or any of their guests posts a negative review of the hotel on any review site.
We had to think hard what else a business could do to alienate customers so completely. Other than the obvious (provide a poor product/service), we couldn’t think of anything. The story is rapidly unfolding; the latest updates indicate the Inn stated on Facebook that the $500 fine was a joke, was never implemented and was simply not taken off their website. Even if that is true (and there are plenty of posts that indicate that it may not be), the Union Street Guest House violated several tenets of good customer service.
- The customers is always right – give the customer an opportunity to speak their mind – maybe you’ll learn something about your business that can make you better. The irony in this case is that Union Street clearly knew what was going on – because of their “antiquated” rooms, some people who like a more modern setting are not going to enjoy that particular ambiance. Their explanation was actually a pretty decent sales pitch – if you don’t like that particular style, the Inn may not be for you. So why not say that to people who complain about the style? Anybody who likes a more traditional setting would be inclined to come, and those that want modern wouldn’t. Isn’t that a good thing?
- Don’t make customers responsible for anybody other than themselves. They wanted to charge the wedding party a fee if anybody invited to the wedding said anything bad? Yes, try to muzzle an entire group of people, that has historically worked out so well! This was the most ridiculous part of their “terms”.
- Don’t ignore people. The Inn apparently refused comment on this issue, which simply adds fuel to the fire. How many times have we seen an apology work wonders compared to denials or ignorance? People generally give others a second chance, especially if the apology seems sincere.
Of course, there’s another thing they should do. They could proactively ask their customers to give them feedback on a site like Bizyhood. They could engage with those customers, answer questions and address issues/complaints – as well as thank the people that complement them for their great service. The conversation would be genuine and even sided. It’s likely that the “ambience” of their unique hotel would shine through the comments – both positive and constructive. And if there were indeed issues to address, they could use this as a forum to do so and show future patrons that they take issues seriously and address them quickly.
In any case, congratulations to Union Street Guest House for creating the best terms of service to lose customers! On a separate (but related) note – can anybody explain why Yelp’s filtering system doesn’t catch all these 1 star reviews from people who admittedly have never stayed there?