Everybody’s Talking Part 2

originally posted on Concept Hub

When I was 18 I started waiting on tables at Bennigan’s. This surprised my family because I was not known for having an outgoing personality or coordination.

I worked at the restaurant near the Miami airport and most of our customers were from Europe and many did not speak English.

One night I was serving a table of four people who had just arrived from Germany. They did not speak English but we were able to get through the drink order OK. They ordered a couple of beers and a couple of glasses of red wine. What I learned that night was that when holding a tray  of drinks you should not take the heavier beer glasses off the tray first or else the tray will become unbalanced and red wine will go flying all over your guest.

I immediately and immensely apologized and began to clean the mess up. One of the other servers who witnessed that comical tragedy arrived at the table with more drinks and some soda water to attempt to clean up any stains. We made sure that their food arrived in perfect order and went on with business as usual, without continuing to make a big deal of how the experience started. At the end of the meal the check was presented and was paid at which time I received the biggest tip of my evening. The other lesson I learned and continued to witness was that when everything went well, which was expected, my tips were average to above average. When things went horribly wrong but was handled with urgency, care, and professionalism, my tips were amazing. So it turned out to my advantage that I was not the most graceful waitress but was the most caring for my guests.

When I first started talking to my clients about blogging many people expressed the concern that if they started a blog and allowed people to comment, people would use that opportunity to express the dissatisfaction and complaints on the blog. I often would tell the story of my German guests as a way to illustrate that sometimes when things go wrong it is better than when things consistently run smoothly. People expect good service and products that work. Often times a company that is running smoothly is not appreciated. But when things go wrong, that is when you have your moment to shine.

There are a few things that a company can do to make sure that they

  1. Have comments on their blog. Without comments there is no interaction, no conversation, and no opportunity to connect with your readers (if you even have readers).
  2. Reduce inappropriate language and spam comments.
  3. Shine when things seem to be going dark.

The ability to interact with companies on a blog is still fairly foreign to most people. For a company to start the dialog they need to write posts that spark conversations. Ask questions, request feedback, and tell stories. A blog is not the place for press releases and marketing information, those are not conversation starters. Encourage your most vocal customers and partners to post comments. Also, join in relevant conversations on other blog sites. Online communities are like any other networking opportunities, you need to mingle and get to know other people.

Remember that your blog is your space. You are inviting others to join in the conversation at your blog, but it remains your blog. Just like you have certain rules and standards for the guests you allow in your house, you should have rules and standards on your blog. Many times you can find  the house rules posted on a blog, but not always. However you should at least have an agreement of what they are within your company. If a comment crosses your boundaries of what is acceptable you have the opportunity to delete a comment and state why the comment was deleted. For example if someone is consistently using bad language or bullying others, you can state that those comments have been deleted because of the language and explain that all ideas are welcomed as long as they are presented in a respectful way.

Be careful not to exclude someone who is commenting on your blog legitimately just because you do not agree with what they are saying. The blogosphere is an open conversation and if you toss a blogger off of your site they have the ability to take their opinions elsewhere where you may not be able to effectively defend yourself.

When a comment does turn into an opportunity to learn and exhibit professionalism, see it as such an opportunity. If someone is getting emotional and attacking you or your  company, try to get to the root of their complaint and address that complaint, do not address the personal attacks. As stated in part 1 of Everybody’s Talking, let the commenter know what you are doing to handle the situation. Definitely make sure to take the opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings. Keep in mind that the person commenting on the blog may just be one of many people who are thinking the same thing. This person is doing you a favor by starting the conversation and giving you the opportunity to clear up anything that needs to be clarified.

Most importantly keep in mind that sometimes your biggest fans are also your harshest critics.