"I'm going to slag you off on social media"
Three times in the last week, I've heard stories about disgruntled patients who, when their demands haven't been met, have reacted with the threat in my title.
Many years ago I lived for a while in Sarasota on the Gulf Coast of Florida and a regular Friday night dinner destination was St Armand's Circle - literally a roundabout on the water's edge that was bordered by numerous gift shops and restaurants.
Because the places to eat were so many and varied, there was never any doubt that the customer service experience in each one was superlative. The natural law of healthy competition ensured an excellent experience wherever you decided to stop.
Happily, there were enough residents and tourists to keep everyone busy. In the unlikely event of a restaurant being empty, it would be a sure sign that service wasn't up to scratch.
Darwin might have described that as natural selection.
Of course, you don't see a circle of dental practices in our towns and even if you did, it would be difficult to see inside to guage who was busy.
Reviews and social media, however, have placed huge power in the hands of the consumer/patient.
When businesses or freelancers deliver below par customer service, when they don't show up on time or fulfil their promises, when the team deliver a "computer says no" experience, customers, clients and patients can "go public" and bring any shortcomings to the attention of a wide audience.
This is a force for good in the hands of the responsible consumer.
However, there are some consumer terrorists who think it is OK to make the kind of threat embodied in my title.
I've always maintained a very simple rule around this kind of behaviour - don't ever negotiate with terrorists - always call the bluff.
Caller: "If you don't do as I ask, I'm going to slag you off on social media."
Option 1 - softball - Practice: "I appreciate that you feel so strongly Mr. Smith and, of course, you are perfectly entitled to state your feelings in any public environment. In the meantime, the best we can do to try and meet your customer service expectations is to offer X solution."
Option 2 - medium intensity - Practice: "I appreciate that you feel so strongly Mr. Smith but I have to say that I'm finding your comment very intimidating - was that your intention?"
Option 3 - hard ball - Practice: "I appreciate that you feel so strongly Mr. Smith and it seems that here at ABC Dental we are unlikely to be able to meet your customer service expectations, so perhaps it would be better for you to seek another dentist?"
Whatever option you choose, the committed terrorist may still write the review or make the post anyway - so what next?
Step 1 - Quantitative - if the 1-star review is one of 5 reviews - you have a problem. If the 1-star review is one of 105 reviews - the public are savvy and can spot a terrorist;
Step 2 - Qualitative - if the review or post is written as constructive criticism and in a respectful way - respond, acknowledge, explain, offer a solution.
Step 3 - Quarantine - if the review or post is rude and ignorant - maintain radio silence (don't wrestle with the pig in sh*t - the sh*t smells and the pig loves it).
Step 4 - Quash - if the review or post contains offensive or untrue material, frustratingly slow as it can be, report to the site host and ask for removal.
Make sure that your FOH and TCO teams are well informed of this and know what to do when the terrorist strikes. Never negotiate, don't wrestle and call their bluff.
In the meantime, give people a reason to write 5-star reviews and praise you on social media, by delivering a remark-able experience.