Customer Service Lessons from a “Kitchen Nightmare”

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While Scottsdale, Ariz. was the site of many conversations at ACE this week about improving customer experiences, it also happened to be “ground zero” for the social media fallout that occurred after the airing of an episode of Kitchen Nightmares.

Amy’s Baking Company, a small bistro with almost 100,000 Likes on Facebook, unwittingly served up a series of textbook examples showing how not to handle customer service issues.

Kitchen Nightmares is a reality show that attempts to help turn the tide for struggling restaurant owners with guidance from renowned chef Gordon Ramsey, and for the first time in over 80 episodes, Ramsey was forced to throw in the towel and walk away after watching the Bouzaglo couple ignore criticism, berate customers and steal tips from waitresses.

Their public meltdown and subsequent, let’s say “colorful” reactions to Facebook posts after the show became the subject of mass ridicule on sites such as Reddit and Yelp with more thousands of people flocking to their Facebook Page each day like highway drivers slowing down to look at a ten car pileup. The fiasco has been featured by news agencies from Forbes to The Washington Post, and the 100,000 Likes the couple has accumulated on the Bistro’s Facebook page represent an audience that is not looking for menu updates but unfortunately waiting to see more of the couple’s tirades that ranged from God-fearing to ridiculous to hateful in a single post.

Besides the obvious lessons from the Amy’s Baking Company disaster (don’t call your customers “punks,” for one) we see some key takeaways for other customer service providers:

1. Choose which employees can post to social media and train them well

In a company of any size, there should be dedicated team members or outsourced resources that handle social media requests, comments, and questions. It’s not only important that these people are well-trained in your company’s tone and style, but also instructed on appropriate responses to negative comments and the proper reporting structure when comments get out of hand.

2. Learn how to respond to negative comments and apologize when necessary

Every company will make mistakes from time to time, however, it’s the purposeful, proactive companies that make an effort to learn from these mistakes and make it right for their customers. In the case of Amy’s Baking Company, a simple acceptance of fault and apology would have gone a long way towards calming some of the public outrage. Additionally, in outrageous cases such as this one, it may become necessary to take a social media break to allow the scandal to fizzle out. Amy’s Facebook posts have only fueled the fire of an angry public.

3. Remember that the internet has a long memory  

On Tuesday, Amy’s Baking Company posted that their websites had obviously been hacked and denied writing any of the inflammatory posts. Unfortunately, the internet has a longer memory than one simple post can wipe out. Company responses to negative reviews on Yelp from 2010 fit the same tone and delivery that characterized the latest Facebook posts, while scenes from the Kitchen Nightmares episode circulating on YouTube showed the couple in a similar light. Additionally, while the couple tried to resolve some of the problems by wiping their Facebook clean, numerous screenshots already abounded of the Bouzaglo’s remarks. Other customer service companies will do well to remember this lesson when considering whether or not to post unflattering or controversial views.

What other lessons can be learned from Amy’s Baking Company’s social media disaster? Tell us your reaction in the comments!