One of the fundamental principles of the work we do at the Better Business Bureau is that everyone deserves a chance to make things right. No one, except for scammers, gets into business to rip off customers.
In many cases, when we bring a complaint to a business owner’s attention, it’s the first they’ve heard about it. Our Marketplace Counsellors often hear “Why didn’t they just tell me there was a problem?”
Collectively, we seem to have given up on giving people a chance to do the right thing. Instead, we take to social media, and drag their name through the mud. That’ll teach ‘em, right?
In some cases, of course, this works. There are a few big companies who have teams on social media, responding to issues right away to protect their reputation. In the real gold-star companies, these representatives are truly empowered to fix problems: to offer discounts and refunds, rush service, or do whatever might resolve the issue.
But most companies don’t have these armies of social media scouts. Many companies don’t even have the resources required to post their own content on social media, let alone monitor it for comments about their business.
“Naming and shaming” can devastate a small business. One bad experience, real or perceived, can catch fire, be shared online, and seen by hundreds of people, before the owner of the business is even aware of a problem.
But when you’re the victim, it feels good, doesn’t it? Friends and followers rally around your cause, expressing the appropriate indignation, racking up those angry face reactions on Facebook, sharing and retweeting. You feel validated and vindicated. But did it solve your problem?
In my experience, most owners or managers of a business really do want to do the right thing. And they will, when they’re given the chance. If someone attacks you publicly for something you may or may not have done, how much motivation do you have to try and patch things up?
At the risk of sounding overly nostalgic, I’d love to see us return to a kind of civility in business relationships that we seem to have lost. The kind of civility that would see a disgruntled customer pick up the phone (or visit a business in person), ask to speak to the manager, and clearly articulate to that person what was wrong and what could be done to fix it. No audience, no sense of vengeance. Just one person talking to another.