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The Magic Words You Should Think But Never Say

“We have a business to run.”  These are the magic words that every businessperson must run on a loop inside his head.  But the big mistake you could make is telling it to a customer outright.

Consider the following twitter conversation between a customer and a cafe.  (Much thanks to Scott Stratten of UnMarketing fame for providing the example at SMC Dallas’ event last night).

Point of fact: Dark Horse is not wrong.  What they claim is totally true: they are in the coffee business; they’re not there so that people can buy a six bucks worth of scones and lattes and  camp out for the next three hours.  People like that do kill a small business like Dark Horse.  April Dunford’s request was reasonable.  Dark Horse’s denial of her request was reasonable too.  The implied statement Dark Horse made was that they have a business to run.  The mistake Dark Horse made WAS SAYING SO.

What does telling a customer “We have a business to run?” actually imply?

a) What you’re asking of me is illogical.  Therefore, you’re dumb.
b) We have real work to do.  You’re just being a big baby.  Grow up.
c) We’re here to make money.  And you’re in my way.  Get lost.
d) Screw you.

What was the proper response to the customer?

Cafe: “@customer We’re so sorry we don’t have enough outlets.  Thanks for the tip.  We’re going to try and fix the situation and we’ll keep you posted.”

Then you go get your IT guy to throttle your WiFi so that connections speeds are just fast enough for customers to briefly check email or look something up on Google Maps, but not so fast that they can write their dissertation for the next six hours.  There aren’t many people who can be on a laptop for that long and not have an internet connection.  So throttle the WiFi speed and your problem should be mitigated if not solved.

The lesson to learn:

No matter the tone a customer has with you on Twitter, be tactful first.  Tact is what keeps a Twitter conversation at a whisper; nastiness will make a Twitter conversation go viral. Remember, you as the business have more to lose than the customer does.  That’s why you eat crow and collect the dough.


5 thoughts on “The Magic Words You Should Think But Never Say

  1. But if they throttle the Internet, they’ll get that person complaining about that next & still unhappy. Or they’ll get people with cell networks to camp out.
    Maybe a better solution would be to explain the predicament in a nicer way & ask the customer for their help finding a solution. Including them in the process will generate loyalty & may give a better solution like maybe a 1hr wifi credit with each purchase or something else?

    Posted by Neal | September 15, 2010, 11:30 am
  2. Throttling the wifi doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t solve the problem: checking Google maps needs a decent connection, while writing a dissertation can be done on Word without a connection. Also with 1 person connected it might be fine but with 10 useless, and as Neal said, they’d just be swapping one set of complaints for another.

    How about calculating the cost of a cover that’s not buying food and saying that between these peak times, or when busy, there will be a table/hr charge if you’re not buying food, then providing great wifi & sockets. Maybe then the coffee house will be busy at 3 in the afternoon too.

    But yes, obviously I accept your main thrust was to talk about customer service & tact but that’s really just gloss if you’re then going to throttle the wifi. The real solution is to **actually listen** & design a solution that works for everyone. That’s what a marketing-led business does, right?

    Posted by John Allsopp (@JohnAllsoppIM) | June 23, 2012, 12:23 am


  1. Pingback: “This coffee is a shop, not a lounge.” – Social Media in Marketing - November 14, 2016

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