Retail

Business posts CCTV footage of customer on phone after she posted one-star review: How far should you go to fight online criticism?

Emma Koehn /

A family-owned Queensland grocer has decided to share CCTV footage to defend itself after a customer posted a one-star review online saying she hoped the place would “shut down”.

But communications experts warn that going into battle against bad reviews has the potential to cause a business more pain.

The Friendly Grocer Nobby Beach took the step of sharing footage from its security cameras with news.com.au last week after a customer slammed the business in a Google review, complaining the owner started to “scream like crazy” because she was on the phone while paying for her items.

The customer claimed she was on an urgent phone call and it was “unbelievable and disrespectful” that the person serving her behind the counter did not see that before she says he started to yell at her.

However, the Grist family, who run the business on the Gold Coast Highway in Mermaid Beach, told news.com.au customers need to be aware of their surroundings.

The son of the business owner said his father, who was serving the woman, had simply told the customer he would prefer she get off the phone while he served her.

Alistair Grist says the family shared the CCTV footage on YouTube after seeing the review, and told news.com.au the interaction was not aggressive.

“All Dad said was, ‘I think you’re being very rude, I don’t appreciate it, and I’d prefer it if you got off your phone while you’re being served’,” he said.

The business says it can’t even rectify or respond to the review left for the business, because it was posted to a business listing for the IGA supermarket that previously occupied the site of the Friendly Grocer and to which they don’t have access.

This is not the first time in recent weeks that a business has interacted with online reviewers to defend its reputation.

Just last week, a US ski resort shared the contents of a review that said its offerings were “too advanced”, using the analysis in a cheeky Facebook campaign to promote its services.

Meanwhile, businesses are increasingly keen to rebut bad reviews left on sites like TripAdvisor and give their side of the story.

In August, an Irish restaurant had a go at an Aussie tourist who left a scathing review after he left his coat and glasses at the establishment and they were not been posted back to Australia in a speedy enough fashion.

The business owner hit back at the claim his restaurant “lacked integrity”, saying the review “beggars belief” considering the venue had already pledged to return the customer’s goods to him as soon as possible.

Branding experts told SmartCompany at the time that while the temptation to “tell off” badly behaved customers is real, businesses need to think about ways to do this that are warm, rather than aggressive.

Crisis communications expert Nicole Matejic says in the case of The Friendly Grocer, sharing the CCTV footage could be considered a risk.

“This seems to be massive overreaction on both sides — business and customer,” Matejic says.

“On the business side, you do need to have a fair bit of resilience about what is said about you online.

While there’s a need to respond publicly to reviews that reveal systemic issues with a business, taking the complaints of one customer public could just take up your energy, Matejic says.

“Going after one-star reviews is likely a waste of your time…you have to decide to pick your battles.”

There is scope to be playful with negative reviews sometimes, but make sure you can show the benefits of your business through this, or how you are repairing a customer’s concern, says Matejic.

“You wouldn’t want to do this for every one-star review. And don’t just talk about it [the review’s negatives], demonstrate you have changed,” she says.

SmartCompany contacted The Friendly Grocer for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is a former senior journalist at SmartCompany.

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