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Reputation Management – PR 101

If someone has just had a very bad experience at – say – your hotel, how would you handle it?

  • Try your utmost to make that person happy?
  • Tell that person to “go find another hotel”?

This just happened to my family members. And when I tried to call the hotel to get to the bottom of it, I was called “inappropriate,” followed by other accusatory name calling… “Nasty” came up at least four times, but by the first one, my head was already spinning with, “Oh… My… gawd… What kind of person is on the other end of the phone?”

I’ll cut him some slack here, in that I was phone-shuffled to a sales person, because I asked for someone in PR or management. He had either missed the classes on interpersonal relationships and relational sales (which offers interpersonal skills), or he’s really of the ilk for accusing others of what he doesn’t like in his own personality… He just couldn’t let his own ego, in order to keep a customer…

He completely forgot his job, thinking this wasn’t his can of worms. Sales, after all, is the transference of enthusiasm, but his reactions at every turn was the opposite of enthusiasm. It was arrogantly rude, and he gave me fodder for a great Reputation Management PR do’s and don’t story. I had hoped for a better story. I called to get it “settled.” I wanted to believe in this place, but it spiraled downward even deeper.

And, he got me thinking about what kind of place is this… My kids had problems, now I’m having problems. This is the Hampton Inn in Windsor, where I’ve been sending people since it was built… a few years ago. That’s not going to happen ever again, of course… The Hampton Inn is a member of the Hilton Family, and I’ve long used this Hotel around the US. Never, I mean never, have I met “mean,” until this past weekend.

It’s only fair to say at the beginning of this story that usually, when I have a problem, I’ll begin the conversation with, “I’m really upset right now, but my problem isn’t with you, it’s with this situation.” However, I’m really stretched right now with several real crises I’ve had to handle lately, so I didn’t begin the conversation below. This caused the person on the other end of the line to defend himself… He owned it, and he shouldn’t have, instead of removing himself, so he could provide good customer service.

Reputation Management Dos and Don’ts

A progressive and caring company, which serves the public, should know how to handle both happy and upset customers. It’s just part of  great customer service. If employees are indifferent, this isn’t going to reflect well on your facility.

DOs for Reputation Management

  • Know that before a crisis arises, everyone in your company must understand the importance of your company’s reputation.
    • People have choices.
    • People have websites like “Yelp,” where a bad review can instantly cost you future business.
  • Remember that when a crisis happens, the first step is to do everything you can to prevent a problem from becoming a reputational crisis.
  • Provide an authentic and contemporary experience for guests worldwide, especially if you state on your website that this is your credo.
    • Even if you don’t state that, why would that not be your goal?
  • Listen when someone is calling with a complaint, and listen carefully.
    • That person is calling, because she or he is looking for a resolution, not a revolution.
    • To become defensive instead of empathetic means you’ve lost a customer, with rippling effects.
  • Use all customer feedback for early warning signals to reputational problems.
    • If you’re not the right person to handle the crisis, ask the person to wait while you find the right person.
    • The person is looking for someone to listen and resolve the situation.
    • If it’s a phone call, get a name and number, and reassure the person that someone will be getting back shortly, if no one is available.
  • Prevent minor problems from becoming reputational crises.
    • Make sure your staff communicates and responds quickly and appropriately.
    • Stay calm.
  • Maintain a good reputation during the crisis.
    • Don’t take it personally.
    • All you’ve really got in the business world, at the end of the day, is your reputation.
    • Don’t tarnish it by over reacting.

Don’ts for Reputation Management

  • Never wait for a crisis to try your hand at it.
    • Be prepared… Reacting with your personal ego can cause your company more harm than good.
    • People have websites like “yelp,” where a bad review can instantly cost you future business.
  • Remember that when a crisis happens, the last thing you want is for it to escalate into more than what it was.
    • Never forget your company’s credo, for what is stated.
    • Think of your internalized principles as an umbrella that will carry you through the storms.
  • A habit is an internalized principle, so practice it each day, and you’ll come out with a win instead of a loss.
    • Never stop listening when someone is calling with a complaint.
    • It’s not your job to talk until the person has stopped telling you about the bad experience.
    • And remember, perception is reality. You can easily change that reality with just a modicum of genuine caring.
  • Don’t discard customer feedback as trivial.
    • It’s definitely an early warning signal for reputational problems.
  • Never resort to name calling.
    • It demonstrates a lack of interpersonal relationship skills and that you need some help.
    • It will not resolve anything and makes your company even less desirable. Each tiny chip away from your reputation will eventually cause that facility’s crumbling.

Interestingly, I have witnesses for my end of the conversation, with one person actually being a practicing behavioral psychologist. She said the following to me when I said,

“I just hung up on the guy. He said to me, ‘I have some things I want to say, before I end this conversation.'”

That was code for, “I’m going to hang up on you, lady.”

When he said “nasty” for at least three times in his tirade, I finally said, “Nasty?” Because I was listening to him to see where he was going to go… Which was all accusatory. (I had told him that he was giving me a great story to write.) The last nasty just put me over the edge.  I’m not into S&M, so I just put the receiver down.

My friend to me:

“Jo, you did everything you should have. You never raised your voice, you only stated facts, you didn’t curse, and you got off the phone on his last “nasty” comment to you.

Just another day in the life of a wine industry publicist.

19 Responses to “Reputation Management – PR 101”

  1. Melanie Hoffman says:

    You failed to mention what our bad experience was. After a less than satisfactory visit two weeks prior, we alerted the staff we would be back to stay on their property due to the flooding crisis you are experiencing at your home. While the previous visit was more annoying than unpleasant, we thought we would give them another shot since they promised to make us comfortable during this past visit. The previous visit consisted of the Hampton Inn in Windsor not being able to accommodate our request of adjoining rooms, and they were “at capacity” so when our room became the receiving end of romper room above us, they couldn’t relocate us. As hard as it was to relax on that trip, we were told they would “take care of us” during our next stay. Fast forward to last Wednesday, we arrive and are harshly greeted because there was a mixup on arrival dates. They thought we were to arrive on Tuesday the 29th, not Wednesday the 30th. Really shouldn’t have been a cold reception because they just charged the card on file and got their money, right? So next question, is our room on the third floor, per our request from our last stay? NO. Face falls in disappointment. Can we have a third floor room then? NO. There are no rooms available tonight, yours is the last available room. We can move you tomorrow, if the room doesn’t work for you. Okay, it is what it is. Moving on, get the room keys and go to our first floor room. Open door and immediately I’m aware that the room had a stinky cigarette smell that had been attempted to get covered up with air freshener. Yuck. Then my husband goes into the restroom and comes out to tell me, “this is a handicap accessible room, there’s no tub.” Now for 2 adults staying alone, sure it’s unfortunate, but not the end of the world. Our issue was we have 2 small toddlers, so a tub is necessary. Next issue we open our window and we’re greeted by a patron walking by the pool and our window and here we are on display in the fish bowl. My husband went back to the front desk and let them know our concerns, and that the room definitely would not work. Morning arrives and I discreetly address the floor manager with my concerns. He summons the hotel manager who says under no circumstances is another room available. I replied “really? I walked around the 3rd floor this morning and all these room numbers had check out slips under their doors. So how are there no rooms becoming available?” His response was “all those rooms are already sold.” To which I replied, “so I can’t have one of those rooms and someone checking in can’t have mine?” Blank stare, then the cincher, “you should contact your insurance company and see if they can find you another room.” I was agahst. After a serious pregnant pause I replied, “you know our last stay was unsatisfactory, so I think I will try to find another property to stay in.” And his response, “OK and you should do that soon.” Taken aback I reply I will and walk away. I have never been treated like garbage by hotel staff. I felt like I was treated like garbage by Hampton Inn in Windsor, CA. I don’t think our requests were outlandish or extreme. Expecting a nonsmoking room to be smoke free and asking for a room with a tub doesn’t seem overly high maintenance. I will never stay at this hotel again. We moved to The Fountain Grove Inn. A much better property, and the staff excelled in hospitality.

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    You also failed to mention, Melanie, that it was for half the price. A room in Windsor for $300/night is ridiculous… as compared to staying in Sarasota Florida for the same price, on the gulf Coast, spa amenities, pristine Atlantic at your finger tips, and four star restaurants on the property. All this hotel offers is an Applebee’s next door. This is not the lap of luxury for the cost of admission.

    A very sad ending to this story, for someone who has recommended it to so many…

  3. Melanie says:

    An additional note; the beds are uncomfortable, there are no premium channels, the pillows hurt my neck, and the lighting is too harsh (how about some soft white? This isn’t the Grande Inquisition!)

  4. Robert Stevens says:

    I am familiar with this hotel and know some staff there. I confronted them with your accusations and find a very different story! You live in a glass house and threaten others with the stones of social media. Decency and truth don’t seem to be as important to you as being arrogantly “right”. YOU are what’s wrong with this world we live in. Throw your stones wherever you will, but they will come back to haunt you!

  5. Jo Diaz says:

    Dear Robert,

    I appreciate your comments. They’re heartfelt for your own personal relationships. I’m actually happy for you that you’ve had good experiences, with this staff.

    When I called, looking for resolution, I was met with what I’ve written in this story. I, like you believe in Karma, so I don’t put out what I don’t want back on my own doorstep. You can check my “kudos” page, you’ll see that I have a pretty decent reputation within the wine business, and my dealings with people. http://www.wine-blog.org/index.php/endorsements/

    “Warmth” comes up, “feminine esthetic toward wine, and we see it around us today, in the careers of women as varied as Leslie Sbrocco, Jancis Robinson and Jo Diaz.” “Jo Diaz is actually quite an inspiration…” It goes on, but I won’t. I just want you to know that I’ve always been honest… and this story is honest. It may not be as pretty as we’d want, but it’s just the facts a I lived them.

    My blog is rarely used for a rant. They’re rare; but occasionally, I come up against an immoveable object. When that happens, the power of the pen is always mightier than the sword.

    If someone called you “inappropriate,” when you were trying to get to the bottom of a story, or even “nasty,” repeatedly, when all you said was, “Boy, you guys are giving me a good story,” when in fact, you weren’t really looking for the REAL story but wanting resolution, I wonder how you’d handle that?

    You’ve also called me names, because you’re very angry… but, you weren’t there. I’m sorry that your feelings were hurt in this process. What can I do to make you feel better?

  6. Robert Stevens says:

    I’m not angry. I go to church with one of the people whose reputation you so quickly try to besmirch! I know this person to be truthful and genuine and it does make me disturbed that you so quickly and easily throw mud at the reputation of a fine organization and person just because you didn’t get what you wanted – right or wrong. You were evidently not even present at the hotel! 3 people state that there was no cigarette smell in the room yet you present that as a fact. The problem with you and with social media in general is that you can lie and present unthruths as through they were fact in a vacuum. Why don’t you call the hotel and find out what REALLY happened before destroying reputations. I believe in karma. Do you?

  7. Robert Stevens says:

    I also want to point out that you and your husband make your home in this community. Lighting fires where you live doesn’t really make sense. What if I or someone else wanted to do the same thing to you that you are doing and start attacking your companies on social media, google, yelp, etc. It would be interesting to see your reaction! Whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter to social media now does it? Or does it?

  8. Jo Diaz says:

    Dear, Robert,

    So many thing going on here…

    You’re right. You’re the keeper of your own feelings, so you may not be angry, even though you’re using angry words.

    I find it interesting that you’re using social media for exactly the SAME reason you’ve cited me on… Hum… “The problem with you and with social media in general is that you can lie and present unt[h]ruths as through they were fact in a vacuum.”

    And, you write, “Why don’t you call the hotel and find out what REALLY happened before destroying reputations.” I’m thinking you DIDN’T EVEN READ this through. This story came about because I DID CALL the hotel, and was verbally abused.

    You are two degrees of separation from someone who had an encounter with my daughter at his hotel.

    I HAD a FIRST DEGREE of separation encounter with one of the people at this hotel; and I’m telling you, it was negative.

    I did not lie, I did not speak untruths… I stated the facts as they happened. (Truth always hurts, I know, when it’s not what we want to hear.)

    You don’t even read what I’m writing to you, besides not getting the point of why this blog was written int he first place. You simply came out looking for a fight. I wrote in my first comment to you, “I, like you believe in Karma…”

    So, let’s not chase our tales/tails, here.

    We also both know, we can please some of the people some of the time, but we can’t please all of the people all of the time.

    I asked what I could do to make you happy; and I’m not going to, because you didn’t address my question to you. You want to have angry words with me and hate me… Not to worry, though. You’ll be absolved in church, so that WILL make you happy. Job done…

    The End…

  9. Jo Diaz says:

    Actually, I have your comment right here about this:

    “I also want to point out that you and your husband make your home in this community. Lighting fires where you live doesn’t really make sense. What if I or someone else wanted to do the same thing to you that you are doing and start attacking your companies on social media, google, yelp, etc. It would be interesting to see your reaction! Whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter to social media now does it? Or does it? ~ So I’ll be saving it.

    If your threat becomes a reality, and I do take it as a REAL THREAT, I would just hand this statement and any other untrue statements made down the line (intended to defame me, my husband, or my business, that are untrue and unprovable) over to the police, a defamation of character attorney, and the FBI. What you’ve written is very revealing.

  10. Robert Stevens says:

    My dear, unlike you I am not such a person. Though you try to demean my going to church, I do answer to a higher authority. Your reputation is yours to do with as you feel fit. I know it’s worth, however! Perhaps your readers will find out as well.

  11. Jo Diaz says:

    If you’re not such a person, why would you even THINK of a threat?

    I’m not demeaning your church going… I”m simply pointing it out, because you talk about it as if makes for you being a good person… Yet, you make threats. No judgment call here, I’m just stating the obvious.

    My friends know who I am, as yours know you. Thankfully, we both have them and they know who we are.

    Threatening people is dangerous… As I recall, the Romans took down Jesus from threats. I’m not Jesus, not suggesting I am. What Jesus and I share is that we’ve been threatened… HIM (our son of God) by the Romans, who carried out their threats. And I’ve been threatened by you, Robert Stevens. You’re on record, as I’ve so noted. Date, time, and circumstances.

  12. Melanie Hoffman says:

    I’m curious, is Robert Stevens a regular reader of your blog? I’m just trying to figure out how he happened upon your article. It seems strange a friend of a guy from a hotel would be browsing wine blogs. And despite the three people stating the room did not smell of cigarettes, I have to disagree. I have a sensitive palate and extremely sensitive nose. The room smelled like someone tried to cover it with air freshener. It wasn’t like a cigar lounge, but it left me feeling ill. The whole experience left me feeling ill.

  13. Robert Stevens says:

    You have proven my point so well. Social media is scary and can have nothing to do with what is true. It is also hurtful. For example, your story unfolded with you saying that the hotel we were discussing is over-priced. And yet, in your story it is sold out. So is it really over-priced or are we in a high-priced area?! You don’t want to know the truth, you just want to accuse! You made my point so well in your very own blog. Me, I have no desire to speak bad of you. As I said, karma will take care of everything.

  14. Jo Diaz says:

    You proved your own point. I didn’t. You issued the threat.

    I’ve been in 41 of our 50 states, in every major metropolitan city… As well as Europe, to the Caribbean, and to the Pacific Islands. I’ve been in 4-star hotels, and paid all of the prices… After you’ve traveled that much, let’s talk about what’s comparable and what’s not. One night in that hotel is $300. Let me show you what that buys you in Sarasota Florida, for the same money. http://www.longboatkeyclub.com/longboat-key-resort-accommodations/?gclid=CPuu0te8_b8CFYk-MgodSjMAhQ

    I had to pay for an earlier visit by my kids and grandchildren, and it was a $300 per night. They left this same hotel the second time, because promises made the first time didn’t come through. The went to Fountain Grove Inn for $139/night, a nice place, and versus the $300/night that I would have to pay for each night, we saved a lot of money.

    Perception being reality, this hotel is over priced for ME and what I’m used to for that amount of money… I’m the one writing my own story, and it’s my perception.

    And, karma does take care of everything. I’ve lived long enough to watch a lot of it play out. That’s why I remained civil, even amid your name calling and threat. I have no regrets.

  15. Annoyomus says:

    “I’m curious, is Robert Stevens a regular reader of your blog? I’m just trying to figure out how he happened upon your article. It seems strange a friend of a guy from a hotel would be browsing wine blogs.”

    Yeah, and it seems strange a person who writes a wine blog would use said blog to rant about a hotel experience…let alone a hotel in which she did not even stay.

  16. Jo Diaz says:

    Dear Annoyomus,

    No, he’s not a regular reader, as it turns out. I’ve uncovered who he is and he’s not who he professes to be. Just try to imagine who he is and you’d probably be right.

    Thanks for asking about my “rare” rant, Annoyomus. I don’t use my blog for regular rants, but I do when there’s a teachable moment.

    The rant is more of an opportunity to turn around a very difficult and complicated experience. I paid for this room, via my insurance for a house flood that is now costing in the range of $35,000. I have an FIXED amount that we can spend for lodging, and these funds are limited. What was spend on my daughter and her young family will NOT be spent in the future, when we need accommodations during reconstruction. (We would have lived in this hotel for a week.) So, I have a vested interest in how it turned out. Ultimately, it was our expense.

    My kids and grand kids were bounced around with very few days to be here.

    My house is currently uninhabitable for our small grandchildren (3-years and 10 months old). They can’t be on floors with the carpets ripped up, raw floor boards, and electrical units exposed because the rock-wall has been ripped out. So, we arranged for them to be at this local hotel, because I had a good experience when I set up a meeting at the hotel with a group coming in from the Department of Commerce and SABIT.

    And had a second positive story about this hotel. Special American Business Internship Training Delegates Are Learning About the US Wine Market As We Learn About Them

    At the time of my daughter’s recent stay, we were also hosting an adult friend who is going through chemo therapy treatments. She just left after staying in our home, for rest between her six month long treatments.

    We were stretched to the limit of patience and vulnerability. Fortunately, our insurance company has the empathy needed to continue to get us through our home crisis flood, which happened on July 8, with our internal home now looking like a war zone… For the last month.

    The comments below from Mr. Stevens, expressly indicates the culture within the hotel that was received… both by my kids (which did eventually fly off the handle, because how much can one take?), and me… when I called to get to the bottom of it and I was repeatedly called “nasty…” That kind of culture is unacceptable in hospitality service. I’m an educator, so it became a teachable moment, instead of trauma on top of trauma on top of trauma.

  17. Melanie Hoffman says:

    And my side of feeling so frustrated by the situation is this. My husband is stuck in CA finishing business before he can move to Colorado. He’s been working away from his two young girls for over a month. One is 3 & a half, the other is 11 months. Very critical time to developing minds to have the comfort and structure of both parents. I make trips to CA with the girls approximately every 2 weeks for only a few days. These days are supposed to be relaxing. We had planned on staying with my mother before the flood disaster at her home. What resulted wto both visits resulted in an extremely hostile environment and lack of hospitality from the arrangements we made at a facility that we chose because it has close proximity to our families.

    I feel like we were punished by the establishment because a staff member had had a bad experience with the insurance company arranging our visit. A public tweet stated this insurance company had done him wrong. So now we are at the end of his retribution for what they did to him. This is just my feeling on the situation.

    We spent both of these visits more stressed about our environment than enjoying each other.

    And to be trolled by the GM after leaving because I expressed my dissatisfaction with our stay on websites that are designed to share experiences is deplorable. I only wrote what I experienced. I only shared my truth of the situation.

    This hotel does need a brush up in compassionate training. Hospitality businesses are supposed to be hospitable. The final comment when I said we would find other arrangements, “You should do that soon” was what insulted me to the core. It wasn’t even 10am and we were being pushed out.

    This hotel has a sign at their front desk, “if your not satisfied, you won’t pay for your stay”

    This is their policy.

  18. Jo Diaz says:

    The most important point that I missed, and to answer your question, Annoyomus, is that I have a “Lodging” subtitle under “Categories.”

    I write about wine country experiences as a wine publicist. I’ve representing lodging facilities, including creating the facelift needed for good, quality service.

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