Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Does Your Business Have Too Many Customers? Need to Drive Them Away?

Then just follow the example of Barre Cleveland; they’ve apparently provided a textbook case concerning using combining hubris, ignorance of the web, hyper sensitivity, emetically bad PR and marketing with an extremely shaky, and potentially expensive lack of knowledge of the legal system.
So what happened?.

A simple, oft repeated story. Local blogger receives interwebs discount coupon for a workout class at Barre Cleveland. The blogger, Alana of The Dawg’s Dish, rounds up some cronies and heads over for the trial class. Returns home, and blogs about her experience in a mild, but mixed review. On the plus side, she liked it as a change of pace from her regular workout. On the negatives, it wasn’t to her personal taste for a regular part of her program, was too far from her home, and she deemed it too expensive at $25 a session.

As a business, there’s gold to be mined from this kind of review. One potentially positive course of action would be to link to the review on your site and Facebook, pulling out some positive comment, but alluding to her concerns (“gosh, it’s a shame that we’re 45 minutes away on the east side, thanks for your comments, appreciate the fact that you would consider more visits to vary your workout, etc.”). If your classes are full, don’t budge off of the $25 price. if you are at 50% capacity (or some “low” number), offer a 6 month trial at $15 per session. Turn this into a win and a positive for your business.

Especially for a blogger. Even though in these benighted times you can hardly swing a cat* without hitting a self-described “social media professional”, to your business, these people are either gold or kryptonite. In this case, Barre Cleveland got to choose.

They chose kryptonite. Actually, that’s a poor metaphor, since they seem to bear very little resemblance to Superman. The response was more like pulling a pin out of a grenade and dropping it at your feet, just to see what would happen.

So, what did they do? Threaten said blogger with criminal action for “theft of services” for complaining about the prices. Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up; even satire has a lower limit.
What happens next? To no ones surprise, (other than to the folks at Barre Cleveland), another website, The Consumerist, picks up the scent. Who’da thunk it?

But it gets worse for Barre Cleveland. The Blog Father, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, posts a link to The Consumerist post. Instalanches have been known to take down servers; even a secondary link probably drove a couple thousand readers to the Dawg’s Dish. None of this crowd will have a positive view of Barre Cleveland.

Oh, and The Dawg’s Dish response is here.

One hopes for Barre Cleveland's sake that they are not a franchise, because if they are, the franchisor is going to have something to say  about this, and it's not going to be pretty. 

* Don’t blame me, it’s a Mark Twain reference (The Innocents Abroad).