Monday, June 27, 2011

Rant: Tapeo, A Social Media Failure

Tapeo, a Spanish tapas restaurant on Newbury Street, has four wines listed under the category "Jerez: Sherry" yet none of them are from Jerez or are actual sherries. That is undisputed, and I was also told that the restaurant might add an authentic sherry to their list in the future. But that is not the main point of this rant, though it is still something important to me.  When I sought to learn the restaurant's rationale behind this matter, I encountered a much larger issue, which serves as the theme of this rant as well as a cautionary tale for other businesses.

Let me begin with some preliminary background. Tapeo uses social media, including Twitter and Facebook.  On April 29, I posted an inquiry to Tapeo on both Twitter and Facebook, basically stating: "Could you tell me why your menu has 4 wines listed under "Jerez: Sherry" but none are actually sherry or from Jerez? Three of the wines are from Montilla-Moriles and the other is from Malaga." One week later, on May 6, I received a response on Facebook that they did not know the answer and would check for me.  So far, everything seemed good, but it did not stay that way.

Two weeks passed without a response from Tapeo, so I sent them a reminder on Facebook. By May 31, I still had not received any further response from Tapeo so I posted again on Facebook, including that I considered their ignoring me to be poor customer service. Sometime within the next two weeks, Tapeo deleted all of my Facebook posts, without any notice or explanation. And they still had not provided me any response to my original question. It was very clear then that I would not receive any type of answer through Tapeo's social media, so I decided to stop by the restaurant to discuss the matter.

Last Wednesday, I dropped by Tapeo and spoke with the General Manager, Anthony Montanaro. It was he who told their Function Coordinator, who runs their social media, to delete my Facebook posts. She had provided Anthony an inaccurate and incomplete version of what had occurred, so that Anthony believed that everything had happened within a timeframe of several days, rather than over more than a month.

Anthony felt that any questions about Tapeo should be sent directly to the restaurant, through the telephone or their email.  He does not see Twitter or Facebook as the appropriate place for questions, especially those like mine which he sees as negative. If similar such questions were posted by other people on Facebook, they would probably be deleted too. This then is the crux of the matter, over the proper use of social media.

Social media is about engagement, about interaction with consumers. It is not merely another forum to broadcast information about your business. Social media is not a one-way street, like a print ad. The key to successful social media is creating a conversation with your customers, allowing them to ask questions, to comment, and for you to respond to their inquiries, negative or not. It should be seen as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.

Tapeo seems to fail to understand these points, seeing their social media only as a place to broadcast information about themselves. They are unwilling to engage in conversation with their customers. They are ignoring the "social" aspect of this type of media. And they fail to tell consumers that is how they view social media. They could derive so many greater benefits from their social media but they have chosen not to do so.

I, like many other people, assume that if a business is using social media such as Twitter and Facebook, then it is acceptable to ask them questions there. I do it all the time, with many different companies.  So there was nothing wrong with asking Tapeo my original question about sherry. Then, when I was told by their Function Coordinator on Facebook that she would get back to me with an answer, I had a reasonable expectation she would do so, and within a reasonable time period. Her failure to ever respond to me was a social media failure as well as a business failure. Deleting my Facebook posts just compounded the error.      

Remember, that whoever runs your social media, whether an employee or an outside consultant, is an agent of your business, and their actions or omissions reflect on your business. As a business owner, do you monitor what occurs on your social media? Do you know what is being said about your business? You should, as you never know what might be going on and what you are ignoring could negatively impact your business.

Restaurants and other companies should learn from this cautionary tale. Use social media properly, interacting with your consumers, not ignoring them.  Address questions posed to you, rather than deleting them because you don't like them. Get over your antiquated ideas about media, that it is only there to broadcast about your own views. Be responsive to your customers as that is what they now desire.

Interact, listen, converse, learn and reap the benefits.


nicole said...

I have been following your tweets about this and I find the whole thing so interesting.

I think that Boloco has one of the best social media approaches in Boston. They RT posts, positive and negative, the reply to tweets, they fix mistakes, etc.

I love to see companies active like that.

Did Anthony ever address your first question about their wine list?

Anonymous said...

I was going to ask the same question: did you hear any explanation of the sherry?

I'm in 100% agreement with your view on the use of social media as connection and not merely promotion. I wonder about another aspect of this engagement, too, and that is, what do you think about restaurants who use these tools to complain about customers? Maybe subject for another time...

Richard Auffrey said...

All Anthony said was that the menu was a photograph, so to change the wine headings would require creating an entire new menu. They may do so sometime in the future, but for now the menu remains as is.

No explanation was provided of why they only carry non-sherries though, except he mentioned they may add an actual sherry sometime in the future.

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Nicole,
Yes, there are a number of companies that really understand social media, and use if effectively. Those are the companies best poised to thrive in the future.

Hi Jane,
Restaurants using SM to complain about customers is an intriguing topic for maybe a future rant. If you have any specifics, please email it to me. Thanks.

David Dadekian said...

I really tend to avoid using cutesy internet slang to comment, but wow if this doesn't meet definition of FAIL on Taleo's part, I don't know what does.

Kristin Braga said...

Richard-- that is an interesting response from Tapeo. It is sad that businesses believe that social media is another form of blasting information with no expectation for any response or conversation.

A reminder to businesses--you may hate negative comments but would you rather know it and respond, or have a unsatisfied customer having nothing resolved and saying negative things behind your back. It is just good business sense people!