The era of the citizen journalist

A while back I was interviewed by a trade magazine about blogging. One question was whether garden centers should monitor the internet for negative reviews. My answer was no, just get in on the conversation and occasionally Google you name and business name to see what comes up. I didn’t want to make it sound like you have to sit in front of the computer constantly checking on what people are saying. Maybe I should have said not to make it an obsession but yes, check regularly to what is being said about you.

Here is an unhappy consumer living in North Carolina that makes sure to let everyone know of their disappointment. It’s the second post down. What’s interesting is the $400 Holly trees we’re planted by Paradise Gardens Center for the former owners! Now the new owners have moved in and say all four Holly Trees died, and want the nursery to replace them. The new owners figured that the one-year plant warranty came with the title to the house . You can read the post, but you can’t comment as that function has been turned off.

I like this comment from the consumer, “the 2 center trees of the 4 which are planted in a row, came back to life and are doing great, do to constant care and the use of Miracle Grow.” Amazing how the two dead trees came back to life only with the help of Miracle-Gro” and constant care.

As a nursery person this makes me laugh. As a business person I would be aghast to see this when I Googled the company name. This complaint shows up right under the stores web page! With the comment feature turned off there is no way for the garden center to respond. All the work on the company web page just went down the drain.

If the events happened the way the consumer says, the nursery blew it! Actually it doesn’t matter whether it happened the way the consumer says, since the negative review is out there staring potential customers in the face.

The era of the citizen journalist is here. Everyone has a voice now and there is no way to control the conversation. This of course frightens business people. What happens if somebody with their own motivations decides to deride your company. What if everyone that comes through your store is pleased except for that one "pain in the you know what"? They decide to start a campaign of negativity. It could very well affect your business and the bottom line.

If the affected nursery wants to explain their side of the story what do they do. Put it on the front of their web page? I don't think so since thats like putting a notice of the event on your front door. What you want is a way to take this consumer aside and see if you can come to an agreement. The problem here is we don't know the identity of the person complaining. No way to get a hold of them.

If this isn't a wake up call for how we run our businesses I don't know what is. Are your return policies fair? Hows the consumer interaction going on at the cash register? Whats the cost of replacing two $400 hollies with the cost of repairing your image? Are we checking out whats being said about us on the internet? Do we have a way for disgruntled consumers to reach the owner, when it seems the other employees don't care? What if this consumer could have spoken directly with the owner on his blog?

This kind of thing is going to happen more and more. The best way to prevent it from happening is having an open door policy both in the store and on the internet. Check out what's being said about you now, before you hear it from someone else.