A Masterclass in Managing Disgruntled Customers by The Tearoom

It’s very easy to cross over to the darker side of arguing online. While throwing jabs at other people in the comments of instablog is already bottom barrel, it still doesn’t compare to actual cyberbullying, which I *think* should be a crime.

So where am I going with this? November last year, a new restaurant opened in Lagos, to the delight of all lifestyle bloggers with popping Instagram accounts. With it’s vintage and floral decor, the ambience of the Tearoom Lagos became an instant hit with people who enjoy posing for the ‘gram. I have to admit, the place is instagrammable to a T, complete with choice knick-knacks to add some flavour to your pictures. Just imagine Elan Cafe in London, but in Lekki. That’s Tearoom Lagos.

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Pick a flower Stephiana 🌸

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However, Nigerians are nobody’s clown and soon we started to get feedback from the customers who had visited and most of it, not good.

About two months ago, we came on Beyonce’s internet to hear (sort of) a report of a customer who had visited Tearoom and was asked to pay before they were to be seated. They were also asked to produce their receipt before being allowed to take pictures. In all fairness, that might have made sense to the management or whoever came up with it because Nigerians have probably turned the place into a photo booth and were most likely not buying the (overpriced or so we heard) food.

While bad for business, these reviews do not warrant an arrest from the police. If that is the Tearoom’s policy, nobody can hold them and say, we’re dragging you to court for this. A few people even speculated that if payment before being seated is the case, then it should become a membership-only restaurant, open only to its members and exclusive patrons like Miliki or Capital Club. That makes sense, methinks. What can take one to court, however, is libel. And the most recent drama surrounding this controversial restaurant can most likely be classified under libel.

Lawyers, correct me if I’m wrong.

Apparently, a customer had visited for brunch and service had been subpar, as usual. She shared the experience on her Instagram, and the owner of the Tearoom took umbrage and slid into the customer’s DMs with a barrage of abuse. Not satisfied, she (the owner) took to her Instagram Stories to rain more abuse on this customer.

Haba.

(Ed Note: The Tearoom lady was particularly upset at the use of the word “negro”, which one hand is an African American colloquialism and wasn’t used to offend. On the other, you can’t tell people what to be offended by….so, oh well.)

The tweets about the incident have since been deleted, but based on this incident, here’s a very short list of things that a business, food service owner or management should NEVER do to customers, especially on the one entity that never forgets: the internet.

  1. Fly into their DMs all aggressive. It’s human to be angry, in fact, it would be weird if as a service provider you do not sometimes get frustrated or annoyed by difficult customers. When you do, you should definitely NOT fly off in a rage and start raining insults. It is, quite frankly, unbecoming and would definitely make that customer - and other potential customers - stay away. Don’t do it. Take a deep breath and reply later or not at all.

  2. Post their picture and/or handle to your followers. This is crossing that line I was talking about earlier. You’re basically releasing your attack dogs on them. This is in cyberbullying and possible libel territory. This could land you in court and cost you your business. Don’t do it. Do not. Again, take a deep breath and wait until you are calm to reply if you have to.

  3. Do not use your business page to harass, bully or abuse people on the internet. It might be pretty tempting, but do not ever do it. Don’t.

Instead of making moves that would be extremely damaging to your business and possibly end it, what you CAN do is:

  1. Listen and accept constructive criticism- because we acknowledge that some people are just haters and not all critique is useful, but filter out what can actually help improve your business and service to customers.

  2. Hire a social media manager. If you know that you fly off the handle *quite* easily and cannot handle difficult customers, this might be a wise move to make. You also have the satisfaction of firing any manager who is being inappropriate in the handling of your business page.

  3. Last, but not least, and arguably the most important: take a deep breath and do not reply in anger. You’re welcome.

I hope that the Tearoom can recover and maybe even learn from this, but as the PR experts say, bad PR is still PR.

Or something like that.