A popular question this week was "Can my boss fire me for what I put on Facebook?" The sad reality is yes, and although the offence may not be referenced directly, behaving badly online can get you fired. I’m writing about this topic because last week, Sun Weekend co-ordinator Grant Hamilton and I discussed this (ironically) on Twitter after Grant posted a link to an article by former union organizer Josh Eidelson. In his article he references some U.S. cases where employees were fired because of what they said on social media.
Such as one woman who posted comments about a co-worker, complaining about the work ethic of the employees in her organization. She was immediately terminated.
Another case dealt with a bartender who complained on Facebook that her boss had messed up her tax deductions, and called him (another word for donkey). A co-worker pressed "like". Both were fired.
In another case, a car salesman was fired for mocking an accident at an adjoining dealership where a 13-year-old drove a Land Rover into a pond. Apparently the posts were funny, but made "fun" of the dealership group the salesman worked for. Gone.
You say, "This happens only in the U.S.?" At Canada Post Edmonton, a woman with 31 years of service mocked her supervisors and Canada Post. In one post she said she had a voodoo doll of one supervisor, and if she hadn’t been drinking, "She would take her out on the driveway and run her over." Her union rep argued a toxic work environment made her post the stuff, believing her Facebook postings were private. An arbitrator concluded that Canada Post had just cause to terminate her.
The moral of this story? If you have beefs about your employer or co-workers, don’t post them on a social media site. You do not know who your "friends" really are. Diss your boss or company online or you could wind up in the unemployment line. It’s called "biting the hand that feeds you."
However, companies in western Manitoba should be put on notice. If you run a successful business in this community, people are talking about you online. Do you know what they are saying? Is it good? Is it bad? Is this conversation bringing you more business or keeping customers away? Instead of worrying about employees, start worrying about customers.
I once briefly helped an online marketing company with a client who was a ski hill operator in the U.S. Midwest. She asked me point-blank: "How do I get critical stuff off the internet? We need to take down all this bad publicity right away."
I asked, "What are people saying and where?"
She named a few message boards where people were discussing poor skiing conditions, and lack of snow. This woman was pleading with me to "Take this inaccurate information off the site. I will pay you what you want, I just want it gone."
I explained to her that most, if not all the third-party website comments were essentially ‘untouchable,’ unless it was legally wrong. Then I asked if the ski resort itself was a member of each site, under its proper name for official credibility. She said no. I asked why and she asked "Why would we?"
I explained to her, without addressing the users concerns head-on, there was really no other way to deal with her issue of online banter about her business.
I told her to think of it this way: You are at your favourite retailer and someone is not happy with a product, so they go to customer service to complain and get their money back (or get a replacement.)
Is there a customer service agent there? Of course there is.
Rule 1: It is every business’ JOB to be where customers are. Don’t understand Facebook or Twitter? Can’t afford to hire someone for something you can’t understand? Who answers your telephone? People aren’t just talking directly to you on a phone, they are talking about you, to you and to others. If you aren’t on Facebook or Twitter, get on it fast and have someone in your organization with customer service skills handle the task. Because:
Rule 2: Customer service issues are being handled "on stage". Take a customer at the big box store, for example. The VCR they bought (who still buys those?) doesn’t work and they bought it two weeks ago. They simply want it replaced. Let’s call the store "Ty-mart". Now, one of three things can happen at customer service. 1) Customer leaves happy. 2) Customer leaves appeased and may never come back or 3) Customer is unhappy and will likely never come back. Which one would you like to have happen in your business?
Rule 3: Treat everyone as if they were a celebrity. Sometimes people may be treated differently because they have a large audience. Many believe if not treated properly, that person might "say something" that might reflect badly on business.
Bottom line: you should be treating ALL your customers like celebrities (if you aren’t already). Why? Because of social media, each customer has their own "tribe" or audience. Think about this: You’ve NOT bought something or gone somewhere because a buddy said "Don’t do it, it’s terrible. Or don’t buy that or shop there."
Back to the store. Customer asks to return the VCR and the employee says "Forget it. It’s been used. Two weeks is past the point where we can do anything. NEXT!" And she’s rude about it.
Rule 4: Your reputation rests on how you handle problems and not so much there are problems. A rude and snarky response to a reasonable request is going to be something people remember and something they share. However, we’ve all been in that same store where the customer goes on and on about how they want their money back AND a new machine, AND to speak with the manager etc. How did it make you feel to see good customer service person harassed? Customers will pick a side. You want them to pick yours. One Winnipeg restaurant is going so far as to ask people who complain about him to only do it on Facebook, so others can see how he takes care of people who are not happy. I want to eat there. He gets it.
Rule 5: A customer who sees you doing all you can to be honest, open and helpful, will win trust and customers. I’ve always wondered why a certain burger chain had the best looking burgers on TV, while mine came in the cardboard package and looked different. Was the company trying to be misleading? Is it possible to make a burger that looked as good as on TV? Well, this company (yes the one that used to employ a clown) went to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter with a campaign called "ask us." Sure enough, someone asked. Response: a complete 20-minute behind-the-scenes video that addressed the concern head-on, and it was entertaining. The video was honest, open and helpful. And while I know I will never get a picture-perfect burger, at least now I know why.
Rule 6: If you have something to hide, prepare for the end. Cutting corners? Bad quality? Bad customer service? I wouldn’t be worried about what your employees might say about you online. I’d be worried about what your customers are saying.
- Tanya Mccoy
- Tara Higgins
- Shannon Stewart
- Lisa Warniski
- Corrine Hollyoake
- Janissa Cassells
- Peggy Zazalak
- Lisa Warniski
- Kaitlyn McArthur
- Kim Weber
- Carla Foy
- Ashley Baker
- Courtney Newton
Joke This Week
A friend of a friend of mine was sitting on a lawn sunning and reading, when he was startled by a fairly late model car crashing through a hedge and coming to rest on his lawn. He helped the elderly driver out and sat him on a lawn chair.
"My goodness," he exclaimed, "you are quite old to be driving!"
"Yes" he replied," I am old enough that I don’t need a license anymore, the last time I went to my doctor he examined me, and asked if I had a driving license. I told him yes and handed it to him."
He took scissors out of a drawer, cut the license into pieces and threw them in the wastebasket".
"You won’t be needing this anymore", he said.
"So I thanked him and left."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 14, 2012