Friday, 18 October 2013

The Rules

First Rule of Business. Never lie to a customer because you WILL eventually be found out.

Second Rule of Business. Never have sex with a customer because it will all go wrong and you’ll both be FIRED.

Third Rule of Business. Never say rude things to your customers about your competitors because it makes you look like an IDIOT.

Those were the rules I was taught when I joined a company I worked for many years ago. I admit that the order of these rule did vary slightly, but that depended on who had just transgressed and was about to be fired. Nevertheless they were strictly enforced, for good reason.

You can probably understand the first two rules easily enough, they’re just common sense but it’s surprising how often people in business forget the last one. They seem to think that it’s acceptable to compete with other companies by saying rude things about them, by questioning the quality of their products, their staff or the services they offer. The truth is very different. Saying overtly bad things about other companies just makes you look cheap and sneaky, rather than someone who’s proud of their own company and its offerings.

You also run the risk of angering your competitors and how are they likely to react? They’re probably going to stoop down to your level and start criticising your stuff as well. You’ll have shot yourself in the foot.

You might have seen the recent story of the hotel DJ who is no longer a hotel DJ? This all started when various visitors to the Absolut Bar at the Lansmore Hotel in Gaborone complained that the bar serves drinks in plastic “glasses”. Wine is served there in firm plastic containers, beer and other drinks in cheap, soft, flimsy plastic cups, which doesn’t seem to fit with their luxury, stylish image. The hotel’s justification is safety. Their bar has a swimming pool next to it and they don’t want people dropping glasses and people stepping on the broken glass.

My response (if anyone asked me) would be simple. Employ a cleaner with broom and a mop. Besides, this isn’t the sort of pool I think people are going to be swimming in very often, it’s more the sort of place where people will be doing their best to be trendy and sophisticated on a warm evening, not somewhere where families go for a leisurely lunch and swim.

That however isn’t the big issue. The problem emerged when their resident DJ posted a comment on Facebook giving his feelings about the plastic cup issue. He said this:
“As part of Absolut I would like to say we have had all the complaints about this. For the last time, we use them because of the pool. And everyone who complains about this at some point during their stay knocks over there drink. Yes, our drinks are expensive cause we don't want cheap people like Gabs Sun, all the hookers and everything. We cater to a classy crowd and if you don't like it then don't come. We have plenty of business (drinkers) without you. And [name removed] all our glasses/cups/tumblers, silverware, plates, ash trays, etc, are cleaned multiple times during the day and night, we make sure of that. Lastly, please don't come to management and tell us how you've been to SA or elsewhere and they have this and that and you "know better". Our head management team have over 20 years experience in the hotel and entertainment industry, working and managing hotels, restaurants, clubs, etc. in places as the UK, Dubai, Russia, USA, SA, and many more.”
You can imagine that storm that this caused. His arrogance, insults against another hotel and its customers and his claims to cater only to a “classy crowd” were too much to bear and not just for Facebook users.

Unfortunately for the DJ, even though he later deleted his comment (presumably after he saw the reaction from other Facebook users) many people had already taken a copy of what he said. It was too late to hide it.

The management of the Lansmore were also furious. Clearly they understood that rule about never criticising your competition and certainly never insulting them and their customers. The response from the Lansmore’s General Manager was swift. You can read his full statement on our blog and Facebook group but it included:
“The comments he made on Facebook were hugely misguided; they were also wrong
these are not the opinions or values of the hotel or its Management
I sincerely apologise for any offence caused by comments made to both our valued patrons and to our fellow industry professionals at Gaborone Sun, whom we hold in high regard. We are saddened by the thought of any of our patrons and fellow professionals displeased by us in anyway and any inconvenience is highly regretted.”
That was a mature response. State your regret, distance yourself from the person defaming your competition and make it clear that, in public at least, they’re to be respected. That’s how grown-ups behave.

This is admittedly an extreme example where someone not only criticised a competitor but they’ve actually gone out of their way to insult both them and their customers but luckily the hotel responded suitably. The DJ, in case you’re wondering, has been suspended and his contract “is under review”. That’s what happens when you break the basic rules of business: you pay a hefty price. Your reputation, the loyalty of your customers, the respect of others in your industry and, worst of all, your profits might all get a shaking.

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