Last Updated May 3, 2011 3:39 PM EDT
Like many businesses, Boloco monitors the social media chatter about it to make sure its customers are happy.
Sometimes they are. Sometimes ... not so much.
Boloco is a Boston-based chain of Mexican restaurants that specializes in salads, smoothies and burritos. As its CEO, John Pepper, perused Boloco's Twitter mentions last week, he stumbed upon the following message from a customer:
Convinced my group to order from @boloco and they forgot one of our burritos. Meeting mojo ruined :(Mojo? Ruined?
Pepper jumped into action. "As always, we ask where it happened, what happened, and how many did it affect," he told me.
Of course, Twitter isn't going to make or break your reputation, despite the conventional wisdom that social media is a magic bullet. But complaints in the Twitterverse can be a sign of problems in real life. And complaints ignored on Twitter can also be a sign of a serious service problem.
"Making up for mistakes is costly, but not making up for them is even more so in a business that we hope will thrive not for this quarter, or even this year, but for decades to come," Pepper told me.
But back to the forgotten burrito. Pepper says there was only one thing to do.
"There are no options in our mind as to how to rectify the situation," he says.
Ah, but to an outsider, there were. Several options, actually. But only one correct option for Pepper.
Do nothing. Pepper could have done what countless other restaurants do every day, and simply ignored the guest. I mean, if a missing $6.25 burrito "ruined" your meeting mojo, you probably have bigger issues. Besides, what if the customer just miscounted his burrito order. Is that the restaurant's fault?
Apologize. Any business that remotely cares about its customers is going to say, "We're sorry" when something goes wrong. Pepper's least expensive option was to simply apologize to the customer and promise to do better next time. It's free and it's good for his reputation.
Give the man his burrito back. In addition to apologizing, Pepper could have either delivered the missing burrito or sent the customer a coupon, good for a burrito. While this the costliest of the options, it could also have the most benefits if the customer reciprocates through social media, letting all of his followers know that Boloco made good.
Update: Within an hour of getting the details of the customer service slip-up, Boloco had loaded a credit for eight free burritos to the award card of every person involved. The guests thanked Pepper for addressing the problem and said they would give the restaurant another try next weekend.
"Keeping a long-term perspective makes these decisions easy," says Pepper.
Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate, syndicated columnist and curator of the On Your Side wiki. He also covers customer service for the Mint.com blog. You can follow Elliott on Twitter, Facebook or his personal blog, Elliott.org or email him directly.