The way a company handles customer service on the vast array of social media websites can be their best friend or worst enemy.

Looking at the recent situation with Applebee’s and their firing of one of their servers for what they deemed a violation of a customer’s privacy.  Although this may have been true, the bigger issue was the customer’s behavior and Applebee’s handling of the situation via social media.

Applebee’s should be taking a long look at the way their PR department handled this situation.   The most important question though is where did all of this go wrong?  What started out as a very manageable situation ended horribly for no other reason then Applebee’s substandard customer service displayed on their Facebook page.  Their confrontation and argumentative responses to their customers questioning the firing of their employee is what exacerbated this situation.      

Ironically, the initial negative response was completely directed at the woman who wrote the comment on the receipt. It was not until after Applebee’s fired their employee for posting the message online, and their pathetic handling of customer complaints via Facebook that the negative vibe on the web began to be diverted into Applebee’s direction.

Social media has become an intricate part to the success and/or demise of a company.  In this situation all it took was one picture and a few bad decisions and now the public is demanding answers to their decisions as well as an explanation to their behavior.

Many are hard pressed to understand why Applebee’s sided with the pastor rather than listen to the voice of their customers. Not only did they not listen, they removed the ability for people to make comments to their Facebook page.

Unfortunately for Applebee’s, the internet is not a place where one may hide.   For all of the comments they deleted, those same comments would appear in the version of a screen shot back on their page asking for an explanation for them being deleted in the first place.

Looking at the dilemma facing Applebee’s from a PR standpoint makes one think what could Applebee’s have done differently?  Quite simply…all they needed to do is to listen to the needs and concerns of their customers, and respect their opinion even if it differed from theirs.  After all, it started with a few words on an Applebee’s receipt, but it’s spiraled into a public relations catastrophe via Facebook.

The  message that Applebee’s as well as any company could take from this is that social media sites require companies to get more in touch with the personality of their customers.  They also need to realize that if they want a positive internet following, they have to be prepared to answer to their customers in a professional, honest and compassionate manner especially in potentially volatile situations.

The CEO of Applebee’s, Mike Archer, has published a statement in the aftermath of the situation.  It sounds good, but the question is…is it too late?



  1. It amazes me at the speed and fury that social media has at calling people at. Credibility is important in an online presence. And when you’re wrong look out. It isn’t only on popular issues either. During the Sandy storm where CNN and the Weather Channel both reported stories that the floor of the stock exchange was flooded with 3 feet of water. Twitter lashed out not only with claims, but proof in pictures. Social media is a double edged sword, and if you aren’t careful, it can hurt you.

  2. This was a huge mistake on Applebee’s part. I feel like a company this big should not have such unprofessional staff handling their PR Department.

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