business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

When things aren’t going well there are two clear paths of action.

First, you can try to identify and fix the problem.

Or, you can find someone else to blame.

There is a line in the movie Rising Sun in which Sean Connery, as detective John Connor, notes that “the Japanese have a saying - ‘fix the problem, not the blame’.” He’s right, but it is not always the path taken by executives and companies.

That seems to be exactly what is happening in Hollywood these days, proving us with yet another lesson from the movies. (Have I mentioned lately that Kevin and I wrote a book on this subject?)

The fact is that the movie business had a terrible summer. Despite a handful of blockbuster hits, led by Wonder Woman, ticket sales were off nearly 15% during the summer season when movies usually pull in nearly half their annual receipts. As the New York Times reported recently, that got the studios focused on what went wrong.

Their answer was simple and surprising. They collectively concluded that the culprit is the popular website Rotten Tomatoes, which aggregates movie reviews from a wide range of critics and to provide a rating for each picture. The studios apparently feel Rotten Tomatoes permits input from too many people, which in turn leads to an abundance of negative commentary and scores.

According to the studios, those scores lead to poor performance at the box office. Inane concepts like The Emoji Movie or endless sequels to, say, Pirates of the Caribbean couldn’t possibly be to blame, right?

Here’s the thing: we now live in a world where everyone can be a critic of virtually everything. If you have a bad experience in a hotel, then write a review on Trip Advisor. Don’t like the work a home repairman did for you then write a review on Home Advisor.

The same holds true for restaurants, teachers and, of course, supermarkets or any retail establishment.

Think about it. One of the core innovations that Amazon brought to retailing was the prominent use of customer reviews on its site, which also are being used in its bricks-and-mortar bookstores.

More than ever businesses need to be aware of this new power. No one suffers in silence anymore, which means that even the trivial actions of a single surly cashier can now take on a life of its own in cyberspace.

No doubt many of you consider this highly unfair, but the reality is that this is THE reality.

That, in turn, means we all have the same choices the movie studios have. The question is whether we choose more wisely.

As some social media experts have cautioned, there are good ways to respond to negative reviews. On public sites like Yelp that may require a quick and caring response to the complaint to demonstrate that your business is listening. And try, as best as possible, to move the discussion off the social space into something more private.

Studies have shown that such a response can frequently turn a negative review around. In addition, your supporters are likely to jump in especially if they think the negative review is unfair or atypical.

In addition this endless stream of open feedback can actually be helpful. It might point out the need to do some additional training of staffers or the need to step up performance overall. Although social media has opened the floodgates to such discussions, it is worth remembering that only a small fraction of your shoppers will actually ever post a complaint.

So when you get a complaint that means you might have a much deeper and more important problem to resolve. Treat the feedback as useful insight.

Or you can follow Hollywood’s script and blame the messenger.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
KC's View: