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Should You Ignore a Customer's Tantrum

We all have them. Those customers that swoops in, squawk loudly, and dump all over everything. Know when to listen to them and when to ignore them.
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We all know the term "Seagull Management." Thisahem‘management’ style indicates a manager that, like a seagull, swoops in, squawks loudly, shits all over everything, and then flies off again.

Clearly not only is this type of ‘manager’ not taken seriously, their very presence is disruptive to the direction and vision of the organization. The staff grits their teeth as best they can during the random episodes, does their best to placate the manager or just outright ignores them (and said manager is so busy with their self-important squawking that they don’t even notice the open disdain), waiting for them to fly off again so they can get back to doing their jobs.

Today’s online forums, comments sections, Twitter and Facebook feeds have given rise to a new type a noisy, messy bird: the Seagull Commentator. This bird is not vested in your business (though they insist they are), they are not loyal to your products or services (though they will often claim that they are among your most loyal), and they don't provide referrals to your business (although they will swear that they do).

Just as a smart employee knows that the seagull manager is to be ignored as much as possible, and placated only when absolutely unavoidable, the seagull commentators should get the same treatment.

Do I really think it is a good idea to flat out do your best to ignore seagull customers? Absolutely. Hell, fire ‘em if you must.

The caveat, however, is that flying in and out, squawking and even raining on your parade does not a seagull commentator make. If their squawks are legit, if their swooping in and out was caused by you or your organization, and they’re just reflecting the results of your actions, then take it to heart. Listen. Figure out if the culprit is really you or not. If so, fix it and thank them for helping identify a failing.

Otherwise, if their actions are disruptive to the vision or direction of your organization, ignore ‘em. Or fire ‘em. Or both. My father once gave me a sage piece of advice that’s never been disproven: You can never fire anyone too soon.

So, which of your commentators are you going to fire (or block or unfriend) next? Answer that question by doing it TODAY, and doing it often.

IMAGE: iStockPhoto
Last updated: Dec 2, 2011

GREG KOCH | Columnist | Co-founder and CEO of Stone Brewing Co.

Greg Koch is co-founder and CEO of Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido, Calif. Since Greg started the company with his partner Steve Wagner in 1996, Stone has become one of the fastest growing and highest rated breweries in the world.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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