Customer loyalty, guest experience and managing negative feedback on social media. With Joshua Liebman

In today’s Skip the Queue episode I speak with Joshua Liebman, ICAE – Founder of BackLooper and co-host of the brilliant AttractionPros podcast!

We discuss guest experience, customer loyalty and managing negative feedback on social media.

“Anyone who visits you in 2020 are your most loyal guests, make sure they know, you know that”

What will you learn from this podcast?

  • Guest experience
  • Customer loyalty
  • Managing negative feedback on social media
  • Nickelback – yeah I know, stay with it though!

To listen to the full podcast, search Skip The Queue on iTunes, Google Podcasts and Spotify to subscribe. You can find links to every episode and more at www.rubbercheese.com/podcast.

You can also read the full transcript below.

The interview

Your host, Kelly Molson

Our guest, Joshua Liebman

Kelly Molson: Josh, it is so lovely to have you on the podcast today, thank you for joining me.

Joshua Liebman: Kelly, thank you so much for having me, I’m glad to be here.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, it’s great. I am very excited to chat. So we had a really good chat last week, on your fabulous podcast AttractionPros. We’ll talk about that in a little while, but as you know, because I do know that you’re an avid listener of Skip the Queue, so you’re prepared for our ice-breaker round. So I’ve got a few questions that I’m going to kick off with.

Joshua Liebman: All right, I’m as prepared as I can be.

Kelly Molson: Okay, nobody gets to prepare for this, that is the fun bit. Right, what is the best thing for a ride that you’ve ever been on?

Joshua Liebman: Oh, Millennium Forest at Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio.

Kelly Molson: Oh, why is it your favorite? Why is it so good?

Joshua Liebman: So many great things about it. There’s the aesthetic appeal of it, it’s just that it’s an amazing structure while you’re on it. You have an amazing view of not only in the park but also Lake Erie, the Sandusky Bay, the speed and the pacing that it picks up. It’s a smooth ride, but not so smooth that it feels like you’re sitting on your living room couch, and you hit the brake run going at more than 60 miles an hour, so it never lets up throughout the entire ride experience.

Kelly Molson: Oh, I like it. See you describing that, that makes me think that you’ve been on a lot of rides. There was a real depth of experience. Okay, all right, next one. If you could only watch one film for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Joshua Liebman: Can it be a three-way tie for the entire Back to the Future trilogy, or do I just have to pick one?

Kelly Molson: No, I can accept that, I think that’s fair. Yeah, Back to the Future tri… Is it a tie between one, two, and three for you?

Joshua Liebman: I like to think it is. I think I’ve seen it enough to now be able to point out some areas in some of the films that were maybe lacking during some others, and then watching some director’s commentary and seeing their validation for that. But maybe that only enhances the appreciation for it, so it’s tough to say.

Kelly Molson: Okay, I have got a really vivid memory of going on the Back to the Future ride, four times on the truck with my parents, years ago in Florida. That was a brilliant ride.

Joshua Liebman: It sure was.

Kelly Molson: I’m probably aging myself as well because it’s not there anymore.

Joshua Liebman: Yeah, it’s been gone since I want to say 2007 or so. So yeah, it was ahead of its time and may it rest in peace, we’ll always have the memory. I actually the DVD box set of the trilogy, but I also have a DVD of the original just because as a bonus feature, it has the ride footage on it.

Kelly Molson: Ah, right?

Joshua Liebman: Been a while since I’ve watched it, but if I wanted to relive the ride, I can.

Kelly Molson: Whoa, that is it. I would probably do that, I’m not going to lie. That would bring back some really good memories for me. Okay, have you ever been told you look like someone famous? And who was it?

Joshua Liebman: You know, what’s funny is we were actually just talking about this on the AttractionPros podcast, not too long ago, because we had a guest who was mistaken for Nicholas Cage at it. It was David Rosenberg, who was the former chair of IAAPA, he was talking about that. I’ve gotten a couple, I would say about 20 years ago, I used to get Dustin Diamond who played Screech on Saved by the Bell.

Kelly Molson: Oh, okay.

Joshua Liebman: I never took it as an insult, I don’t think anybody meant it negatively. So I was always flattered by that. But then when I got into college, more people started to say, Keanu Reeves, which I think is probably more flattering, right?

Kelly Molson: It’s definitely more flattering. 100% more flattering.

Joshua Liebman: But I could graduate.

Kelly Molson: I can say anything with Keanu there, yeah. Yeah, Keanu was great. Yeah, It’s not much of a toss-up really, is it? Okay, and then last ice breaker before the unpopular, if you had your own late-night talk show, who would you invite on as your first guest? I feel like you kind of have, right? You’ve got a podcast, but this is slightly different.

Joshua Liebman: Who would I invite as my first guest? I’ve always wanted to sit down and just have a casual conversation with Jimmy Buffett, the singer, songwriter. He’s got some great stories to tell and he just sounds like the kind of person that you could just sit and have either a beer or a margarita with, which we would do on my late-night talk show, of course. And just chat about life. I mean, hear some stories.

Kelly Molson: Right there. Yeah, you’ve got to have someone that’s got good stories as your guest definitely. Right, okay, last one. I asked this of everyone, so this is probably one that you are able to prepare. Tell me your unpopular opinion. So this is something that you believe to be true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Joshua Liebman: I think Nickelback, is a treasure to the world of music.

Kelly Molson: Whoa.

Joshua Liebman: Maybe not that far, but I don’t think they deserve nearly all the hate and the flax that they get. I’ve seen them in concert a couple of times, paid for the ticket, I thought it was an entertaining experience and I’ve never really seen why they are the most hated band in history.

Kelly Molson: So I always questioned how controversial these are going to be,` I feel like-

Joshua Liebman: But I was going, “Do we continue the interview? Is anyone still listening now?”

Kelly Molson: It’s fine, we can carry on Josh. Whether people will unsubscribe or not, I don’t know. It’s a worry.

Joshua Liebman: Hopefully, I can make up for it with the rest of it.

Kelly Molson: I have no doubt in you, Josh, I’ve got absolute faith. Thank you for sharing that.

Joshua Liebman: Thank you for letting me share. Sometimes I have to open up, every once in a while.

Kelly Molson: It’s good to let it out, right. I want to know, listen, that you did lots of exciting things to start with, so the founder of BackLooper, which I have to say is a brilliant name, cohost of the brilliant AttractionPros podcast. You’ve worked at Disney World, Universal, Merlin, Cedar Fair, I want to know a little bit about your background, but also want to know what it was that first drew you to the attractions world.

Joshua Liebman: Sure, absolutely. So, I like to say that I was a consumer of the product, prior to joining the industry and whenever my wife hears me say that, she’ll interrupt and she’ll say, “Josh is obsessed with roller coasters.” And okay, maybe we’re both right, right? I mean, both statements can be very true. It definitely started as a hobby when I was a kid and growing up, and wanting to learn more about really I would say the amusement park industry, the theme park industry. And then right when I graduated high school, I got a job as a ride operator at Cedar Point on Millennium Force, my favorite roller coaster.

Kelly Molson: Great.

Joshua Liebman: So if anything, that only grew my passion and excitement for the industry. And what I really enjoyed about that first job as a frontline employee, was having been a consumer or an enthusiast for so many years of being able to get that look behind the curtain, and being able to see the business operation that was going on, and so much that goes on behind the scenes that make it look like nothing happened, right?

That makes it look like you flipped on a switch when the park’s open for the day. And I really remember wanting to learn more and more about that, so I then took on more roles within the industry. I moved to Orlando and when I was working for Disney, I ended up getting my degree in Theme Park Management from the University of Central Florida, went back got my Master’s Degree in Hospitality and Tourism, worked for Universal while I was in Orlando, opened a park in Myrtle Beach. It was Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, that was an amazing Summer. Opened LEGOLAND in Winter Haven, Florida, so Lego LEGOLAND Florida. Part of my training, I came out to The UK, spent some time in Windsor at LEGOLAND there.

Kelly Molson: Great.

Joshua Liebman: And also some other Merlin properties spent some time at Alton Towers, the most beautiful park in the world, hands down, spent some time at Chessington and at Third Park, and opened another small park in Southwest Florida.

And really became very, very passionate about not just the theme park side of it, not just the ride side of it, I was always able to keep that from a hobby standpoint, but being able to look into not just the business operations, but I really fell in love with the guest experience and the hospitality component of what makes our industry so great and really what makes us so special and how different of an experience it is when you are going to, whether it’s a theme park, or whether it’s a botanic garden, or a historic home, whether it’s a for-profit or a non-profit attraction, it could be a zoo, museum, aquarium, that there is something very special about that experience and the people that you’re sharing it with, that is so different than I guess I would say the essential services.

And I say this in air quotes, because that’s just become such a popular term throughout COVID, of a term I quickly did not like from the beginning, or particularly the nonessential term, because what we do very much is just so essential to bringing people together and providing the escapism that we all need in life and we’ve never needed that more than we need it right now. So that is where my interest and my passion in the industry grew.

And yeah, I still love riding as many roller coasters as I have, and visiting new theme parks that I haven’t been to and trying out the latest, whatever food you can fry and put it on a stick, yeah, I’ll do that all day long. And then, from the business side of things of looking at how the guest experience implemented into the operation and having that guest experience mentality, drives not just the hospitality and the positive service components, but also really tying it back to the bottom line. So, using service and guest experience to increase per capita spending, your spend per head, and increasing membership, and increasing annual passes, and increasing positive word of mouth, and tying it in with online reviews. So these are all interconnected and that it’s not an afterthought by any means to provide good or great service, or to have that guest experience mentality. It all should be very much interwoven into the business.

Kelly Molson: And I guess that brings us to where you are now, which is your new company and I say it’s new because it’s really new, isn’t it? So BackLooper was founded in September 2020. So I’m calling this a Corona company. So this launched an incredibly challenging time for not only the world but for the sector that you do work in. Can you tell us what it’s about and how you’ve come to set this up now on your own?

Joshua Liebman: Sure, absolutely. So, I’ll back it up a little bit too, and say that BackLooper’s very much an evolution of a lot that I’ve been working on, a lot that I’ve been consulting on for several years. Prior to focusing on BackLooper full time, I was with Amusement Advantage for the previous five years. Amusement Advantage is a Mystery Shop company specifically within the Attractions Industry, about 25 years old. And when I came on about five years ago, it was really to build the company’s Consulting Division and to help grow the Mystery Shop account management and sales from that standpoint as well. And one of the consulting services that I had, that I even brought prior to Amusement Advantage, that was run under that umbrella was this Feedback Analysis Program that I’d been developing for several years.

So this goes back at least five or six years or so, from this interest in measuring consumer sentiment. So really being able to take a broad look at the operation and looking at each guest’s experience as an individual, both from the micro-level, and then from the macro level and saying, “How does this guest and particularly their experience fit into the big picture, and the broader whole experience that we are providing?” So BackLooper came about around last year, maybe last summer or so, as this evolution of a consulting service that I was providing, where now we were really able to tie-in the guest feedback collection component and be able to increase the amount of data that they were getting, compared to using the existing amount that maybe was coming in passively, or that we’re pulling from online reviews. And so it came to full circle.

So now BackLooper was able to be the feedback driver as well, that then helps the operator respond to it too. And throughout, a what’d you say, a Corona company?

Kelly Molson: Corona company, yeah.

Joshua Liebman: Throughout the lockdown, throughout when much of everything else was shut down, I really had the time. Just like everybody else, we didn’t have much, but we had time to focus on what is BackLooper really doing? What are the elements of it? What is the value that it can provide and should provide, particularly during these times? And really giving the operators the opportunity to bring guests into the conversation, to share what’s important to them as far as how the business is being run. Now, prior to COVID, yeah, cleanliness and sanitation were common points of feedback that would come up, but now we’re looking at it through a different lens of saying, “I’m not going to come back because you weren’t clean enough.” That might be a comment that people might have.

Obviously, before COVID, no one was commenting on how well attractions were enforcing mask policies or not. Now people are saying, “I had a bad experience because no one was wearing a mask.” And of course, there’s the flip side of that too, of the people who were saying, “I believe you’re enforcing mask policies” and that’s, I would say, a whole other conversation obviously. But people are very much concerned about how comfortable they will be visiting an attraction. And so this is the type of feedback that I want to help operators collect, and I don’t want them to learn about it from TripAdvisor, or from online review sites where really the damage is already done.

Kelly Molson: Oh yeah. There’s something that I read that you put, that was a brilliant statement and you said, “Every organization has flaws, you shouldn’t be learning about yours from social media” and I thought yeah, absolutely, it shouldn’t get to the point where people are posting negativity about what’s happening in your organization on social media, you should know about it before. So this is what BackLooper solves.

Joshua Liebman: Exactly. Yeah, it can be a buffer between what might be a bad experience, or a guest who has a concern or a complaint, and that negative review. So even a negative review is a source of information. It gives you something to work on, but you’re sharing this in the public spotlight. And even as you’re trying to resolve that, you don’t necessarily have the guest’s contact information, you’re trying to reply as best you can to maybe get them to call you, or get them to email you, but it’s swimming upstream and that’s one of the things that Backlooper can really help solve by saying, “Hey, here are the complaints, they’re a private channel and here’s the guest contact information, and we’re flagging this one has a higher-urgency, you need to get a hold of them first, because now they run the risk of sharing negative word-of-mouth, of posting a negative review, of having a negative experience linger beyond just the initial visit.” And we now have an opportunity to win their business back.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, because I guess you will try to put that barrier in place where, we’ve seen it happen, somebody will post something negatively on social media, people will join in on that. And it kind of escalates to a point that it didn’t need to before you’ve potentially had a chance to nip it in the bud or speak to somebody directly. And it’s not good for anybody viewing that. So that’s fantastic that you can put that barrier in place. Because social media is part of our world now there’s no getting away from it whatsoever.

Joshua Liebman: Yeah, and we can’t stop people from posting a negative review, but whatever we can put in place, we’re finding that we’re intercepting a lot of feedback that would become negative reviews. And so while it’s not going to eliminate it altogether, by substantially reducing it, is a huge protection bubble for your business’s reputation.

Kelly Molson: And so, then the data and the information that’s collected there, you can then use that to improve the service that you had. So you’ll turn in what could have potentially been a negative situation into a real positive for your organization.

Joshua Liebman: Yep, so there is a two-fold approach to the feedback that comes in through BackLooper. And one of them is the guest service element, and the guest feedback and response component of it, and then the other piece of it is identifying trends and the trend analysis, so that’s where we have the micro view in the macro view. So from that guest, that individual who’s providing feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, hopefully, there’s some form of followup and yeah, that follow-up could be different if the guest had a raving positive experience versus a guest who’s got a negative experience that needs to be dealt with now, the operator’s got the opportunity to have that follow-up and that continued conversation with the guest, put in place any type of service recovery that they need to, if there’s any kind of compensation that needs to go into effect for a future visit, they’ve got the opportunity to quickly, like you said, nip that in the bud solve that quickly.

And then now we take that data, and like I said, we determine how much does this fit into the greater piece of the puzzle? Or how big is this piece in the big picture, and being able to say, “All right this guest complained about crowds and wait time and service, but they said the food was great, and the admission’s employee was very friendly.” All of those types of comments, they build up and you’re able to pick out the trends and really identify, all right, what are the top concerns that we need to address. Because each feedback on its own is one guest experience and should be resolved for that guest individually. And then as far as looking at what changes and what improvements need to be made, ideally that should be done with a large amount of data and that aggravated data, so you can quantify the demand from your guests and be able to put those systems in place.

And then by being able to continually watch those trends, and watch that data come in, you’re able to measure the success of the improvements that you’re making, so you can make any tweaks and adjustments. Because that’s the exciting thing about operations, is that it’s never done, right? Especially, for locations that are open, that are regularly operating, that are serving desks, that this continual flow of data allows for the operation to continually improve. And one thing that I’ve always said is when it comes to guest experience, there is no ceiling, there is no limit whatsoever, you can always get better, you can always improve your operation, you can always improve the service that you provide. So guest experience is something that can only get bigger and bigger, there’s no cap, there’s no plateau to it.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, it’s interesting what you said about the operation side, it’s never done, it’s never finished and that’s certainly the case at the moment, isn’t it? With the situation that we’re in, in terms of COVID, and how things are changing quite rapidly for every couple of weeks, something changes where you need to tweak how you’re operating. You posted something about six months ago on LinkedIn that I really loved. So there’s a statement that you put out and this must’ve been at the start of the pandemic. And it said, “The first guest to visit you when you reopen are your most loyal, make sure they know, you know that.”

And I thought that it’s lovely. It’s a really lovely statement and I think it really felt like it was from the heart because obviously you work in an industry that you’re so deeply passionate about, and you could see the situation that was occurring. For any of our listeners that are still preparing to open, and there are quite a few that I haven’t been able to open yet, what do you think the best way for them to do that would be, in terms of that kind of guest experience?

Joshua Liebman: Sure, absolutely. So looking six months back, when I posted that and thinking if I were to update that in any way, that this could apply to those who are still preparing to reopen, and even for those who have opened and looking at what they’re doing, that I would say the updated version of this would be, anyone who visits you in 2020 is your most loyal. And the second part of that statement is the part that I think is really important and that’s, “Make sure they know, you know that.” So it’s one thing to have this internal message or this internal communication of your company of even saying, “Hey, the first people who are going to walk through our doors or everyone who’s visiting us now, they are the people that have shown us that we are worth visiting in 2020, that with this heightened concerned, with this decreased consumer confidence with so many restrictions in place they’ve given us the opportunity to serve them.

And so it’s one thing to have that internal message and that’s incredibly important, but that needs to then translate to the front of the house, and to those guests who are coming back, who are giving you that chance. So that’s going to vary based of each particular operation, or each particular business, but it starts with getting to the hospitality of it and incorporating as many thank yous as possible into the verbiage. And just, what is it that you were doing to show that appreciation? Because if you’re operating or if you’re planning to reopen like it’s business as usual, something’s going to be off. It’s not really going to work as well as you intended to because business these days is anything but usual. So that additional component, whether you are putting up signage that says, “Thank you for it.” And it’s not just thank you for visiting, but it’s “Thank you for giving us the opportunity to provide you with the experience that we want you to have.”

And maybe that’s more wordy than some signage can do, but that’s the message that you really want to project to the guests and just always showing that appreciation for every single guest who walks through the door. And when I posted that and really the thought process behind it came from something I’ve been saying for many years, when the economy was booming everywhere of, what does it look like when a guest walks in your doors or walks through your gates? That what are the alternatives that they had to visiting you? And what is your competition? And that competition could be your direct competition, it could be another similar type of attraction in your geographic region, or it could just be another way of that person spending their discretionary dollars, spending their discretionary time, or it could be nothing to do with any of this.

I would do a number of guest experience training workshops, and whether this was an aquarium, or an amusement park, or a family entertainment center, or a zoo, I would say, “Do you compete with Netflix?” And put the Netflix logo and say, “Yeah.” If I’m sitting at home, binge-watching The Last Dance, my wife and I had been watching The Michael Jordan.

Kelly Molson: That’s the one.

Joshua Liebman: And I would update that, then depending on the title, I’d say, “Stranger Things,” I’d say, “Tiger King.” But sitting at home and doing that, means that I’m not getting up and visiting your attraction. So, always showing that appreciation and always having that thought quickly go through your mind, that not only are we, this term we all hate, nonessential, right? Because we don’t need attractions for the food, water, shelter, component of our life, health safety.

It is this, as we go up that ladder or Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that it’s something that we do because we want to do, and not only do we not need to do it, but there’s so many other things, there’s an infinite amount of things that we could be doing, that whenever a guest walks in your door, whether it’s during COVID, whether it’s a time of economic prosperity, whether it’s during a recession, whatever it is, there were so many other things that they could have done. And there was a lot of intentionality behind getting up and coming to your attraction. Some places have maybe more curb appeal than others. Maybe you’re walking down the street and there’s a mini-golf course, and we’re going to stop in, others require really planning an entire day, or planning an entire week, or planning an entire trip around visiting your attraction.

So that person showing up, they weren’t just planted there, there was so much thought process that went into just deciding that this is what we were going to do with our time today. So, that should always be recognized and that should always be part of the guest experience mentality, then you’d layer in COVID with all of this. And one of the things I started saying at the beginning of the shutdown is, with that Netflix mentality, “What else are we competing with?” We’re competing with fear, we’re competing with financial decline, we’re competing with consumer confidence levels being lower. And that again, every desk that visits you, you’ve proven to them that you’re more worth it than all of these other uncertainties that we have in life right now.

Kelly Molson: I love that. I think that what we’ve seen is a real increase in actually really positive feedback and testimonials from the attractions that we work with, and the guests that have been going to them, because throughout this time, when they’ve been able to go back and visit them, it’s meant that, that attraction has helped them make some really positive memories of this situation. So, the feedback’s been really positive. I wanted to ask you as a guest experience professional, what’s the best piece of customer feedback that you’ve, that you’ve ever read?

Joshua Liebman: Sure. So, this is something I’ve been thinking about recently as far as if there was any particular feedback that I’ve read that was most helpful, and really thinking about what goes into a guest providing very useful feedback. And I actually recently found the very first blog post that I ever wrote, which was I can’t remember seven or eight years ago, and it was about complaint tactics. And it was interesting because the article was geared towards consumers of saying, “Here are the best ways to complain.” It was almost like, “Hey, we want to help you resolve your complaints, here’s how you can give us feedback.” And it had to do with being logical and being level-headed, but not being afraid to be constructive or pointing out those flaws in an operation, as long as they’re being done through a private channel.

And this can be very small things and this could be much larger things. When I launched BackLooper on the day of the launch and the announcement, I got so much positive feedback and people would say, “Well, congratulations, best of luck,” all of that. And then someone sent me a message on LinkedIn and said, “Hey, really excited about this, I wanted to point out, you have a small typo on your website. I’m sure that you maybe you didn’t notice that and you’ll want to fix that.” And I said, “Thank you so much for telling me this, yeah, I’ve fixed it, I’ve corrected it, no, I didn’t notice it.” That’s obviously a really small example.

And then I was thinking, what’s on maybe not the complete opposite end of the spectrum, but I did a guest experience workshop for a client about a year-and-a-half or so ago and we sent out a survey to all of the frontline staff members who attended, and we specifically said, “What did you enjoy about the workshop and what could have made it better?” And there was a lot of people who said that they really enjoyed it. And there was also a lot of feedback that came in as well of people saying, “I wish Josh would have talked more about this particular aspect, or I wish this was looked at from this angle or less of this because I don’t think that really applied to our department. And one or two people said, “Hey, I didn’t really enjoy it very much because of XYZ, fill in the blank.”

And some of that feedback can be tough to swallow. So any feedback that really grounds you, is sometimes the best feedback that you need because I was able to take all of these constructive critical elements of feedback and I made my training program so much better. I was so much more proud of the next time that I delivered it and was able to fine-tune and was able to really use the feedback that people provided me, to be able to make those adjustments. Now, thankfully there was also a lot of overwhelming positive feedback, so I was able to balance out, I need to feed my ego just a little bit, but I really wanted to hear from people, what did you not enjoy about this? And that’s really one of the big components with BackLooper too, of we really want to be able to elicit that type of response from people that we’re not just looking for, everything was great, don’t change a thing.

We get that type of feedback a lot from guests and that’s fine. And then every so often it might be these particular components of saying, “The food was too cold, your prices are too high, I wish you were open later, you let too many people in your… your building’s not at capacity.” Whatever it is that really helps the operator make those fine-tune changes to their operation. So anything that… to answer your question, the best type of feedback is ideally provided through a private channel, sent to you personally, especially if it’s going to be criticism in any way and done within a logical level-headed mindset, that, of course, we’re doing the best we can, we have very high standards.

If there is a complaint in any way that the guest hopefully knows that this is not typical, and hopefully that’s why they are complaining because they’re saying, “Hey, I’m sure that your service standards are higher than what I experienced, but I have to let you know, that the team member that I encountered in your gift shop was very rude to me.” So that type of feedback, sometimes it can be, it’s a pill one swallow, but you need that type of information, so you can take the appropriate action with the guests, maybe take the appropriate action, maybe with that team member, and then put that in place and saying, “Okay, is this a fluke? Is this a single instance? Or is this something that is a longer-term fix and a larger problem than maybe we would not have otherwise known, had we not gotten the feedback?”

Kelly Molson: So I guess the flip side of that is, what’s the worst format for feedback. And I guess we’ve talked about that a little bit, which is social media, isn’t it? That’s almost the worst level because that’s putting it out in the public domain. It’s not addressing it to somebody privately, it’s putting it out there for all to see. So can you share any tips that you might have for attractions to manage negative feedback on social media?

Joshua Liebman: Sure, yeah, absolutely. And social media can be your best friend. I don’t want to stand here and say, “Social media is terrible, you don’t want to get any online reviews.” That is really… you want to make sure that you’re using that to really boost your reputation, but specifically with your guests who have proven that they are satisfied. And you want to collect as much feedback privately first, before recommending to post online. Otherwise, yeah, you do run the risk of online reviews really starting to chip away at your reputation. So when you do, whether it’s an online review site or whether it’s through social media, that negative feedback, the first thing that needs to be acknowledged is that, whatever you’re about to do to respond is in a public arena. You are in the spotlight basically, and you’ve got the opportunity to alleviate the concern of any potential reader or any potential user of social media, or you have the opportunity to really make it worse.

And I’ve seen very strong examples of both of those. And the first is really, if it is a subjective, if it is a perception or opinion based complaint of stressing that what they are describing, is not the experience you intended for your guests to have. And the verbiage of that is very specific because you’re not necessarily talking about what happened at this time, your response is referring to what it is that the guest described. So you were responding not to the event, you’re responding to the post. So if they say something like, “Your facility is very dirty, and your staff is very unfriendly.” You want to respond not by saying, “I’m sorry that the facility was dirty, and the staff was unfriendly during your visit, but you’re responding to their description of their experience.” So saying, “Based on what you described, this is not the standard we expect for our guests and I apologize if there was any inconvenience from your visit, based on your experience.” Again, based on what you’re describing.

So the first is really acknowledging that, “Hey, if there’s this complaint here that we want to stress this is not normal.” Then next you want to really convert this to an offline channel. So you want to provide a phone number. You can provide an email address, I say a phone number because you know that if the guest calls, then hopefully they’ll be able to have their issue resolved quicker. And yes, even putting that phone number, putting that name, putting that contact information right there in the response, and also really stressing the urgency for it. One example that I’ve seen, sometimes people will just say, “I apologize for the inconvenience, we hope you will give us another opportunity in the future.” I don’t feel like that puts closure on the issue.

Joshua Liebman: And then another thing that I’ve seen is, “I apologize for the inconvenience, if you would like to do discuss this further, here’s my contact information.” And I also don’t think that that puts closure to it either. You really need to take the next step and say, “We would like to discuss this with you, and we would like to make sure that we can solve your concerns effectively. We would like to learn more because what you are describing is not typical of the experience that most guests encounter, as you can see from other positive reviews, or from other posts, or from our review rating. We want to make sure we can earn our five stars with you, or any way that the verbiage fits what it is that you’re looking for at that time. So when you can, please call me at this number, ask for Josh and whatever the protocol is from your phone tree, or however people can get to you even saying, “This is my number directly.”

You really want to establish that rapport and that relationship with the guest. And then what I’ve seen is when people do call, and when people do take that next step to have their concern resolved, that if the resolution is so effective, they will be more satisfied than if they did not have a poor experience in the first place. And this is the recovery paradox. So this is a lot of research that’s been done on complaint resolution and service failure, that really makes it very imperative that we are seeking out complaints, one, so we can improve the business and make it better for the future. That interaction that we can have with the guests is, we can now turn them into loyal advocates.

So, if you’re shying away from complaints, you’re missing opportunities to strengthen guest engagement and strengthen guest loyalty, which then leads to repeat visitation, it might lead to them either removing their review or updating their review and saying, “Just got off the phone with Kelly, she was amazing, she resolved my concerns, and I’m so excited to go back in the future.” And when you effectively resolve that issue, then you see that satisfaction level grow higher than if the guest came and had a normal satisfactory experience, because they’ve had that, almost like this little metaphorical rollercoaster, they now have a more emotional connection with the business.

Kelly Molson: Absolutely brilliant advice, Josh. And it’s always about the positive steps that you take to resolve these issues, there’s always going to be issues, there’s always going to be things that people will be challenge you on, but it’s about listening to them, and understanding, and fixing them as quickly as possible. And it all comes down to that initial acknowledgment, doesn’t it? Brilliant advice, thank you. I feel that we’ve been a bit negative about social media, and I want to bring it back because I love social media, and in all honesty, if it wasn’t for social media, and Twitter, and LinkedIn, Josh and I wouldn’t even be speaking today. So-

Joshua Liebman: For sure.

Kelly Molson: There’s a lot positives that come from it.

Joshua Liebman: Your best friend, that can be your worst enemy sometimes on the same day.

Kelly Molson: I want to talk about AttractionPros Podcast because that’s where I know you from. I want to know how you came to be a cohost and AttractionPros Podcast. How did you meet Matt and how did it start?

Joshua Liebman: Sure. I met Matt, this had to have been, I want to say the year was probably 2007 and it was at the IAAPA Expo and he was very involved, still is very involved, with IAAPA Young Professional Group. And so we met through that. I was an IAAPA Ambassador that year, so I was an intern for the show and we always just stayed connected. And we actually were both working at Universal at the same time, but I was in Guest Services and he was in HR and those are on polar opposite sides of the resort, so we would joke that we would actually see each other and spend more time together at IAAPA, than we would see each other at work, with our 10,000, 12,000 coworkers all over the place. So we didn’t work in the same space, but we always stayed in touch and we would always make sure to, whether it was getting lunch or getting dinner together if we were in the same city going to the same conference.

And we always just had a good, I would say, relationship from that standpoint and he’s always given amazing advice, as you can hear whether it’s from the podcast, or whether it’s from any of his blog posts or any of that. And we were having dinner right before a conference not in St. Augustine, in Jacksonville, Florida, so near St. Augustine. And I said to Matt that I’ve really gotten into podcasts lately and listening to podcasts. And I said, “Matt, I’ve got this really great idea, you should start a podcast.” And Matt said to me, “That’s kinda funny, because I started listening to podcasts too, and I’ve always thought that you should start a podcast.” And we kinda joked about it, and we both left that dinner right there and I guess, no one’s starting a podcast. Because we just both think that the other one should start a podcast.

He emails me two, three weeks later. He’s like, “So, here’s this crazy random thought, but what if we started a podcast?” And I said, “Oh yeah, I don’t know why we didn’t think of that earlier.” So we figured out how to start a podcast and we started reaching out to people that we knew in the industry. And we said, “You know, come on the AttractionPros Podcast and help us promote it, and we’ll promote it through our channels and we’ll grow our social media following.” And that was a little over three years ago, and now we are more than 160 episodes deep, and we’ve been putting out fresh content every single Tuesday, for over 160 straight weeks. So I guess that’s the long and short of it.

Kelly Molson: It is an absolutely brilliant podcast and the website’s fantastic as well. There’s so much content in there and it’s really incredibly valuable. We’re going to post all of the information to this in the show notes, so don’t worry, you won’t miss out on finding it. But I’ve got two more questions that I want to ask you, we’re coming towards the end of the podcast, Josh. What is the best thing about being a podcast host? What do you love most about it?

Joshua Liebman: I would say, and I know we asked you a similar question on AttractionPros Podcast, so I’ll try not to steal your answers even though I completely agree with everything that you’ve said.

Kelly Molson: You could steal, I don’t mind. It’s fine.

Joshua Liebman: But I think that the biggest thing for me is the amount that I’ve learned. I feel like I am continually getting an advanced degree in the Attractions Industry, from the people that we’ve brought on, and the advice that has been shared, and the wisdom that has been communicated from it. It’s almost like we try to do the interview as like a casual conversation, knowing that, yes, we’ve got this audience, we’ve got a loyal following and our social media followers, but during the interview, none of that really matters. We really try to think of, what do we want to learn from you while we have this finite amount of time to talk to you? And it’s amazing to hear the stories that people have had in their career, and the lessons that they’ve learned, and the advice that they’d share, and the very practical tips that have come from these podcasts interviews, that it’s just been such an amazing educational resource. And it’s a bonus that some people tune in and listen to them.

Kelly Molson: Well, they do in their hundreds and thousands and I’ll have to agree with everything that you said, it really is a fantastic way of meeting great people, and learning, and learning, and learning from them. You must tune into the podcast and listen to AttractionPro it’s awesome. Right, final question for you. I love to end the podcast on a book recommendation. So we always ask our guests, if there’s a book that’s come up throughout their career, that’s helped shape it in some way, or just a book that they absolutely love, that they would love to recommend to our guests.

Joshua Liebman: So I’ve, I’ve been reading a ton during COVID and I bought a whole bunch of books to try to read in my ample time that I’ve had, I will say I’m so glad that I listened to your interview with Ben Thompson. Because I was thinking I would suggest the Experience Economy, but I won’t do a repeat on that although I read the 2020 updated version of it this summer. But that won’t be my response, instead, I’ve got to go with the 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, published at, I want to say, maybe 2007, 2008 or so. And I’ve listened to his podcast and everything that he talks about, and it’s such an interesting mindset and philosophy.

And even though that the title sounds like a fantasy dream-type thing, and that the cover of the book is someone laying in a hammock between two Palm trees and it doesn’t mean that you’re going to work from nine to one on Monday and take the rest of the week off, but it is really about implementing small changes and improvements within your work life and your regular life, that really help increase your productivity. And honestly, I’m so far from having implemented, close to all of what the book talks about, but even if I’m like 1% there, I feel like it’s had such a substantial impact on everything that I’ve been able to do and produce and manage, and the way that I’ve been able to implement that into my regular life, that I found the book to be very helpful and very useful.

Kelly Molson: Brilliant book recommendation. I have read that myself and I’m still not working nine to one, which would be lovely. But I have definitely implemented some of the tactics from that to make things a little easier for myself, so great recommendation. Okay, well, as ever, if you would like to win a copy of Josh’s books, then you head over to our Twitter account, which is @skipthequeue. And if you retweet this episode announcement with the comment, I want Josh’s book, then you can be in with the chance of winning it. Josh it’s been really, really good to have you on today, I’ve really thoroughly enjoyed it. Where can we find out more about you and BackLooper, if we want to find out more about what you do?

Joshua Liebman: Sure, absolutely. So backlooper.com is the website, I am on Twitter, I’m on LinkedIn, I’d be happy to connect with anybody, so feel free to jump on the socials and say, “Hi.”

Kelly Molson: And AttractionPros?

Joshua Liebman: Yep, it’s on iTunes, it’s on Spotify, we started a YouTube channel about six, seven months ago at the beginning of COVID, so you can check out all the episodes there, and attractionpros.com, the usual platforms.

Kelly Molson: Awesome, thank you. And we will put all of that information in the show notes, so if you need a record of it, it’s there. Josh, I think there is only one way to enter this podcast, don’t you? And that’s by saying, “Remember, we are all AttractionPros.” Thank you for coming on.

Joshua Liebman: Nicely done.


Do you know someone we should be talking to?

Do you know someone fascinating we should be talking to?

If so, email us at hello@rubbercheese.com – we’ll get back to you shortly.

Paul Wright.
Kelly Molson Managing Director

Host of the popular Skip the Queue Podcast, for people working in or working with visitor attractions, she regularly delivers workshops and presentations on the sector at various national conferences and universities including The Visitor Attractions Conference, ASVA and Anglia Ruskin University.

Read more about me

Give your customers a better online experience with our newsletter

Receive free advice that will enable you to create better online experiences for your users and guests.