Monday, December 13, 2010

Chipotle Cat Incident: A textbook example of what not to do.

Disclosure: I love Chipotle and think CMG is an excellent stock although this cat issue has dropped the stock 5% from (12/13/2010) its open and its continuing to fall in after hours trading.  Now lets talk about what they can do better...

Chipotle's strategy for dealing with a manager who posted several comments that were inexcusable including insulting customers, killing a cat, and stating that Spanish is "better" than English, has been to delete negative comments and suggest there's nothing to the "story".

This damage control strategy is amateur at best.  They have not offered a positive story like a coupon, they have not thought about the messaging on SERPs.  Their strategy seems to be to delete comments, some of high quality and genuine concern, and to deny that the story has any merit. 

Unfortunately the Chipotle manager's, Jocelyn R, facebook profile has several things on it that need to be addressed.  Chipotle's youth is clearly showing as they are completely incapable of providing a response that satisfies public demand.  Let's examine what's on Ms. Rivas profile:

Chipotle's response have been less than adequate lets look:

1) Jocelyn's Facebook was hacked
Response: The preponderance evidence suggests it hasn't been.  Its understandable why they've backed off of this comment. 

2) The Chipotle Cat comment looks like its fake/Nothing to the story.
Response: Not to get philosophical but what do you mean by fake.  It's been posted along with comments suggesting the customers are "stupid".  For all intents and purposes the comments are very real.

3)No comment on Jocelyn's suggesting it was "National Stupid Day" because of all the "stupid customers" coming in.
Response: How do you not comment on this!? This is far more damaging than the cat comments.  I am convinced that every Fortune company needs to have a social media policy for employees that dictates you can't insult customers.

4) Delete Comments
Chipotle has deleted most all even remotely negative comments, even if they have merit or are suggesting that they need to take different PR action. There are quite a few comments discussing the deletion of comments.
Comment: This is class A stupid.  Engage people let them know their concerns are being heard.  Deleting comments has fueled other comments and has further distanced your customers, many of which bought into the "food with integrity" ideal. Chipotle, you've proven you can police your page, but you aren't policing the messaging across social sharing sites.  

5) Deploy a plethora of "new Chipotle store" comments.
Response: Good messaging is important but ignoring an issue and posting/not-deleting positive comments is not a complete response.  

6) The account "may not have been hacked"
Comment: Wow, you don't say.  The first post should have stated that "We are looking into the issue and are very concerned about these events." Too many posts have alienated chipotle fans and several have stated they are no longer "fans."

Lets look at some of the more interesting customer comments (before they get deleted!):

Chipotle Cat Comment 1:
"Im so sick of ignorant people like you. If your gonna have an opinion, know the whole story..

Jocelyn R Hit a cat and killed it december 9th. She then posted it as her status, from her phone. As people started commenting, she started lau...ghing about it. Saying "Oh well thats one less cat in the world, i hate them". When some one confronted her on the status, saying that it was not okay to do this, she got defensive and started getting confrontational. Not only that, On december 4th, She called her customers stupid. She represents the company, she is a manager, and Chipotle is liable for what she says and does. Needless to say if the woman is not fired, they will be loosing customers regardless."

Chipotle Cat Comment 2:
"Chipotle, I love you guys, but i get more and more disappointed in you with every update. Disregard the cat for a moment. In your first update you either were lied to or flat out lied to your customers, then the next update you were less sure, and now you're trying to get everyone with a legitimate concern put into a d...ifferent discussion board. for "Broader" discussions on your wall. Where as in reality you want positive comments where everyone can see them and your quarantining everyone with something negative (and constructive) to say."

Chipotle Cat Comment 3:
"Chipotle, I don't know who you have working the boards tonight but for the love of everything good, stop posting! You are making a bad situation worse. "

Chipotle Cat Comment 4:
"Dear Chipotle,

Your attempts at cheesy PR will not suffice. We will not stop.

...The Internet"

Chipotle Cat Comment 5:
"Seriously, this cat problem ISN'T goign to go away until you buckle down and give the customers what they want: FREE BURRITOS. Don't be fool, salvage your reputation and shareholder value and get on this while you still can."

Comment Commentary: I think this is spot on, how can they ignore the fact they need to introduce positive messaging ASAP!  Chipotle is under the delusion that if they control the messaging on their boards they will control the Social Messaging -- Not happening. 

Dozens of Chipotle Cat Pictures have been posted on Chipotle's wall:

1) Social Media Policy needs to be enforced for employees and managers.  If you insult your customers you should be fired - they pay the bills.
2) Read the tea leaves.  I've once been told good governance is doing the obvious, I think this aptly applies to social media.  Its an incredibly quick feedback cycle but it is accurate, don't ignore the masses. 
3) Damage Control planning needs to be better. Suggesting an employee comment is not legit or that there is nothing to it, deleting comments, and controlling your own page is not a sufficient strategy.  Discuss how customer concerns are important and engage the community.  Change the messaging by offering something positive, even a free taco. 

12/14/2010 UPDATE Chipotle Response:
Chipotle Mexican Grill We agree. It was a textbook example of what not to do. We'd love a do-over for sure. We've passed along all this to our local team and now it's up to them. -Skyllo

Comments: I don't envy CMG's position of having to control what employees say without violating the NRLA Section 7. It's clear Chipotle's messaging and damage control is getting better.  I'd still recommend a free giveaway something cheap, even a free soda and chips with a Burrito purchase. This could take all this negative publicity and put a positive spin on it.  With all the volume they are getting they could make this an opportunity to create a very profitable promotion.  

Updated: BTW you guys still have the best tacos I've found -- I don't care if they aren't 100% authentic, fusion food is often the best and I find pure mexican food to be a bit dull.

6/25/2013- updated to attempt to take out Jocelyn's last name as a gesture of good.

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