Why Domino’s India Needs Lessons On Online Reputation Management

We look at how Domino's India does its social media disaster management, when someone puts up a photograph exposing its quality standards

online reputation management

In the Friday gone by last week, a major catastrophe was thwarted by pizza company, Domino’s India in what could have blown up beyond proportion for the brand’s online reputation as well as sales. But, did it act fast and most importantly, did it follow the rules of online reputation management? We take a look at the Friday incident and the subsequent developments thereafter.

Udit Sathaye, a Pune youth was chilling out at a cafe with his friends when he saw what happened at the Domino’s Pizza outlet next to them. One of the pizza delivery boys loaded black garbage bags onto the same box in which he would normally carry the pizzas for delivery.

Armed with a sharp presence of mind, the social media savvy Udit quickly took pictures of the waste transportation technique employed by the brand’s Warje outlet in Pune and also tweeted them to the Domino’s India Twitter handle and the Domino’s headquarter Twitter handle.

The tweet dated August 8th has received 459 retweets and 67 favourites and also triggered many mainstream news publications like the Mid-Day and Indian Express to report the story.

The Domino’s India Twitter handle replied to Udit, ensuring him of appropriate action a day later:

When Mid-Day reporter visited the outlet, the branch manager and staff refused to speak about it. As per Mid-Day’s interaction with Udit, the guy had a field day with the area managers at Domino’s. He told Mid-Day that right after he uploaded the pictures at 4 pm, he received a call from Domino’s Pizza Mumbai office, where the officer apologized and requested him to delete the tweet.

When he refused to do that, he received another call at around 8 pm from Navin Kumar, West Zone India Head, asking him what they could do to make up for it. Udit told them the right thing to do is to close the said outlet.

A statement was then issued by Domino’s Pizza India Vice President (Marketing) Harneet Singh Rajpal stating,

“Jubilant FoodWorks Limited/ Domino’s Pizza would like to hereby clarify and categorically state that the company has and adheres to the highest standards of quality and hygiene at every restaurant. We have a team of personnel (at every restaurant) to monitor and ensure the standards and hygiene procedures. This incidence is a one-off and clearly against our company’s policy, standards and training. We are verifying the same and would take appropriate action against the defaulters”.

This was followed by an unsigned statement on Twitter sent in an image format to Mid-Day editor Sachin Kalbag, two days later:

The contents highlight key action points they have taken on the issue, referring to it as a ‘one off act of omission‘:

- This incidence was a one off act of omission, on part of couple of our employees of the concerned restaurant.
- We have fired two errant employees including the restaurant manager, who had acted against the company policies and standards of quality and hygiene.
- We have sanitized all the bikes of the concerned restaurant.
- A special training has been re-arranged for all the employes working in restaurant so that the same incidence is never repeated again in the future.
- We have also advised our quality teams to maintain strict monitoring on this issue.
- We assure all our patrons that we will continue to adhere to strict quality standards to serve them the best quality food.

Did Domino’s India handle it well?

Although this statement was made, I’m not sure if it was individually addressed to Udit and all other people who were exposed to that ‘unhygienic’ image. Also, it is only after mainstream media created headlines out of the ‘act of omission’, that the brand took the matter seriously. The statement contains all the standard operating procedures one will usually come across in such a situation - firing errant employees, training, sanitizing, ensuring no recurrence of the incident, etc., but it isn’t signed by any senior person in the management!

Domino’s India did tackle the disaster, however, they could have done a few things differently and looked more ‘human’ in the process:

1. Domino’s should never have asked Udit to delete the tweet. Always listen to your complaining customers, as they are the ones to go out and spread the bad word. It is only when he refused to delete the said tweet, they asked him how they could make up to him. Why does a brand in the services sector need to ask what they should do? Isn’t there a hygiene policy for every restaurant, failing which, a set of corrective steps must be taken?

2. All statements right from the beginning lack an apology. Talking about ‘highest standards of quality and hygiene’ is something every restaurant brand has to ensure if it hopes to remain in business. Nobody in the right mind eats from and disposes to at the same place. Perhaps, we should be happy that at least they acknowledged and thanked Udit for bringing this to their notice. They had no other option because he had pictures of the crime scene!

3. Waiting for media to pick up the story. Bad news travels faster. The statement ensuring corrective action, like I mentioned earlier, should come in right away, and not after mainstream media picks it up.

4. No senior person owning up to the corrective action statement. Although the Domino’s India VP of Marketing addressed the first statement on ensuring strict action against erring employees, the last one doesn’t have a authoritative face to it. It helps a brand look honest and human if it adds a face to its public statements, especially in ones related to online reputation.

Do you agree with the observations we have made? Do you have better ideas for Domino’s or any brand caught up in situations like this?