Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
August 20, 2008 7:13 AM

Does A Social Media Vigilante Equal Customer Service Justice For All?

There have been many back channels emails asking me who the "major electronics retailer" featured in my Blog posting, Like It Or Not, Your Website Is Part Of Your Company (And A Big One), from yesterday was. I run a different kind of ship here at Six Pixels of Separation. I don't name names in hopes of getting some kind of equitable resolution for myself. Plus, let's face it: they know exactly who they are (note: I have Blogged about specific companies in the past, but I have been doing my best to shy away from this over time).

The whole premise of Blogging - from my perspective - is to foster social change among all entrepreneurs and businesses. My hopes are that by not naming names, all companies will read a Blog posting like yesterday's and say: "is he talking about us?" or, "I know he's not talking about us, but how do we handle situations like that?"

The other reason I shy away from names is that I don't like reading highly trafficked Blogs where the main Blogger is using their platform to get some kind of personal resolution clouded in a grander message that by solving their individual problem the company is now "listening to the conversation." I know many like the voyeuristic nature of this type of content, and I know others who simply enjoy the "sticking it to The Man" undertones, but I don't think each unique incident is a "win" for the Blogger or the company. To me, it feels more like an individual case of someone exacting some form of Social Media vigilante justice.

As Bloggers we don't want to hear that companies have policies. We want to hear that they treat each and every customer as an individual and fulfill that need in a special way. While the company may look great in the eyes of the Blogosphere for "listening to the conversation" and acting, it is a very hot potato (whether we like it or not). There is a significant cost and internal shift that has to take place within a company to even monitor the many online channels, figure out how to respond and deliver on that response. As more and more customers become instant publishers (Bloggers, Podcasters, using Twitter, or building up massive "friends" lists in the online social networks), companies will have to figure out which policies work, which ones get tossed and what their overall level of a satisfactory resolution really means (yes, more policies). Because this is not about Bloggers, this is about customers (and, the customer is always right... right?).

And that's the bigger point: just because an individual Blogs about a bad customer experience and only gets a fraction of what they requested to "make it better" does not mean that the company is not listening, is not reacting and is not doing everything it can to resolve the situation. All it really means is that the company didn't do everything that the specific Blogger requested (and, let's face it, some Bloggers aren't helping the scenario when the requests are a little insane). Sometimes the Blogger is right in their request and sometimes the company is right in their settlement offer... and sometimes those two solutions simply don't match up.

As individuals build their personal brands and grow audiences based on the digital footprint they are creating, it is important for companies to be paying attention to the conversation (we all know how much time I spend Blogging about that particular issue), but I also think it's important to realize that one social media vigilante who is exacting justice for themselves does not mean customer service justice for all.

By Mitch Joel