Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
October 4, 201011:46 PM

Making Customers Attack

If there's one thing brands hate, it's when customers attack using Social Media.

There's no doubt that using Social Media and publishing your reasons for feeling wronged is not only commonplace, but something that usually gets results. While it may not be complete satisfaction on the customer's side, usually an apology or an acknowledgement that things weren't perfect from the brand is enough to tame the wildest of Twitter beasts. In the past little while, it has been a conversation that seems to be recurring with much more frequency in the Six Pixels of Separation world (just take a listen to my most recent Podcast with Joseph Jaffe: SPOS #222 - Jaffe And Joel #9 [Across The Sound 9.20] or read this Blog post: The White Noise That Is Twitter).

But, here's what brands will never tell you...

On the surface, you'll hear public statements like, "Social Media is an important place for us to listen to and react to our consumers," or, "even if we did something bad, it's important that we're accountable and that the general public sees our response." In the boardroom and behind closed corporate doors, many brands feel like ousted BP CEO, Tony Hayward, and his infamous, "I want my life back!" line. In short, they would love to see Social Media go away - especially the brands/industries that always struggle with customers and satisfaction. In a perfect world, they'd prefer if all of the flubs, foibles and inferior service wasn't publicly broadcasted for all to see, search and comment on.

Now, they're doing it to themselves.

A new trend is that certain brands consider all tweets, Blog posts, etc... as a public record and have corporate policies around responding (in short order) to any concerns or complaints in the many online channels. What brands fail to realize is that this opens the floodgates, and is now pushing individuals who would normally not make customer services complaints publicly, to do so.

Think about that. Think about this...

Just this week I had two customer services incidents that I'll share with you...

  1. One of my mobile providers left me waiting on the phone for twenty minutes. Once I connected, I was told that I was in the wrong department and that they would transfer me. I waited on the phone for forty more minutes before the system unceremoniously booted me off before even speaking to a customer service representative. I called back and waited another twenty minutes before finally connecting to a human being, who then prompted me to try bringing my device into their retail outlet. The best part of the story? This call happened after 12:30 am... I was on the phone until almost 2 am.
  2. I bought a return airfare business class ticket on a major airline for over $4000 (a client was covering this expense). I usually fly with airlines where I have status, but had to use this major carrier because of timing, destination, etc... When I reported three hours early for my flight home and went to the lounge, I was told that I could not access it - even though I had purchased the most expensive ticket possible. The attendant finally agreed to let me in as their "guest" but would not grant me access to the wi-fi, which is only for their "members." Imagine that: a $4000 first class ticket does not get you access to the lounge.

I could go postal. I could go tweeting.

In both instances, I have intimate knowledge of these two companies and know that they both respond to issues immediately online, but I chose not to. Why?

  1. You never know who you are going to work with. As the President of Twist Image, I can never know which brands may become client opportunities. Pushing that further, you never know when the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) for Company A might move over to Company B. If Company B is a major client and this individual remembers that spleen busting rant on Twitter, they may be inclined to do an "agency review." Nobody wants that.
  2. I don't like to leverage this community for my personal gain. By complaining, it forces the brand to take a look at who I am and who I am connected to. I would not want any kind of favorable resolution simply because I have a small semblance of a community, or because I write a newspaper column. I don't write a column or build this community so that brands will pay attention to me when I'm not satisfied. On top of that, you are not here to watch me publicly deal with a customer service issue. You're here to be a media hacker along with me. You're not here to be a part of my personal bidding.

So, how does one get resolution?

It's crazy, isn't it? By working the traditional channels and trying to keep things private, nothing happens. Nothing gets resolved and the brands don't even realize/know these issues are taking place. If I tweet about it (which I don't want to do), there is a strong possibility I would get next-to-perfect resolution and the brand would then be able to iterate and evolve based on the incident. They're, literally, begging me to go public.

Does anyone else see the strange irony here? Brands are now forcing their customers to attack in public! Anyone else find that a little crazy?

By Mitch Joel