- Tech & Gadgets
- BRW. lounge
Published 12 September 2012 06:17, Updated 13 September 2012 07:01
Looking for trouble ... If a customer is forced to complain about your business on Facebook, you may have broader problems with your processes. Photo: David Paul Morris
Last week I was conducting a discussion group of men in their 50s as part of the fieldwork for our forthcoming Mind & Mood report. The men were all mates from work but also socialised on weekends, playing and watching sport together and going on the odd boys’ night out. They were mid-level public servants and relief teachers, with primary-school-aged kids and an almost insatiable appetite for corn chips and VB.
In the middle of our wide-ranging discussion – which covered everything from education standards to the price of petrol – one man shared with us his ongoing dramas with a company (that will remain nameless), to which he paid a significant amount of money to manufacture a pergola for him.
The problems he was having with this pergola and the bad service from the company were nothing remarkable; when it first arrived, it was the wrong colour and size, which he could live with, but then he discovered problems with its basic construction and after a few hot days it began to sag and warp.
The man had complained in person, via email and phone many times and wasn’t getting any traction. Instead of talking to Fair Trading or considering legal action, this man took to new media. First he posted a photo of his disappointing pergola on the company’s Facebook page, complete with its logo and the comment, “this is the kind of work you can expect from these guys”. That got the company’s attention; calls were made immediately, as were promises to fix the problem. When management changed and the company didn’t follow through with these promises, the man reposted the photo. He was waiting for a response but was also going to target all the companies’ representatives currently listed on LinkedIn with emails asking for help. He was even considering joining Twitter to continue the campaign.
Consumers have long been using social media such as Facebook to solicit ideas about products and services and to complain to their friends when things go awry. However about two years ago – when consumers started to become more accepting of corporate and brands on social media – we started to notice stories like Mr Bad Pergola’s emerge. Consumers had come to assume that companies – especially larger ones – had begun monitoring what people said about them in these social networking forums. They are now pretty comfortable, when they reach a dead end with the usual complaints mechanisms, to take to social media to seek action.
For consumers, there is mostly upside to using social media as a complaints vehicle. However, for product and service providers I think there are issues if you are seen to respond promptly to complaints about you on social media after you’ve failed to address those issues via more conventional channels. It gives the impression you only acted because of the potential PR damage rather than out of an obligation to the customer.
The lesson for business? If you get your service and products right, people won’t be forced onto Facebook to have a go at you. Complaints on social media could be a sign of a problem with your processes elsewhere.
P.S. This is an interesting piece on “social customer bullies”.