Companies Beware! Unhappy Customers are Turning to Social Media

Last week, I blogged about how a social media site like YouTube represent the future of advertising. But social media can also represent the anti-advertisement: bad reviews from unhappy customers who are eager to spread the word about a company’s failings. Witness the following:

  • My friend Tanya runs a blog called NitpickyConsumer.com.  Tanya blogs about good and bad customer service, companies that don’t seem to care, companies that just don’t get it.
  • This disillusioned Dell customer created a Dear Dell rant on YouTube that has garnered over 32,000 views and nearly 1,600 comments!
  • Check this one out.  Dave Caroll wrote a song and created a video about United Airlines breaking his guitar.  The video has been viewed over 8 million and generated nearly 43,000 ratings (average 5 stars).  Ouch.
  • And don’t forget the millions of updates that subscribers to various social networks fire off every day about their experiences.  Many are about lousy customer service.  Do a search on Twitter for “comcast sucks” or “verizon sucks” and you’ll never run out of tweets.

As marketers, we’re always trying to position or brand our companies.  But Harvard Business Review says your brand is no longer your own” because anyone can go online and talk about your company and its offerings. And when our family, friends and colleagues talk, we listen.  A recent survey sponsored by Tealeaf.com found that “74% of online adults said negative comments read online have an influence on whether they will do business with a company.”  Wow.

What’s a business to do? My recommendations:

  • Adopt an aggressive listening strategy so you know what’s being said about your company, by whom and on what platform.  Tune your Google alerts, Twitter searches and other social searches.
  • Become nimble with your social networking strategy and toolkit so that you can respond quickly in the event of social media storm or viral campaign gone crazy.
  • Make it easy for customers to give you feedback directly so that they don’t feel that their only recourse is to go online and rant.  And for God’s sake, take the calls and the e-mails and respond to them!

How about you?  Got a favorite customer service blog or video?  How do you voice your complaints and rants when a company has treated you badly?

5 thoughts on “Companies Beware! Unhappy Customers are Turning to Social Media

  1. I don’t know if I would say “Your brand is no longer your own”, as I still feel like it is, but to me it becomes much more of a conversation, it’s more like “Your brand is what you live”. So if you’re living good customer service and hitting all the right angles with your customers, then your brand will be in line with the conversation. If you are not providing great customer service, you can market your customer service until you’re blue in the face, but as soon as anyone searches your brand, the people will say otherwise.

    I think Domino’s is an example of this, they kept saying that they had good pizza, but the people said they had bad pizza. So they decided to do something about it and make their pizza taste better, so their ideal (good pizza) would be inline with the conversation (good pizza). It’ll be interesting to see how many people bought their pizza to try the “new” formula. I haven’t yet but probably will.

    And when you’re talking about customer service, no one does it like Zappo’s. Their customer service is legendary! And, consequently they get huge amounts of repeat business, and people like me write about them in blog comments, more free advertising for them, and their management keeps investing in improving customer service.

    Garry

  2. I just experienced a good example of someone “adopt[ing] an aggressive listening strategy”:

    I went to an event last week where a number of things went wrong and were, I felt, handled poorly. Frustrated, I posted on Twitter about the event. A day later, I received an email from the president of the group that hosted the event, apologizing graciously and explaining in detail the difficulties they had faced that evening and expressing the hope that I would come to another event so that they could get things right. It completely reversed my feelings about the event and the host, and certainly changed the message I broadcast about them to the people I know. Smart president for searching Twitter, smart president for writing such a good letter.

  3. Heather Armstrong of dooce.com writes of a rather dramatic example of the use of Twitter to combat a bad customer experience. Her brand new Maytag washer broke down. After going through normal channels, she turns to Twitter, where she has, oh, over a million followers. She finally gets the response she wants, but Maytag’s competitor, Bosch, is also listening — and they get involved as well. Read the whole story here: http://www.dooce.com/2009/08/28/containing-capital-letter-or-two

  4. Oh my god, the blog post from Heather Armstrong is gripping reading! So many of us have had this type of experience with xx retailer or manufacturer.

    I’m having my own customer service issue this morning. I’m trying to get Glee tickets for my niece in NYC in May. The Ticketmaster Web site is having a presale for American Express cardholders. Ticketing opened at 10am. On my first attempt, I got an error. Then I get invalid password (you need to enter the number on the back of your card)), wtf? Then I get there are no tickets available. All of this by 10:05am. I’m on the phone now with American Express directly; wish me luck.

  5. I recently did a video on a company that gave me terrible customer service… I waited two weeks for them to make it right at which time I did the video…not 24 hours later the owner contacted me at which point he was ready to jump through hoops to get me to take the video down. He offered a refund and a credit to his website but only after the video went up.. he also requested at that time for me to take the video down which I told him I couldn’t but that I would put up an update stating that he had called me and made the refund etc.. today I get an email from him threatening me that if I do not take down the video he has contacted his lawyer and they are going to sue me and just when I was starting to like the guy ugh!

    Here is the email he sent me… let me know your feelings?

    Hi Victoria,

    It was good speaking with you Wednesday night. I’m glad we were able to talk through this, clear everything up, and turn you into a satisfied customer. We refunded your credit card the next day for the full amount of your order.

    As promised, here is a gift certificate for you to use on our site. This should be enough for you to get a nice sized canvas or two. Just use our site as you normally would and select ‘gift certificate’ as your payment method when you checkout.

    Amout: $200.00
    Code: *****

    In addition, I am formally requesting that upon receipt of this email, the videos you posted on Youtube, as well as the post on your forum all be removed. My attorney has reviewed the situation and gathered all the necessary information and evidence to file a suit against you for your actions. She has encouraged me to file the suit in Miami Federal Court, and she will be collecting damages, as your actions have clearly and irrevocably damaged our company image and reputation.

    I told her that you had already refused to take the videos down when we first spoke, but that we had a good conversation and that I wanted to ask you again to see if we could settle this without legal action. I think we both have better things to do that spend our time and resources fighting over something in court that can be settled very easily just by removing two videos and a thread in a forum.

    If the content isn’t removed, and I don’t hear from you by Monday evening regarding this, my attorney will be sending you a formal request to remove the content. This email has been forwarded to her as well.

    Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

    David

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