social media gone bad

Handling Consumer Complaints Using Social Media

Let’s pretend it’s 10 years ago. How likely would you be to write a letter to Subway or Target complaining of the poor customer service you might have received? You probably wouldn’t bother, right? Now a days, it’s definitely a lot easier to “shout” about your bad experiences with certain companies.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post To Tweet or not to Tweet, “in today’s fast paced society, instant gratification is becoming a norm causing the ability to achieve immediate responses a necessity.” Companies now need to be able to promptly respond to complaints because it can become viral.

One great example of this is FedEx. We’ve all seen the video, days before Christmas a FedEx employee threw a customer’s  computer monitor over the fence. If you haven’t seen the video, it can be found HERE on YouTube. FedEx knew this wasn’t something that could be ignored, so they responded quickly and accepted it. They didn’t ignore it and they didn’t try to pass fault. Their response can be found HERE on YouTube.

It’s important to note here that they responded via the same channel that the complaint was registered. This is important for a couple of reasons. One reason it’s important to respond on the same channel is that it shows you’re monitoring your brand. If you get a Tweet complaining about your service and you send them a message on Facebook, it makes it seem that you found out through a 3rd party, possibly the newspaper or a random Facebook status, instead of on Twitter. Another reason is that the public will see it. Someone Tweets a complaint and you Tweet them back, the people seeing the complaint will see your response when they click on your name.

But, not every company handles complaints well. I want to take this moment to direct you to Priceline’s Twitter Page. When you pull it up, this is what you’ll see:
Priceline’s problem is that they don’t have a live person in charge of their Twitter, it’s a robot. A robot that is scanning Twitter for uses of Priceline’s name and automatically sends the exact same message to each of them. I know this because a little over a month ago I tweeted about them and how they seemed to have killed off William Shatner in their commercials. Their response was the exact one they constantly retweet. Their response made no sense and didn’t fit the conversation.

Just keep in mind not every single complaint needs to be addressed. In a perfect world we would be able to, but it’s just not practical. Otherwise you end up with a twitter account like Priceline’s. And no one should want customers to Google their company just to find complaints being answered with an automatic reply.

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Faster than a Speeding Tweet

Promotions and contests are a popular marketing tool used by most companies. You see promotions everywhere from on-line games on Facebook to win gift cards to getting your quarter in the shot glass for a free milkshake. It’s a simple tool that can drive business sales.

Who DOESN'T want a free sandwich?!

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But what happens when social media turns against you? That’s what happened tonight to Papa Johns. Their most recent promotion is the Papa John’s Coin Toss. Papa John’s encouraged their customers to vote on whether the coin in the coin toss at Super Bowl XLVI would land on heads or tails. If American guessed correctly, those enrolled in Papa Rewards would receive a free pizza and bottle of Pepsi MAX. America chose Heads (60% of the votes) and that is what it landed on. They announced they would send an e-mail on Monday the 6th (today) with a code for rewards members to use to redeem their freebies. Earlier today they made another announcement saying people should check their e-mail accounts at 4 pm EST. And when 4 pm EST came and left, people were unhappy. I tracked #freepapajohns on TweetDeck and America spoke – and they were not happy. People went from simply asking if they were going to e-mail to saying they would just order from Pizza Hut instead to a few threatening to sue the company! Eventually some customers received their Papa Rewards code. (I, unfortunately, have not. Papa Johns? Bueller? Bueller?)

Authors Edit to add: I did receive my rewards code the next day and promptly ordered my free pizza that night. YUM!

This was a great example of how quickly word spreads thanks to social media. All it takes is a small rumble before an all out, angry twitter storm.

Twitter - the Original Angry Bird

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Have you seen bad press through social media because of a promotion or contest before?