Thursday, 24 September 2009

Brand organisations ignore angry consumers at their peril

In years gone by brand organisations could ignore unhappy consumers.

When they delivered a bad brand experience, e.g. poor product performance, rude customer service, etc, it didn’t matter too much because consumers could do little about it, other than tell a few of their friends and stop buying.

If they got lucky their story might have got media exposure through newspapers or a TV consumer programme.

Fast toward to today and the things are completely different.

The digital age has put the consumer firmly in control.

The web is littered with examples of brands that have suffered because they have delivered bad brand experiences that have so incensed consumers they have found ways to use social media to get the attention of a wider audience.

Here are some infamous ones:

Dell ignored Jeff Jarvis’s complaints until he posted a ‘Dell Sucks’ blog. A large anti-fan club was born. [I’ve written about this before.]

United Airlines ignored complaints from an upset passenger who had watched his guitar being badly handled by baggage handlers. He posted a video and on YouTube got over 5 millions of hits. [see YouTube video]

Apple took no notice of early consumer complaints about broken glass covers on their newly launched Nano, until his consumer blog post generated massive backlash that they could not ignore.

A Comcast engineer was recorded fast asleep on a couch while on hold waiting for engineer support which has also had huge volumes of views and comments. [see YouTube video]

Last week there was a news story about how a disappointed holiday maker was ignored by Thompson Holidays until his ‘rant blog’ beat them on Google searches.

These ‘head in the sand’ stories always follow the same pattern:

Step 1: The brand delivers a bad brand experience (e.g. poor product delivery).

Step 2: The organisation compounds the problem by delivering further bad brand experiences (e.g.poor customer service, ignoring the problem, etc)

Step 3: The bad brand experience story spreads quickly across the world (via social media) turning millions of consumers off the brand.

Twitter has turbo-charged the speed and scale at which this type of story spreads. (See previous posting.)

Any brand organisation that permits these types of problem is likely to incur significant unwelcome extra costs to the business trying to put things right.

It is therefore vital to have people and processes in place that knows how to prevent this type of problem.

Better still, have people and process in place that know how to WOW consumers so they talk positively about your brand.

Brands with more advocates than competitors will win.

1 comment:

Michael Litman said...

o2 are another good example of a company who are trying but not entirely embracing the social web and it's potential uses and benefits.

They've got a great feed on Twitter but they've had to update their bio insisting that their Twitter feed is not an avenue for customer complaints. They're missing a trick here. Hypothetically if someone said something about my brand I wouldn't adopt the head in the sand approach and ignore it online. It won't go away. In fact it will only get magnified the longer you do choose to ignore it as they get progressively more irate.

Proactively reach out to people negatively tweeting about their brand, nip it in the bud there and then and make the customer happy again.

Here's an article to support that which states that "their poor reputation stemmed largely from negative comments on Twitter" -