One small step from poor customer service to full on crisis management
The Register reports that phone manufacturer HTC is suffering from “long delays” and “confusion”. I can personally vouch for this (see this blog posting for my story).
Ten years ago, a customer service issue would have been a major frustration for affected customers and a minor problem for the business in question. Worst case for them was that irate customers would phone up the consumer champion at their local radio station and vent their spleen (as a Midlander, Ed Doolan was our weapon of choice). The situation would be resolved (or not), but business life would go on relatively untroubled.
Today, the power of social and online media makes crisis communication and reputation protection much more challenging. As HTC are finding out to their cost, bloggers will post their experiences to which further negative comments will be added, frustrated customers will detail their woes with regular Tweets, and the business in question will find its Facebook page containing negative comments about the brand. And these negative perceptions will be forever available through the power of Google.
So how should brands protect their reputation when word of mouth spreads so quickly via social media? Online media monitoring, search engine optimisation and engagement with key online influencers are all important elements. But fundamentally, the solution relies upon communication and action. Communication to engage and empathise with customers before they “go public”; action to resolve the problem so that trust is retained. Pull off this combination and concerned customers turn not into critics, but brand ambassadors.