Why Brands Should Love Public Complaints

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magneticnorth
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Humanity
magneticnorth   6/27/2011 10:42:17 AM
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I think many marketers simply fail to see how important a sense of humanity is to a brand and how public criticism can help them in that. No brand is perfect, so a brand that censors criticism will either look suspiciously arrogant or downright irrelevant. Also, it's easy to humanize a complaint: simply show people that you're listening. In the end, humble human beings are more attractive than proud fictional characters.

JRvision
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Re: Humanity
JRvision   6/29/2011 8:17:25 AM
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Listening is twice as important as speaking. I know an owner of a small-hotel franchise. Every time someone complains about service on TripAdvisor, the hotel owner defends the hotels instead of listening to complaints filed by dissatisfied lodgers. 

That hotelier is now infamous for such behavior. A client of mine who had previously used the hotel regularly no longer patronizes it at all. He also tells others about his bad experiences at every opportunity. 

I looked up the hotel, as I posted this. The only thing different is that now there are people instead of individuals who criticize this place. It is a self-made PR-disaster.   

 

Mitch Wagner
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Re: Humanity
Mitch Wagner   6/29/2011 10:40:23 AM
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JRvision - You raise an interesting point. Marketers need to identify the places where community is ALREADY gathering in their particular industry, and be sure to have a presence there. 

It might be nice for a hotel marketer to have a community on their own Website, and they certainly should have a presence on Twitter and Facebook, but it's also important they be on TripAdvisor. 

And, as you say: They should listen, not argue. 

kicheko
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Re: Humanity
kicheko   6/29/2011 5:47:37 PM
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Excess defending does resemble arrogance I agree. It makes the company seem unwilling to take responsibility for anything. On the other hand I wonder how a company should respond to complaints. Should they ever engage in public statements of reassurance or just go ahead and rectify the mistake silently. Where to balance between humility and being a pushover that no-one dares depend on.

Ellis Booker
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Give 'em a cookie
Ellis Booker   6/30/2011 3:56:13 PM
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Here's an interesting idea I heard about during a recent preso. A hotel chain that gives discount coupons to posters on its site, whether the comments are positive or negative. 

Why would someone who hates a brand want a coupon from that brand, you ask. Well, they might not. But the coupon might give them a reason to try the product/service once more (let's just hope the problem they bitched about has been addressed).

More broadly, this approach demonstrates that the brand sees real value in getting input (positive or negative) from customers. Finally, thanking someone for taking the time to write is just good manners--a simple tactic that often results in a surprising amount of good will.

 

 




Mitch Wagner
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Re: Give 'em a cookie
Mitch Wagner   6/30/2011 9:19:25 PM
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Ellis, that IS a brilliant idea. If they try the brand again, they might come away with a more positive impression that time. 

hms022001
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Negativity
hms022001   6/27/2011 11:21:13 AM
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Great article. 

Embrace the negativity as a driving force in product refinement and organizational improvement.  

anjaya
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Re: Negativity
anjaya   6/27/2011 3:07:34 PM
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Yes exactly @hms022001. How you handle your negative feedback will exert a large influence on your success, and implementing a smart strategy will ultimately help your business. Otherwise, how would you know how to improve your business offerings if nobody complained? If everyone was happy and satisfied, why improve at all? Through complaints and handling negative feedback, you discover what makes customers angry, upset, and unsatisfied about your service or products. Your services can easily be changed and altered to improve the quality and customer expectations.

Dave Sasson
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Re: Negativity
Dave Sasson   6/27/2011 6:52:35 PM
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I am really impressed by the higher percentage numbers Epson achieved by adding ratings and reviews to their website.  Does anyone know if Epson is sustaining these kinds of results (or improving), since they launched these features in April 2009?

kicheko
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Re: Negativity
kicheko   6/29/2011 5:30:53 PM
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Indeed if everyone was happy there'd be no push to improve. IMO too much praise breeds complacency and as a marketer one should probably have more time for the complaining customer. Sure not all complaints have a solid basis but these people keep you on toes and often bring you to new ideas that could usher you to the next level in the industry.

Paul Gillin
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Re: Negativity
Paul Gillin   7/13/2011 8:11:35 AM
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I don't ever recommend slugging it out in public with angry customers. The best public response is to acknowledge the complaint and invite the negative person into a private discussion. One well-known company that is very good at this kind of thing has a "rule of two:" If you can't get the complainer to engage offline or tone down the complaints after two attempts, then ignore them. They're never going to be satisfied, and usually they go away after a while. 

cmophil
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Re: Negativity
cmophil   7/14/2011 8:16:39 PM
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Sony should take up this stance. Apparently, when it comes to support, people have come to the conclusion that they must bash them online before they get a 'response'. I have a client that has gone through 2 defective Sony products and got nowhere until a friend blasted them on Twitter/Facebook.

Mitch Wagner
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Re: Negativity
Mitch Wagner   7/15/2011 11:17:15 AM
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Yeah, that's become part of my routine when I get bad customer service. 1) Email 2) Call 3) Compose an angry message or two to Twitter. 

Backfired on me when I was having trouble with Cox Communications. My problem wasn't just bad service, it was TOO MANY phone calls and service calls from Cox. So I sent out a Tweet, got a message in response back from Cox asking me to call them, and I thought, "Just what I didn't want. ANOTHER phone call. I just want this problem fixed!"

(Which it eventually was, after way too much work on my part.)

cmophil
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Re: Negativity
cmophil   7/17/2011 1:41:40 PM
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It's sad huh. Makes you wonder why they just don't have the folks manning the social media helping with the customer service in the first place...? I guess they figure negaitve feedback online is better than none at all...

Mitch Wagner
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Re: Negativity
Mitch Wagner   7/19/2011 11:32:27 AM
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SearchEngineLand's Danny Sullivan replies to Michael Dell, who's looking to use Google+ Hangouts for customer service. Danny says it's a bad idea. He says every time we read about a company using social media for customer service success, it's really a customer service failure:

If I walked into a store and started yelling about how bad the store was, to get my problem resolved, who would consider that a successful customer service model? But that's basically what we are encouraged to do through social media, yell there as an attempt to get problems solved as a last resort.

OK, it's more nuanced than that. I have have great respect for the people who do perform huge customer service through social media channels. But these shouldn't be end runs your customers need to use because your regular customer service channels are so convoluted and so often backed by people who aren't enabled to just solve problems.

That's where I'd like to see you or any company put your energies, before we get more social media candy.


Paul Gillin
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Re: Negativity
Paul Gillin   8/1/2011 11:54:09 AM
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This is an interesting and valid point. One thing that's bothered me about the Comcast model and others like it is that it essentially rewards the most vocal complainers with priority service. That's been good PR for Comcast, I suppose, but is that really how we want to prioritize our customers - by those who shout the loudest? I wonder if these models could be inadvertently encouraging bad behavior. 

nasimson
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change of relationship
nasimson   7/5/2011 11:23:55 AM
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It used to be that customer complaints were a domain of Customer Services. With Social Media, where every customer is potentially vocal and influential, Marketing too is now involved in this business. Other aspects aside, I think it should be resulting in change of relationship between Marketing & Customer Services. Any thoughts/evidences?

Mitch Wagner
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Re: change of relationship
Mitch Wagner   7/5/2011 11:58:40 AM
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Certainly we're seeing many companies use social media for marketing AND customer service. 

Mitch Wagner
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... following up on my own comment:

Marketing and customers service are very closely related. The purpose of marketing is to drive demand, and one of the best ways of doing that is to build repeat business, and one of the best ways of doing THAT is to provide good customer service. 

Paul Gillin
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Re: change of relationship
Paul Gillin   7/13/2011 8:02:53 AM
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That's a great point. A survey by BtoB magazine last year found that 85% of organizations had made social media the responsibility of the marketing department. That's convenient for now, but I don't think it's scalable.

It turns out that there are significant customer service benefits to be had, and we're even seeing B2B companies in particular use social channels to involve customers in product development. While marketing may continue to hold the reins, I think a federated approach makes more sense. Each part of the organization should be free to apply social media where it makes sense. 

Mitch Wagner
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Re: change of relationship
Mitch Wagner   7/13/2011 10:20:20 AM
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Paul - Social media will eventually be the responsibility of many departments. 

Email is a good analogy. Every department has its own use for it. 

nasimson
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Re: change of relationship
nasimson   8/1/2011 11:34:02 AM
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@ Paul

> Each part of the organization should be free to apply social media
> where it makes sense.


Very aptly put. Its very similar to the websites when they first appeared. Initially IT department took control of it, later they were only responsible for handling nuts & bolts while the look, feel, design and content was taken care of by Marketing. A few years later, nearly every department has its own semi web portals as per their specific needs.


Paul Gillin
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Re: change of relationship
Paul Gillin   7/13/2011 8:07:03 AM
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It's unlikely we'll see many companies merge their marketing and customer service operations (a lot of customer service is outsourced, anyway), but as marketing becomes more tuned in to listening to customer feedback, their interests will merge. I think we'll see smart companies begin to merge the feedback they get from both organizations into CRM so they can make smarter decisions across the board.



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