Everyone has one. It's the one thing you don't want to admit. You've tried to fix it but it won't go away. Or perhaps you haven't tried hard enough.
It's the inconvenient truth about your business that you don't really want to talk about. When confronted about it directly, you've learned to diplomatically dodge the topic. Or you leave it to another department to "deal with" because it's not your problem. In some cases, you spend a lot of time and effort to create an elaborate distraction hoping that your customers won't focus on that undesirable aspect of your business.
But whether it's a customer service, product quality, or supply chain issue - the undesirable aspects of your business are leaking out on the Internet. And it's happening faster and more widespread than you should be comfortable with.
The inconvenient mentions about your brand in social media can no longer be ignored.
As brand guardians of your respective businesses, it is your responsibility to do something about it. These mentions represent real issues about your brand, from real people, who want to be heard in a public forum.
I always use this analogy to put the situation in context:
If you're a restaurant owner and a customer complains about her food, you will always address it. Whether or not she's right or wrong is not the most important issue. It's the simple fact that you hear her concerns and make her feel better about her experience. And to let other customers in the restaurant know that their needs are being addressed.
If that same customer ordered takeout from your restaurant, went home to find something wrong with her meal, and then called you to complain – would you address her needs? You'd show some gesture of understanding if you wanted to get her patronage again in the future.
Now, if that same customer ordered takeout, went home, and found something wrong with her meal, and then posted this on her favorite social network: "Restaurant X ruined my order. Remind me not to go there again," would you do something about it?
And I've heard almost every excuse in the book on why it's not important to do so:
"I don't know this person. She could just be an angry person that complains about everything."
"This happened too long ago, so it's too late to do anything about it now."
"Her complaint wasn't valid. Her food was perfectly fine."
"It's just one time. There aren't enough complaints for me to worry about it."
"I've talked to my team and they won't let it happen again."
But we often forget one thing. Did you talk to that customer? Did you talk to all of her friends that sympathized with her message? What you previously considered as a minor hiccup may be the start of an avalanche. You may have lost the patronage of one passionate customer and 100 of her closest friends.
Search "FedEx throwing monitor" on YouTube. Or image search "D&G Hong Kong" on Google. What may not have been your problem to begin with as a marketer, can quickly become your problem once your CEO has sounded the fire alarm.
Every business will make a mistake. Even the best ones will make them from time to time. But the brands that are prepared to listen and respond to the inconvenient mentions in social media have a simple difference in their mentality that sets them apart from the rest.
They don't treat their customers differently between in-store and social media, because they are in fact the same customer of equal value. The only difference is that one holds the power of immediate cash, and the other holds the power of immediate influence.
This column was originally published on ClickZ.asia on April 19, 2012.
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As regional digital strategy director at Tribal DDB Asia Pacific, Brandon is an integral part of the development and execution of Radar, Tribal DDB's regional social media offering. He also provides digital leadership for the agency's clients. Brandon was previously (group) strategic planning director at Isobar and Carat Hong Kong, where he led digital and social media development for a range of clients, such as Chivas Regal, Swire Properties, Tiffany & Co., Nokia, and Adidas. He also developed Astro, a proprietary social media customer relationship management (CRM) system. Brandon has eight years of experience in digital marketing strategy, having worked in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong. He loves the Internet and thinks we don't say it enough. Show him some love on Twitter: @brcheung.
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