There is a right way and a wrong way to respond to consumers who are increasingly taking advantage of the power of social media to voice their unhappiness.
It all started when I got a phone call from an indescribably rude call centre operator who spoke with an accent so thick you could start a veldt fire with it. He informed me that I had been handed over to a legal firm for collections by Altech Nashua for a paid up account which I had closed in 1999. He said that there was an outstanding balance which had accumulated R6000 in interest.
He refused to eMail me any details saying that it was my responsibility to sort it out and implying that failure to do so would result in me being black listed.
I did what any good social media player would do and turned to Facebook to voice my displeasure.
Within minutes I had seventy irate comments, lots of inbox messages and a couple of people even ran instant message conversations with me. They were full of criticism, ideas and suggestions as to how to handle it. One friend even sent my complaint to the company’s PR team.
The only response which I got was a resounding silence from Altech Nashua, so at the encouragement of my friends, I turned to HelloPeter, and reposted my complaint back to Facebook.
Then I received a very polite eMail from Nashua, asking for contract details. Within minutes they had established that the contract was not theirs, explained to me that Altech is their competitor and found me the number to contact Altech.
All kudos to Nashua, they responded quickly and politely to a genuine complaint, even if it wasn’t against them and anticipated that in my anger I was not going to look up Altech’s number.
I responded by writing to Nashua to thank them, clearing up the misunderstanding on my Facebook thread and writing this blog to compliment them on the way they responded.
We have figured out that the call centre operator’s accent was so bad, that he must have been trying to say Altech Netstar and it came out sounding like Nashua.
There are a number of lessons to be learned here
- You can’t assume that your consumers give a damn about your brand, especially when they are angry. Not one of my over 1200 friends on Facebook noticed that these were two competing brands;
- Respond quickly and politely to complaints and try to see what the consumer’s perception is. Perception is reality and with powerful media like Facebook, your consumer can damage your reputation with a few clicks; and
- When outsourcing to call centres – debt collection is a very inflammatory environment. Make sure that your call centre’s operators are competent, well trained and can speak intelligibly. Also make sure that they can eMail out. You can’t rely on auditory accuracy and their incompetence reflects as badly on your brand as poor front line service.
To date, Altech has not contacted me. Be careful Altech, people often research the company’s they do business with and you are not doing yourself any favours when complaints about your lack of commitment to consumers are turning up in search results. The man on the street is getting more powerful by the day and can now tell a whole lot more people when he is unhappy about something you have done.
Likewise Nashua, people can spread the good news easily using social media tools. Well done on deflecting a difficult situation and turning me into an evangelist.
About Digital Bridges
Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.
Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.
Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.
To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on firstname.lastname@example.org