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Guest Column: There’s no hiding from social media

14-January-2013
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Guest Column: There’s no hiding from social media

Not long ago, if a customer was dissatisfied with the company’s service or product, he’d probably voice it by complaining – through an email or over phone – to express his dissatisfaction. Hence, it was a direct dealing with the customer and the organisation one-on-one. So, a few apologies and re-assurances later (from the company), things would settle down. Luckily, for the organisation, it would remain a hushed and private affair. After all, nobody heard the phone conversations or got to see the mail exchanges!

Cut to present scenario. A disgruntled customer today, who wants to vent his frustration about a bitter experience, can do so in less than 140 characters on Twitter and have the world see it in less than half a minute! Or, if he wants to air it at a slightly micro level, he could use the company’s blog or social media site. Either ways, his intentions would have far-reaching effects and could damage a company’s reputation.

With internet users burgeoning day by day and customers finding the quickest accessible ‘complaint box’ in the digital social media, it is only imperative that companies be watchful of their ways and be prepared to answer dissatisfied customers swiftly.    

Social media – unstoppable!
A staggering growth rate combined with a massive reach only reinforces the power of this channel in the digital landscape.  

Social media has grown at a rate that no other technology has. Broadcast radio took almost 40 years to reach an audience of 50 million, while its big brother TV took more than a decade. Both Twitter and Facebook made it less than a year, and Pinterest, currently the fastest growing social media platform, is not far from reaching their ranks. Every day, social network users spend more than 10 billion minutes on Facebook, watch 4 billion videos on YouTube, and send 340 million tweets.

Whether you like it or not, whether you have a social presence or not, you are constantly under the scanner…and that too at a global level! Consumers are always searching for more information and reviews about companies, their products and services from their friends and acquaintances.

Ignore at your own peril
Surely, in a scenario like this, there’s no way companies can slink or shy away from the public glare.

Ignoring or not being responsive to customers will only garner more negative buzz.  In fact, studies show that answering complaints can change customer attitude from a negative to a positive one. The same study revealed that when complaints were answered, more than half the customers had positive remarks about the same company or brand they had been lashing out at. 

While it can be quite tricky to placate an angry customer, it is a great opportunity for the company to turn this situation around to boost brand image and strengthen bonds with customers and improve service.

The author is Director, Rage Communications

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