Sticking Your Head in the Ground is Never the Answer
Posted on April 13, 2012
This social media thing is funny.
It’s often unprofessional to use words like “morons” or “shit heads”, but fortunately for companies, not uncommon.
Why fortunately? Well, they’re getting honest feedback. And, while it’s best to keep it “professional” cursing in writing/online has a different impact than cursing on the phone. Cursing a person is perceived as personal and offensive. Cursing in writing, in my opinion, shows frustration more than offensiveness.
This article about Rogers’ horrible customer support is hilarious. As are the comments. Make sure to read those too.
I’m writing this because I think there are some important lessons lost on executives at big companies. When I was in b-school, I was amazed that they had to teach people what a megabyte was, and what ethernet was. In fact, I regularly speak to people who don’t know the difference between wifi and their carrier networks (3G/4G, etc).
Non technical executives, and executives who (like me) grew up (older?) before technology don’t have a framework for understanding how this stuff “works”. And by “how it works” I mean, “what matters when they approach it.” Let me give a similar example. I was talking to a marketing person yesterday about what it’s like to plan an event. She had been talking to someone who was like “I figured I just need a room big enough for 50 people.” Turns out there were a lot of other considerations (is the room easy to find, are there signs, is there enough space at check-in for 50 badges, what’s the parking situation, and so on).
For whatever reason, companies/executives fear technology. I know that I often procrastinate when I don’t want to deal with something. If I were a non-technical executive, maybe I’d find other really important things to do rather than take a close look at social media and what it means to my business. After all, I’d have technical people who can tell me what to do (Block it! It’s insecure! It’s a time waster!).
I don’t think today’s executives realize the effect and the power of social media to their business.
Do you think Rogers knows about Jim’s post?
Do you think they’d feel Jim was a jerk? Do you think they’d thank him? I think the former mostly.
Do you think they have an “crisis management” strategy for responding to stuff like this? Or, an order of escalation so the right people know and can respond.
If this were a regulatory related item (as it might be with a pharma company, or a bank), and they don’t know it’s being said for a few days how is that going to look? “We didn’t know about the problem” won’t work. It’s been out there for X days. And, look at the comments, it’s obviously been a problem for a while. Why wasn’t this resolved when customers first told you?
And, the big question why are these customers having these problems in the first place?!
What should executives be doing? Here are a few suggestions:
- Have a crisis management plan. Brainstorm about what might happen, and how you’d respond. Document it, train people on the process. Then document the results.
- Figure out a plan for listening. The feedback that Jim and the commenters on this article is invaluable. It’s like they’re unpaid process improvement consultants. I’d send these guys a personal thank you.
- In addition to listening, figure out how to measure the results and benefits. In this case, it seems like there’s an opportunity to improve telemarketing efforts and device activation procedures. They seem pretty important areas to me!
Of course, some people are never happy (I can be one of those people sometimes, though do try to fight it.). You’re never going to please them. But… Jim is not one of those guys. You please one Jim, and you’ll outweigh the hundreds of people you’ll never please. You have to listen to know who’s who or which complaints are constructive (or if there’s a constructive message in a negative delivery). Companies should love this opportunity to do better business. But, like anything else, we need to learn to listen. And, the only way to do that is to build our “listening muscles” by starting and practicing. I wouldn’t expect companies never to make a mistake, but like my interactions with people, really admire companies who learn from their mistakes.
Ignoring social media by blocking it from your organization is frighteningly naive. There are tons of excuses. It’s a time waster. It’s insecure. Guess what? You’re right. Being right (in this case) doesn’t matter. You could be the next Rogers. In fact, you might already be.
Social media presents an unmatched opportunity to connect humanly with customers and get honest feedback. You can make the choice. Head in the ground or success. You choose.