Customers Gone Wild: How Not to React to Online Complaints - MarketingVOX
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Customers Gone Wild: How Not to React to Online Complaints
AT&T Wireless Giorgio G. had a few complaints about his iPhone wireless service - complaints he expressed directly to CEO Randall Stephenson via email. Twice. After the second email, Giorgio received a phone message from AT&T thanking him for his feedback and then warning him that a cease and desist letter may be sent to him if he contacts Stephenson again.
If you haven’t read about what happened next then you can probably guess: Giorgio posted the voice mail message along with his original emails to his website, which quickly went viral. AT&T eventually apologized to Giorgio.
AT&T, it is widely agreed, was out of bounds in its response. However, other companies have been just as quick to threaten legal action against consumers that have taken their complaints online. From the perspective of the firm, it is easy to understand why: a local company’s reputation could easily be at risk and if it feels the complaints are unwarranted threatening legal action seems the wisest course.
But for the most part, it is best for a company to try to engage the customer in a positive manner - assuming he is not making wild accusations. Perhaps more to the point, Congress is considering implementing a law that could make it harder for companies to sue consumers making statements about them online.
Such suits, know in First Amendment circles as a strategic lawsuit against public participation, or Slapp, are meritless defamation suits - meritless because unless someone is outright lying about a specific incident the First Amendment gives people the right to voice opinions. (via the New York Times). The point is rather to force the critic to back down to avoid a large legal bill.
The bill, in the House Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy, would allow someone who believes he is being sued for speaking out or petitioning on a public matter to seek to have the suit dismissed, the Time reported. If a case is dismissed for being a Slapp, the plaintiff would have to pay the defendant’s legal fees.
The BP Model
A better way to deal with online complaints can be found with BP. Recently a Tweeter has begun impersonating the oil company for laughs on the site. Most readers know it is a joke - but some have not caught on and have been outraged by the supposedly cavalier Tweets.
A sample of his work: Just got 100k followers and our oil is headed to Florida. You know what this means… WE'RE GOING TO DISNEYWORLD!
If we're being accused of being criminals, we want to be tried by a jury of our peers- wealthy execs who don't give a damn.
We are very upset that Operation: Top Kill has failed. We are running out of cool names for these things.
eConsultancy points out that BP has done nothing to silence the BPGlobalPR Twitter feed, though it's probably within their rights on Twitter to do so. In this case, it made the wise decision to ignore the feed and let people express their frustration. “At this point, the best PR strategy is to simply fix the problem they've created.”