Social media is causing customer satisfaction weaknesses to become very visible quickly. . The examples in this blog post are those where an employee or manager has used web tools improperly and caused embarrassment to their employers, causing  press releases or statements to be issued with apologies and explanations.

The lessons being learned by these examples, is that, every company needs to review what role the employees should be playing with respect to  social media and external web sites  and then ensure their employees are well trained on the company’s policies and their roles with respect to Social Media.  Here are a few recent examples:

Honda:

Honda recently created a Facebook Fan Page to show off photos of its 2010 Honda Accord Crosstour. Comments were solicted and many turned out to be negative. This is followed by some very positive comments about the new CUV. It was  soon uncovered that author of the positive opinion was a Honda Product Manager.

The web is very public and since Facebook comments show the name of the person who make them, it was easy to search the web using his name.  The first two entries on Google matching his name is  his profile on LinkedIn (giving his title as Honda Product Manager) . The second entry on Google is a picture of the same man on a TruckTrend website, confirming  him as a Honda Manager of Light Trucks. Oops!!!.

Within a day, the offending post by the Honda Product Manager was removed from the Facebook fan page. In Honda’s response, Honda commented on the negative reaction to the car and also on the failure of the product manager to follow Honda’s public media policy. What is interesting is that there was also a backlash against Honda for removing the offending remark  from the fan page, and Honda covered their reasoning for its removal  in their offiical response.

I just visited the Honda site and the incident is no longer being discussed on the fan page. Instead there are many positive and negative comments on the fan page. It seems Honda has handled this incident well. I also noticed a comment by another Honda employee, but he clearly identified himself as a Honda sales rep.

Belkin: A Business Development representative at Belkin posted a request on an Amazon website called Mechanical Turk asking users to read about a Belkin product and write a positive product review in exchange for payment of $0.65 per product review.  He provided his name on the posting. He, too, was found on LinkedIn. This ethical violation went viral around the world, calling into question, almost any positive product review about the Belkin’s products. Three days later, Belkin’s presdient issued a press release apologizing.

Domino Pizza: Two employees of Domino Pizza put an unflattering video up on YouTube showing themselves violating hygiene standards. I wrote about this incident in an earlier blog article. The two employees are being charged with contaminating food and could face 4 months to a year in jail. One of the two employees is a registered sex offender. While the Domino Pizza franchisee is responsible for hiring, this is another example where the parent company can be damaged by the acts of employees of their franchisees. I would not be surprised to hear that there are new ‘guidelines’ for franchisees on hiring practices and personnel screening at Domino’s Pizza.

What are the lessons learned from these three examples.

1. If you don’t have policies and guidelines for  ‘official  or unofficial company’ publicity on Social Media and web sites by employees and employees of the channels (eg franchisees) that you use to ‘go to market’, you need to create them.

2. These policies and guidelines need to be clearly and consisely communicated to your employees and to those ‘channels’ such as franchisees that represent your product to your customers.

3. Monitor social media sites, blogs, complaint sites and Sidewiki for customer dissatisfaction.

4. When mistakes happen,  engage your executives and go public with the facts and apologize.

5. Use the communication vehicles used by your customers when you issue your response. If your customers are using Twitter, Facebook or Youtube, ensure your response includes those sites where those customers will see it.

6. Embrace customer satisfaction feedback. Make it public that you welcome customer comments.

7.  Use data analysis and management systems to reduce or eliminate the causes of customer dissatisfaction.

8. Communicate back to customers that you have ‘heard’ their feedback and highlight what they should be ‘noticing’ that indicates that you have heard their concerns and implemented changes. Communication is important even when there is no disaster to respond to. It shows you have listened.

Using these steps, you should see your customer satisfaction improve in today’s changing social media world.

I welcome your comment and suggestions.

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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

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