Yesterday an article appeared in several newspapers about how angry tweets (on Twitter) can force a company to back off a geographically localized program intended to promote good will. A franchisee of Tim Hortons, a coffee shop competitor of Starbucks, in Rhode Island agreed to provide free coffee for a local program, celebrating Marriage and Family Day. It turns out the sponsors of the program were against gay marriage and this brought out the gay community and those supporting the gay community in droves. A petition was electronically signed by about 2000 followers and angry ‘tweets’ and facebook entries were broadcast, often at the rate of several per minute. Customers threatened to boycott the company, not just in Rhode Island but everywhere. A day later, Tim Hortons announced that the franchisee had not followed corporate policy, that the event did not meet sponsorship guidelines, and the sponsorship had been canceled.
Why is this important news? First the company is being blamed for taking too long to respond. That’s right: one day is too long to respond! Furthermore, the sponsorship issue emerged during a weekend and was responded to on Monday afternoon. Customer satisfaction appears to have been restored for Tim Hortons. The good news about social media is that the good news can travel as fast as the bad news.
If one day is considered by your customers as too long to respond, including weekends, then new processes need to be put in place to monitor social media sites for negative comments 7 days a week and 24 hours a day and if there are angry comments, then management needs to ensure there is a process in place to provide a quick response to customers issues to maintain customer loyalty. At minimum, acknowledgement that the issue is being investigated would help buy the organization time to understand the issues and their causes. Negative word of mouth could be minimized for a short period of time.
Social Media, and Blogs are forcing overhaul in traditional customer satisfaction strategies from the backroom survey orientation to front and center live web monitoring. I welcome your comments.