Customer care bullying no more

The Internet has truly become a great customer advocate over the years and while businesses are trying to take advantage of it to control their message and sometimes provide damage control. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell that to upper management and the folks at customer care.

With companies trying to cut down on costs, chances are that customer service will be affected – both by the lack of training and the decrease in staffing. These combined with a number of varying factors can affect the type of assistance consumers can get when seeking help – like if you have problems with your car, computer, airline, or something else. But that doesn’t mean that we as consumers have no way to respond.

In an article on eMarketer.com, a recent Society for New Communications Research study sponsored by Nuance Communications found that consumers are using social media to share their customer experiences and to research the customer service of other companies. Imagine that, now folks who are rebuffed at the company customer care hotline now have a way to retaliate and spread their anger and discontent that will have a huge impact on a company’s public relation image. Perhaps the greatest weapon at the consumers control are blogs. If you have qualms about a product, you can voice your opinion on a blog, as Geoff Livingston wrote about on his Buzz Bin Blog relating to his encounters with JetBlue.

But for companies, they need to understand that while they may feel that social media can be used for damage control, they should NOT be retaliatory towards posters (Read the comment by former JetBlue CEO David Neeleman to Geoff Livingston on his posting about the failures of JetBlue). Out of those surveyed by Nuance Communications, 59% said they used social media to vent about their experience – possibly not only via blogs, but through sites like TripAdvisor, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, YouTube, etc.

But while social media can be used as a reactionary measure, the damage can also affect future purchases as nearly three-quarters said that they used social media to research their purchases. So feedback by other consumers can greatly affect future sales of a company’s product. The power no longer rests solely with the company. Consumers have their own virtual means of responding to poor service. As Lynda Kate Smith, a vice president at Nuance Communications poignantly states, As this research highlights, the consumer’s voice is louder and travels further than ever before. One poor customer interaction can have a very significant impact on a public impression of a brand.