At the Webby Awards, we are constantly monitoring social networking platforms to bring our fans our unique view into the ever-changing landscape of what’s happening online, in order to provoke and inspire by highlighting some of the most innovative work and trends on the Internet. One such trend that we’ve come across is what we call the “Golden Age of Complaining.” In this culture of dissatisfaction, everyone is an instant critic. Consumers are taking to platforms, such as Twitter, to air their disappointment with brands that have done a disservice to them.
Brands and companies have understood the importance of communication with their customers. Traditionally, in a somewhat antiquated means of communication, chagrined customers would call a 1-800 number or write (if you were even less technologically inclined) to express their displeasure with a company. With platforms such as Twitter and Facebook that allow for instant response and timely interaction, good brands and companies have created accounts on these sites that are staffed full-time by a customer service representative.
1. Responding requires a high-touch and thoughtful approach
Some great examples of brands that have taken to Twitter are:
- Cable providers:
- Motor companies:
- Ford’s @FordCustService
Engaging customers about their complaints is one of the best ways to retain brand loyalty and encourage their continued use. That being said, there is a right way and a wrong way of communicating with customers. There are two basic categories in which complaints fall: 1.“[brand] sucks” and 2.“[brand] help” – and knowing which to respond to is important. If a Twitter user merely tweets, “@Delta, you truly suck”, how is a brand supposed to respond? There is nothing in which to engage them with. However, if a Twitter user posts “@DeltaAssist traveling with an infant and had a confirmed seat on window but got moved to aisle”, it is Delta’s duty to respond to this customer.
However, one to three tweets should be the maximum for exchanges online; after that, the conversation should be taken offline by exchanging contact information. Sometimes, the problem can be resolved in just one tweet – for example: “@DeltaAssist: I’m sorry about your seat, please DM your confirmation # so we can check your next flight for you.” This takes care of the situation head on without going back and forth.
We’ve also noticed three great ways brands are responding to their fans on Twitter:
1. Take advantage of over-share
If you’re in NYC, you’ve probably eaten at a food truck or three. The great thing about many food trucks is their ability to be mobile – they are restaurants on wheels! Brands such as the Souvlaki Truck have created Twitter accounts to monitor what they’re fans are saying about them. We recently tweeted to the @SouvlakiTruck recently about missing their food – they used to be right around the corner from us – once they saw our tweet, they responded by offering a care package to be sent to our office. The following week we were all dining on their delicious Greek food. And because they were tuned in, the Souvlaki Truck was able to be proactive and garner 60,000 impressions from our tweeting our appreciation.
2. Reveal the human side of brand
Recently, one of our interns tweeted to his colleague that we were out of sweet potato chips and hummus. Another great brand @PretzelCrisps, took it upon themselves to offer their snack as a viable alternative that goes great with hummus. They engaged him and asked for mailing address. Sure enough, that afternoon, bags upon bags of Pretzel Crisps were dropped off at our office. By revealing themselves as real people behind the social media platform and not just an automated bot that responds, the Pretzel Crisp brand was able to create a relationship with a new customer.
3. Create personal interactions
One particular brand that has an interesting campaign on Twitter is Jell-o, which launched their “Pudding Face Mood Meter” in an effort to gauge America’s current mood. Jell-o is tracking tweets that contain smiling and frowning faces and are taking the opportunity to tweet to those users that tweeted frowning. While they are cued in to the collective American feelings at a current time, they are not making the interaction personal. It seems more insincere to tweet to someone who is having a bad day: “here, have a coupon for a free Jell-o pudding” as opposed to engaging the user if it’s appropriate to your brand message. This misguided effort to connect with new fans and the connection between the brand and the message they wish to convey is not obvious.
The few things we’ve learned from the culture of dissatisfaction are:
1. That even though consumers are increasingly venting on Twitter and Facebook, certain brands are proactively transform complaints into praise.
2. Brands can strengthen their existing customer relationships and create new ones by engaging the right way.
3. As long as you make it a good story – the word will spread itself.
Guest author David-Michel Davies (DMD) is Executive Director of The Webby Awards & the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. He also serves as Chairman & Co-Founder of Internet Week New York. DMD has appeared on CNN, Fox News Channel, and Good Morning America to discuss Internet trends and news, and he has lectured to audiences at a diverse mix of conferences and companies including Interbrand, Microsoft and the Institute for the future.