Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Listening - the Start of Social Media Reputation Management

In August of 2009, a customer service catastrophe befell Maytag, when the popular author, blogger, and mom, Heather Armstrong (known as "Dooce"), vented her understandable frustration with poor customer service by tweeting to her million plus followers the nightmare she experienced in attempting to get a brand new $1,300 washing machine fixed. With her new baby laundry piling up, Dooce chronicled her repeated attempts to get Whirpool (Maytag's parent company) to fix the faulty washer. After a final clash on the phone with snide customer service representative, she advised her immense Twitter following to NEVER BUY A MAYTAG! (You can read a summary of the tale by Dooce at Containing a capital letter or two).

This story became so emblematic of the power of social media that in the recently released, "Empowered," the authors (one of which coauthored the bestseller, "Groundswell") opened the book
with the tale. Although Maytag monitored Twitter for negative comments about its brand, the company failed to engage with the customer and solve the problem in timely public manner. The moral of this story is that listening to the social Web is not enough, a company must respond quickly and transparently, when its reputation and brand are under attack. 

Indeed, "Empowered" followed the Maytag reputation disaster with how Best Buy avoided the same type of problem with its Twelpforce. In this second tale, a buyer of new iPhone encountered terrible customer service at a Best Buy, when his iPhone broke. The dissatisfied customer tweeted about the problem and was almost immediately contacted by the Twelpforce, a rapid Twitter response team pioneered by John Bernier. The problem was fully resolved, quickly and publicly, turning a potential Maytag-situation into a big PR win for Best Buy. Again, the message is clear, listening to the social Web is a good start, however, rapid and transparent action is a must to ensure that a company's reputation not only remains intact, but improves.

To discover how to accomplish this task on Twitter, check out the resources below: