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:


  1. Hello Melissa Barker...
    Sheesh, I've been trying to get this post written for 2 days now. This is the first time I've experienced Twitter and what makes it so difficult for me is--I have DIAL-UP! So I am getting frustrated trying to do this assignment. I'm a business student and right now the class is studying Social Media Marketing. My job is to scroll through your site here and pick something interesting to comment on. Well, I found a great one!
    What an excellent way to get someone's point across that will actually make a difference! Heather Armstrong and her Maytag washer story hit my funny bone. I had one of those monsters myself.
    After living on a boat for 6 years with 6 kids with no laundry machine, I thought I was in heaven when we got our Maytag. I don't remember what model anymore but it cost a fortune and lasted less than a year. We went through similar trauma with piled up laundry--and a new baby--and 7 kids...
    We tried to get it fixed, as Dooce did, and finally just threw up our hands and got a cheap one that (10 years later) is still working fine.
    Eventually we got a notice that there was a class action law suit going on with that model, but I was so sick of them I didn't bother with it.
    Anyway, it was a pleasure experiencing the power of Twitter!
    Janice Faber

  2. This is slightly ridiculous, and makes me upset to think that customer service is really unimportant to some major companies who have so many products out on their market. How could a popular company not be interested in helping out a customer, especially one who is going to make it known that they haven't helped her?

    This reminds me of a situation that happened at my work. We have an inground trampoline at the gym where I work, and it has several holes in it that are very dangerous for the amount of kids we have come through there a night. We have been trying to contact the company who installed it for over a year, and we have had no response. Not until we sent a complaint saying that we aren't going to encourage anyone we know to buy from them did they respond. I think in order to have good customer service, you MUST respond in a timely manner, and really show that you care.

    Some companies are ridiculous! And the social network can really help show people how REAL people feel about their products.

    Sharissa Sokolis

  3. Dear Melissa,
    I'm glad to hear about the woman who tweeted about a problem getting her new washing machine fixed. I think this is a great way to keep companies on there toes and a really great way to vent.
    I know that it also works in a positive way. If you love a product and can't get enough of it, tell all your followers. I know that celebrities like Kim Kardashian get big bucks everytime they mention a certain product. Long gone are the days of major advertising through television. It's a new era in marketing and new and easy way of reaching the public.

    Deviney Blore

  4. I think it's funny that a company as big as Maytag can scan sites such as Twitter for negative comments and reviews but take no effort to resolve the matter. The less problems they fix, the more customers they lose. I had bought a straightening iron from a major company and had only used it for less than a year (and after going through two of them in the same year) it burnt off my bangs. I was furious, I called the company even posted a negative review about it on Facebook. They assured me I would receive a full refund and a new iron. Well two years later and I'm still waiting for my refund. I started doing research on this iron and it turns out that 9 out of 10 times it burnt off someones hair. Negative reviews were all over the web.

    So I believe using social networking to promote or show negativity really does work. I now always search the web for negative reviews before I purchase something major and it almost always comes from a social networking site.

    - Kimberly Kasinger

  5. I find it very strange that Maytag monitors Twitter (and presumably other social media sites) yet appears to have no plan in place for dealing with situations like the one you described. I would imagine that after this incident went public Maytag quickly changed that. You mentioned that Best Buy had a team for dealing with customer complaints on social media sites. Is this common among large companies or are they an exception rather than the rule? What advice would you give to a company interested in created such a team?

    Josh Bailey

  6. Melissa,

    I think it's very interesting, yet pathetic to hear the situation that lady dealt with. That's why I think Twitter is great not only for a company, but also for customers. Clearly, if a company isn't doing their job correctly and taking care of customers, I think people have the right to complain about their issues with the company. I think opinions from people can also benefit a business whether it's good or bad feedback.

    I think Twitter is great too because businesses can post current sales and offers or new items in stock etc., depending on the type of company. Personally, I have never been on Twitter, but with so many different social networking sites now days, I think Twitter would be beneficial to companies for advertising and marketing due to the popularity of the site.

    Kassandra Spinnell

  7. I think this is a perfect example for companies that are resistant to using Social Media Marketing to monitor what is being said even if they are not planning any "active" marketing on their own. I think almost everybody out there has had a similar experience with one company or another and each of us has vented about the issue to friends, family, and even strangers. Since we now have tools like Twitter and Facebook the stories do make it farther and in a shorter amount of time. I think that it is more crucial for the larger corporations to monitor these sites than it is for the small companies in small towns.

    The way Best Buy responded is an excellent example for other companies to model themselves after. I am not usually a fan of Best Buy. Not because of anything they have done, simply because my husband and son will spend all day there when we shop together and I get bored. I will definately be a little more patient in their store now.

    Thank you,
    Davi Lang

  8. I think these stories are interesting and helpful in knowing how to deal with the PR of media marketing. One bad customer experience used to be spread by word of mouth and there was no way of knowing who or what was being said, however social networks like Twitter can help businesses control, understand a customers frustrations, and have the opportunity to resolve the problem.

    There are the good experiences and compliments that are posted as well. This can help with good customer relations and understand what they need and expect.

    Liz Offenheiser

  9. It does not surprise me that major companies don't care about costumer service. My family has always had this problem. They never do anything to fix the problem until you go to the head of the company or make them look bad just like Heather Armstrong did on twitter.

    Twitter is a good website because people should be able to let everyone know how they feel about situations like this. If no one knew about these problems people would buy the products and have to go through the same problem everyone else did.

    Kaitlyn Wilburn

  10. Until now, I always thought I would avoid twitter. I never fully understood the potential of the application, and assumed it wasn't worth my time. Now, I'm starting to second guess that. I didn't realize it was becoming so widely used, even by companies such as Best Buy or Maytag.

    After reading Armstrong's complete story about her Maytag washer, it made me instantly want over a million followers. I'm still at zero. :( I now understand that Twitter can be incredibly powerful. This has me thinking about other social media I should be a part of. Just seems like a smart thing to do.

    So... follow me on twitter?

    Avery Steven Xander Rice

  11. Janice Faber, Sharissa Sokolis, Deviney Blore, Kimberly Kasinger, Kassandra Spinnell, Davi Lang, Liz Offenheiser, and Kaitlyn Wilburn – Thank you all for your comments! Great to hear all of your thoughts!

    Josh Bailey –
    It is hard to say whether or not this is the standard for other large companies, but it is essential in opinion. The advice I would give is to train individuals on the product or whatever the company is selling (this ensures they are knowledgeable and can respond appropriately) and ensure that they stay neutral when responding. There should definitely be an attitude of “the customer is always right” when dealing with complaints.

    Hi Avery Steven Xander Rice –
    I’d be happy to follow you on Twitter, what is your username?