28 August 2008

The Brand Damage Snowball Effect

All of us, at one point or another, have had a bad experience with a company. Sometimes, it's mild enough for us to grumble for a few moments and go on our way, and give them another shot another day. Other times, it's bad enough that we'll never do business with that company again, but we don't spread that to other people.

Then, there's the tipping point where we're so ticked off, we not only vow never to do business with them again, but we tell everyone.

And if you're the company that's at the business end of that shotgun, you had better be paying attention.

My friend (and disclosure: client) David Alston is undertaking a move this week, which sucks in and of itself. And he was relying on U-Haul to help him with that move. When his wife dealt with some absolutely abominable customer service regarding their truck reservation, he put his gripe on Twitter for thousands of people to see. He also blogged about it (in a much more objective and level headed way than I might have).

What ensued was an onslaught of responses from David's Twitter community, and a great post from Catch Up Lady detailing some of the responses and the snowball effect of David's tweet reaching his followers and their followers and so on. (Just in case you think Twitter still doesn't matter. But this, for another post.)

One of those followers posted the CEO's phone number, and David sent him a message. He did call back, but as of this post, I don't think they've connected. I'll be curious about what this guy has to say about the behavior of his field locations and representatives (and the subsequent damage they're doing to his brand). I'll also be curious to know whether the phone call is merely a gesture, and if this guy is aware of the negative publicity he's receiving across the web (of which I'm sure David will make him aware).

David also did his part by canceling his reservation with U-Haul and subsequently booking with Penske, and he then tweeted about how great their customer service was.

If anything to me, this is yet another powerful case for why listening to social media is critically important, and you can do that even if you don't have a blog or a Twitter account. Hearing what's being said can uncover a gold mine (or quagmire) of information from your customers - or former customers - just waiting for you. If I were the U-Haul CEO, I would sure as heck want to know that all these people, in the span of a few hours, had just shared how much they think my company sucks.

Dozens and dozens of people responded to David with their horror stories (and I have one of my own). This many horror stories, and they're still out there managing to do business? What if no one had managed to give David the CEO's contact information? Would they have heard a thing? Or cared? Do you think this experience is significant enough to teach an old dog new tricks?

And then the next level: Where is the tipping point, I wonder, to take down a giant like U-Haul or force them to do things differently, and when does our collective patience run out? How do we translate the negativity we feel and express in words, and translate it into action by not supporting the brand enough where they have to change or perish? What separates a stubborn brand from one willing to evolve based on what they learn?

Can social media tip the scales and turn talk into action?



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3 comments:

Sonny Gill said...

Great post, Amber. The tipping point really is that Uhaul and other companies in the same boat need to do things differently as far as their consumer base goes. No, they won't perish because they're honestly too big for that but their word of mouth can and will suffer greatly with stories like David's and others; stories that are heard by the community but not by Uhaul themselves. On the other hand, big name companies that don't understand the power of listening may think to themselves that they can brush off just this 'one' consumer...when in reality, it becomes the snowball effect you made note of and hits many more people, that these companies aren't even aware of cause their eyes and ears are shut.

What a quick turnaround if the CEO actual replies back to David and a resolution comes from it. Turn bad press to good press just by opening your ears. It's really not that hard.

Kellye Crane said...

Thanks for these insights, Amber. You make a good point that listening is easy, and while today's technologies create challenges, they also offer unprecedented opportunities.

Perhaps Uhaul's CEO will learn this lesson, and as Sonny says they could get involved and quickly turn things around to become the new Social Media darling (we're always happy to welcome new arrivals).

EggHe/\D said...

I think the same happened with Jeff Jarvis's Dell Saga as well. But I think these people in themselves are huge tipping points that so many people follow them and so the message about the awful customer experience spreads ,wide and far, really fast. Isn't that right? What happens for lesser "popular" people like me and many others? Our tweets in such a case would not be good enough. Am I right here?
-Shriram R

28 August 2008

The Brand Damage Snowball Effect

All of us, at one point or another, have had a bad experience with a company. Sometimes, it's mild enough for us to grumble for a few moments and go on our way, and give them another shot another day. Other times, it's bad enough that we'll never do business with that company again, but we don't spread that to other people.

Then, there's the tipping point where we're so ticked off, we not only vow never to do business with them again, but we tell everyone.

And if you're the company that's at the business end of that shotgun, you had better be paying attention.

My friend (and disclosure: client) David Alston is undertaking a move this week, which sucks in and of itself. And he was relying on U-Haul to help him with that move. When his wife dealt with some absolutely abominable customer service regarding their truck reservation, he put his gripe on Twitter for thousands of people to see. He also blogged about it (in a much more objective and level headed way than I might have).

What ensued was an onslaught of responses from David's Twitter community, and a great post from Catch Up Lady detailing some of the responses and the snowball effect of David's tweet reaching his followers and their followers and so on. (Just in case you think Twitter still doesn't matter. But this, for another post.)

One of those followers posted the CEO's phone number, and David sent him a message. He did call back, but as of this post, I don't think they've connected. I'll be curious about what this guy has to say about the behavior of his field locations and representatives (and the subsequent damage they're doing to his brand). I'll also be curious to know whether the phone call is merely a gesture, and if this guy is aware of the negative publicity he's receiving across the web (of which I'm sure David will make him aware).

David also did his part by canceling his reservation with U-Haul and subsequently booking with Penske, and he then tweeted about how great their customer service was.

If anything to me, this is yet another powerful case for why listening to social media is critically important, and you can do that even if you don't have a blog or a Twitter account. Hearing what's being said can uncover a gold mine (or quagmire) of information from your customers - or former customers - just waiting for you. If I were the U-Haul CEO, I would sure as heck want to know that all these people, in the span of a few hours, had just shared how much they think my company sucks.

Dozens and dozens of people responded to David with their horror stories (and I have one of my own). This many horror stories, and they're still out there managing to do business? What if no one had managed to give David the CEO's contact information? Would they have heard a thing? Or cared? Do you think this experience is significant enough to teach an old dog new tricks?

And then the next level: Where is the tipping point, I wonder, to take down a giant like U-Haul or force them to do things differently, and when does our collective patience run out? How do we translate the negativity we feel and express in words, and translate it into action by not supporting the brand enough where they have to change or perish? What separates a stubborn brand from one willing to evolve based on what they learn?

Can social media tip the scales and turn talk into action?



Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

3 comments:

Sonny Gill said...

Great post, Amber. The tipping point really is that Uhaul and other companies in the same boat need to do things differently as far as their consumer base goes. No, they won't perish because they're honestly too big for that but their word of mouth can and will suffer greatly with stories like David's and others; stories that are heard by the community but not by Uhaul themselves. On the other hand, big name companies that don't understand the power of listening may think to themselves that they can brush off just this 'one' consumer...when in reality, it becomes the snowball effect you made note of and hits many more people, that these companies aren't even aware of cause their eyes and ears are shut.

What a quick turnaround if the CEO actual replies back to David and a resolution comes from it. Turn bad press to good press just by opening your ears. It's really not that hard.

Kellye Crane said...

Thanks for these insights, Amber. You make a good point that listening is easy, and while today's technologies create challenges, they also offer unprecedented opportunities.

Perhaps Uhaul's CEO will learn this lesson, and as Sonny says they could get involved and quickly turn things around to become the new Social Media darling (we're always happy to welcome new arrivals).

EggHe/\D said...

I think the same happened with Jeff Jarvis's Dell Saga as well. But I think these people in themselves are huge tipping points that so many people follow them and so the message about the awful customer experience spreads ,wide and far, really fast. Isn't that right? What happens for lesser "popular" people like me and many others? Our tweets in such a case would not be good enough. Am I right here?
-Shriram R

28 August 2008

The Brand Damage Snowball Effect

All of us, at one point or another, have had a bad experience with a company. Sometimes, it's mild enough for us to grumble for a few moments and go on our way, and give them another shot another day. Other times, it's bad enough that we'll never do business with that company again, but we don't spread that to other people.

Then, there's the tipping point where we're so ticked off, we not only vow never to do business with them again, but we tell everyone.

And if you're the company that's at the business end of that shotgun, you had better be paying attention.

My friend (and disclosure: client) David Alston is undertaking a move this week, which sucks in and of itself. And he was relying on U-Haul to help him with that move. When his wife dealt with some absolutely abominable customer service regarding their truck reservation, he put his gripe on Twitter for thousands of people to see. He also blogged about it (in a much more objective and level headed way than I might have).

What ensued was an onslaught of responses from David's Twitter community, and a great post from Catch Up Lady detailing some of the responses and the snowball effect of David's tweet reaching his followers and their followers and so on. (Just in case you think Twitter still doesn't matter. But this, for another post.)

One of those followers posted the CEO's phone number, and David sent him a message. He did call back, but as of this post, I don't think they've connected. I'll be curious about what this guy has to say about the behavior of his field locations and representatives (and the subsequent damage they're doing to his brand). I'll also be curious to know whether the phone call is merely a gesture, and if this guy is aware of the negative publicity he's receiving across the web (of which I'm sure David will make him aware).

David also did his part by canceling his reservation with U-Haul and subsequently booking with Penske, and he then tweeted about how great their customer service was.

If anything to me, this is yet another powerful case for why listening to social media is critically important, and you can do that even if you don't have a blog or a Twitter account. Hearing what's being said can uncover a gold mine (or quagmire) of information from your customers - or former customers - just waiting for you. If I were the U-Haul CEO, I would sure as heck want to know that all these people, in the span of a few hours, had just shared how much they think my company sucks.

Dozens and dozens of people responded to David with their horror stories (and I have one of my own). This many horror stories, and they're still out there managing to do business? What if no one had managed to give David the CEO's contact information? Would they have heard a thing? Or cared? Do you think this experience is significant enough to teach an old dog new tricks?

And then the next level: Where is the tipping point, I wonder, to take down a giant like U-Haul or force them to do things differently, and when does our collective patience run out? How do we translate the negativity we feel and express in words, and translate it into action by not supporting the brand enough where they have to change or perish? What separates a stubborn brand from one willing to evolve based on what they learn?

Can social media tip the scales and turn talk into action?



Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

3 comments:

Sonny Gill said...

Great post, Amber. The tipping point really is that Uhaul and other companies in the same boat need to do things differently as far as their consumer base goes. No, they won't perish because they're honestly too big for that but their word of mouth can and will suffer greatly with stories like David's and others; stories that are heard by the community but not by Uhaul themselves. On the other hand, big name companies that don't understand the power of listening may think to themselves that they can brush off just this 'one' consumer...when in reality, it becomes the snowball effect you made note of and hits many more people, that these companies aren't even aware of cause their eyes and ears are shut.

What a quick turnaround if the CEO actual replies back to David and a resolution comes from it. Turn bad press to good press just by opening your ears. It's really not that hard.

Kellye Crane said...

Thanks for these insights, Amber. You make a good point that listening is easy, and while today's technologies create challenges, they also offer unprecedented opportunities.

Perhaps Uhaul's CEO will learn this lesson, and as Sonny says they could get involved and quickly turn things around to become the new Social Media darling (we're always happy to welcome new arrivals).

EggHe/\D said...

I think the same happened with Jeff Jarvis's Dell Saga as well. But I think these people in themselves are huge tipping points that so many people follow them and so the message about the awful customer experience spreads ,wide and far, really fast. Isn't that right? What happens for lesser "popular" people like me and many others? Our tweets in such a case would not be good enough. Am I right here?
-Shriram R