Community managers: The day after

Yesterday I followed on Twitter a case where the community manager for a -well known and with very good reputation- Spanish moving company literally screwed up their reputation.

He/she threatened to sue a customer that was expressing a complaint on Twitter, because the client had used the hash tag “vergonzoso” (shameful). IMO, the customer was not insulting and she was not threatening. Just complaining.

Initially I thought about yet another tactic to be viral. But the reputation of Gil-Stauffer in Spain is completely different. It’s the kind of company you would like for a good, incident-free, priced, removal. Sort of a Zappos for Spanish removals. Or that was my impression, at least. After a bit of researching, it seems the incident is not something new. But this time the backslash is going to be very tough.

So you’re a CEO of a big company and you discover that the technology everybody told you it would help interacting with your clients, has literally destroy your reputation. I’m sure the CEO did know about the tactics, but now he/she knows this time is different. What to do?

Some possibilities comes to mind:

  • Ignore as if nothing had happened. It has worked in the past. And it’s tempting. But it’s flawed, because social networks are about communicating. And because this time is different. Next tweet on that account is going to be replied by hundreds of people.
  • Hide it (deleting the tweets). No worth even considering. Everybody has now a capture of the tweets.
  • Rebuild trust.

In my opinion, the only real option in a social networked environment is to rebuild trust.

  • You need to act quickly. Rebuilding trust takes time. But you must start as soon as possible. I imagine the management did know yesterday about the major screw up. But today there is no answer. Which means they don’t know how to act. And they’re obviously considering the options. But if you don’t act quickly, you’ll be forced to act later on, but losing the benefits.
  • Apologize. Clearly. Not only for the specific series of comments but also for not understanding the whole social-network issue. Explain you have learnt -where “you” means the CEO- that social networks are a different thing you didn’t understand. And that you personally are going to learn.
  • Start listening. There is a customer that has not get a good experience. Change it. Solve her problem. I remember having a bad experience with IKEA that was completely reversed to a great experience thanks to their Customer Relationship department.

Social networks are about interacting with your customers and getting feedback. It’s about listening.

It is not a new channel to fill with Press Releases or (worse) to threaten clients.

Update: They finally manage to apologize (and also on the general issue). Late.

First published here