While studying Public Relations, a crucial concept is ingrained into your mind:
‘Markets are conversations’
It’s a simple concept. So it’s frustrating to see that in 2016 some organisations are still underestimating the power of stakeholder and customer relations. It’s as if they just don’t get it.
And that’s why last week, I proposed the idea of a challenge, a Public Relations Challenge no less. The purpose of this challenge was to test certain organisations and their comms teams when faced with a complaint.
Shall we see how they got on?
(Added note: For someone who moans ALOT, it’s quite hard to complain to a company without sounding like a whining toddler in the sweet aisle, I had my very own challenge this week..)
Monday: Wessex Buses.
Ah, public transport. Don’t you just love your bus being late? When it doesn’t show up at all, couldn’t you just jump for joy? If there’s anything that annoys us the most in Britain, it’s probably this.
So on Monday morning, I had something to moan about and I kicked off the challenge with the following tweet:
Half seething, half sarcasm, my bus was 15 minutes late. (The driver also had to be directed by the passengers as he didn’t know the route but that’s a whole other ball game!)
And so after sending my tweet, I waited for a reply, and I waited, and I waited. The next day it became pretty obvious that I wasn’t going to be getting my reply.
Nothing tells you that you’re a worthy customer like being ignored, especially when the organisation’s account is still active and has tweeted since. Personally, I believe that no reply is worse than a horrible reply, at least the latter would mean you’d been recognised.
A fairly new (and helpful) tool from Twitter is that of ‘Tweet Activity’. It told me that 39 people saw my tweet and it’s lack of reply. 39. In less than 140 characters and 24 hours, I might’ve permanently influenced 39 people’s opinion on an organisation. Word of mouth has taken on a new meaning and social media is leading the way.
Tuesday: Post Office
Last week, I decided that my challenge tweets needed to be complaints but after some caffeine and good customer service, here I am changing the rules. Anyway, who said that all conversations have to be negative?
I was thrilled when the Post Office replied within an hour and was even more impressed at the response, it was another question! It’s like waiting for a bus (deja vu) and then two turn up at once!!
Also, by signing the tweet off with his name, the comms team member (presumably called Luke) has humanised the conversation, so I really don’t feel like I’m talking to a computer. It’s a nice touch.
From this blog post, you’ll have probably learnt that I’m not the biggest fan of waiting or queuing, I mean – is anyone?
So it comes as little surprise that by Wednesday lunchtime, Boots was faced my semi-serious war path.
Again, I was really taken aback by such a speedy reply from Boots (this time their member of staff was Helen).
TIP: Sorry can usually be the best thing to say, even when you’re not at fault as it quickly and effectively defuses a situation and prevents it from going further.
The account then followed me so I could Direct Message my issue, which again is clever as it prevents the issue of dirty laundry (my whinge) being aired in public view. This isn’t Helen’s first complaint and she’s handling it like a true professional. Do you reckon she’d offer workshops?
I felt bad for complaining after her reply, so I told her the truth, what a cop-out, I know!
So there we have it, three attempts at communication and three different results. Who’d have thought it? Well, all of you I imagine, I wasn’t being clever.
Overall, this challenge has showed me that while some companies still need to get up to scratch on their comms techniques, there are others who are dedicated to engaging with their customers and ensuring that they return to spend another day, which is essentially what it’s all about.
If you take anything from this blog post, make sure it’s that concept. Markets are conversations, so get talking!