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True Confessions - How I Weaponized Social Media Against a Brand

Karl Helfner
Senior Manager of ISV Partners for Oracle CX

For many years, I traveled internationally about 250 days a year, living out of various suitcases. My luggage was central to my universe.  When your itinerary makes many stops to different cities and countries, the return trip home without your favorite luggage by your side can be a living hell.  That’s exactly what happened to me and I used social media as a weapon when I went to war against one of my favorite brands.  Here’s my story.

During some downtime at home, I took my favorite carryon bag to the store to get the handle fixed because it was coming apart.

The store employees knew me well.  They also knew that I spent over a thousand dollars a year in their store, so they waived the shipping charge for the repairs.  They wrote up the job and sent me on my way.

It’s the kind of great customer experience we all love. They know who I am, what value I represent and they go out of their way to make sure everything is easy for me.  Since a repair usually takes 2-3 weeks; I figured I’d have the bag back before my next trip.

However, after a few weeks, I hadn’t seen it. So, I called the store and asked them to check on it for me. They said they’d get back to me as soon as possible.

They called me later that day, informing me that my bag was destroyed! They were honest about their mistake, but the best they could do for me was to ship me the new version of that bag in 4 weeks. I had to fly again in two days.  The person on the phone seemed to have done his best, but I was still out my favorite bag, or any carryon bag for that matter.

While they did everything they could to help me, I was not happy with the company, so I took my grievance to social media to make the exchange public.

Using Social Media as a Weapon

On the company’s main social media page, I brutally shamed them in my post. To make sure it got noticed, I called in my fellow road warriors to pile onto their misery. Within a day it was the most popular post on their page. People I didn’t even know chimed in. This post had real legs real quick!

Two days later, they finally responded to the post by emailing me.  Big mistake.  When someone communicates with you publicly, do not force a change of channels, ever!

Their email was a polite attempt to bribe me with a $50 coupon, to go away. Smelling weakness, I took their attempt to privatize the conversation and I posted the email exchange into the comments of my original post, calling them out on their shifty tactics.

My fellow road warriors had a field day with this.  The company tried once again to privatize the exchange and sent me another email to placate me.   Once again, I posted the exchange and the Internet went after them even harder. They even had the audacity in their email to suggest, “If I have additional comments, feel free to mail us a letter.” Seriously.   

In the interest of peace, I sent them a direct message with the precise details of where we were at the time, which included the following;

  • I emphasized that I’d been a loyal customer for several years. 
  • Their staff was fantastic and did everything to help me replace the bag.
  • However, the replacement bag they offered was a terrible, low-quality product.  Compared to its predecessor, it was so cheap that “they should be ashamed to sell it to their customers.”

They responded the same day that a member of their staff would contact me directly. I informed them I was traveling abroad for 2 weeks, but I gave them my details so they could contact me.

They….never….contacted…me!!!  So, I unloaded vitriol on them via social media again.  This time, there was total silence.

Two Weeks Later

At a conference, I gave a presentation and mentioned this specific customer experience to the 500 attendees.  Moments later as I walked away from the room, I got a call from the company. The person on the phone made it clear, “I don’t know what happened. All I know is I’ve been told to try and fix it.”

At this point, this ordeal had been going on for months. The person on the other end of the phone knew nothing about the situation. The company kept changing channels.  They desperately wanted to throw money at the problem and make it go away.

Know When to Cut Your Losses

While I would never be a customer of theirs ever again, I still wanted answers. Like, why had they failed so badly across the board in their processes? I was given nothing for my terrible experience but apologies, but this poor guy knew it was his job to fall on the sword, and he did it politely. At the end of the day, a store credit was sent to my store in NY for “any carry-on bag that you want.”

A Tale of Warning

Misunderstanding how social media works, or having it backfire against you can cause immeasurable brand damage.  One bad experience is all it takes to lose a customer. And remember, it’s not just that one customer. It’s every person that customer knows throughout their network.

Further, when I researched this article, I found my comments from over 4 years ago. The Internet never forgets.  

Technology can help a great deal, but only when companies are willing to change their policies to work in today’s experience economy. The instant you choose company policy over customer experience, you’ll feel the brunt of social media being used against you.

Lastly, when I had a broken handle on one of their competitor’s bags, not once but twice, each time it was fixed in less than 48 hours and at no cost to me. They have a customer for life!

Read about how social data can make your marketing better!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments ( 3 )
  • David Saint Michel Friday, March 22, 2019
    Great story, Karl!
  • Karl Helfner Monday, March 25, 2019
    Glad you like it, there will be a follow up to this one coming soon.
  • Richard Lefebvre Monday, March 25, 2019
    Thanks Karl! Nice (but sad) story illustrating how most companies are poorly dealing with cross-channels interaction... Do they realize that the World is changing and their customers have different expectations?
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