Social media presents a great way for brands to engage with consumers in real-time about their problems, suggestions or concerns. Before it emerged into the spotlight, making a complaint about a product or service was seen as a painstaking process that required 1-800 numbers, horrible hold music, and distant mail addresses. Most people didn’t bother to complain at all seeing as the process was time consuming and often not warranted for minor issues or concerns. Plus, there was always the lingering question, “will someone even respond?”
Thanks to social media, consumers have access to a quick and easy outlet for expressing their thoughts. Aside from posting, tweeting, blogging and sharing videos on their personal pages, they have the ability to post directly on corporate pages as most brands are now well integrated within the social media scene. While messaging or posting directly to a brands page is convenient, it may not always meet the consumer’s expectations. In a world where everything is so fast-paced and immediate, it’s easy for people to develop unrealistic expectations in terms of how quickly a response should be sent or the issue should be dealt with. If a complaint gains publicity or traction, most companies will give in by offering multiple solutions so the problem can disappear as soon as possible. Even if the complaint is something very minor, a company who responds quickly and does so in a way that allows everyone to see how reactive they are, is a positive in the eyes of the consumer.
In the same sense, making customer service so public has changed the way people express their concern. What was once a refined and productive system has become an outlet for people to simply whine and complain about anything they want.
Companies who are integrated into social media networks are experiencing things they never have before in the realm of customer service. Having someone call in to a customer service line to complain about an ignorant associate is a lot different then having them post it online for millions of people to see and comment on themselves. This social aspect of sharing is very valuable for consumers but not necessarily for the companies who find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s difficult to simply shrug off a complaint when it’s posted prominently on your corporate facebook page racking up comments and stirring up your loyal customers.
There is a fine line between good customer service and unrealistic customer service and many companies are pushing past the original guidelines and moving into a realm of desperation in order to handle complaints. When companies give in to consumers just to satisfy the public, the entire customer service process can easily crumble and the company could find itself struggling to stay afloat.
Groubal is an online company who champions customer complaints and demands actions from those responsible. Users can create a login and either submit groubals (complaints) or sign others to ensure a greater opportunity for change. A guest blogger, Dan Zambonini from Content Strategy agency Contentini, did a study from August 13th to August 16th 2010 to find out which companies have the most customer service complaints on Twitter. By searching for “customer service” together with any one of: fail, sucks, worst, poor, bad, terrible or awful, he was able to pinpoint the top 10 companies with the most customer service complaints on Twitter. He extracted the tweets and used an Excel spreadsheet to map the data. Through the study he found over 500 unique businesses were mentioned but AT&T managed to come out on top with over 5% of the total volume of complaints in the survey. Rounding up the top ten were Verizon, Comcast, T-Mobile, Walmart, Apple, Sprint, Best Buy, Delta and Direct TV. For more information about the study and the top reasons why customers complain, please visit their blog.
What matters most, regardless of the medium, is communicating with your consumers. If you receive a complaint, comment back publicly so other page viewers can see how serious you are when it comes to your customers needs. At the same time, it’s important to be realistic with solutions so consumers don’t think that any complaint will warrant a free $20 gift card (for example). As a company, it’s up to you to define good customer service and if you choose to participate in the world of social media, prepare yourself for all the feedback, both negative and positive, as it will help you to grow and develop a strong presence online.
At Blab!, we love cool technology, especially if it makes a big difference in the lives of small business owners like ourselves. In the United States, a mobile application called Square has begun a payment revolution and small business owners across the nation are learning how to eliminate costly swiping equipment and take a new look at how their mobile device can help them do so.
Twitter co-founder, Jack Dorsey, launched Square in December 2009 but received bad press for months as critics and news sources picked away at its unique foundation. As we fast forward through the majority of 2010, the application has begun to take flight, despite criticism that should the application take off, Visa and Mastercard would be likely to follow suit and if so, would most likely find a way to block Square from accepting their cards.
Square has eliminated the days of portable credit cards machines. The mobile application prompts users to register online and once they do so, they are given a small device that plugs directly into their mobile phone or computer and can read credit cards. The application works on the iPhone, iPad and Android devices as well as any computer. It allows small business owners to process payments while eliminating the need for expensive swiping machines. It keeps track of all the money you spend and receive and files electronic receipts. Square is programmed to deposit $1000 of your money into your personal bank account on a weekly basis so you don’t have to deal with transfers or banks in general.
In terms of security, Square meets and exceeds industry standards for privacy, meaning secure transactions and peace of mind. There are no monthly fees or contracts required and the hardware is free with registration. Compared to regular swiping machine costs, Square could save you a lot of money. Plus, who doesn’t want to be the small business that leads the way into the future of credit card payments?
When you register online, Square also sends a sticker along with your hardware so you can prominently display the new method of payment and undoubtedly spark some interest in your customers. As shallow as it sounds, being one of the first businesses to adapt this technology could have big benefits and definitely conveys a savvy image to consumers.
What we like best about this application is that it’s realistic and it can help all different businesses! Anyone from hot dog vendors who don’t have the money to purchase the equipment, to trendy coffee shops who are looking to save paper, to businesses who accept credit card payments on a regular basis and are tired of dealing with the hassle of transfers and the fees involved in processing transactions.
The only major downfall is that you must have a US bank account and US address to use this application to process payments. As a Canadian I am accustomed to being “shafted”, if you will, when it comes to new applications and a variety of other items not being available in our country. I am confident, however, that Square will come around to include Canada as they begin to expand and businesses realize the potential the mobile application offers.
In the end, there really is no way of knowing what the future holds for Square or its creator, Jack Dorsey. All we can do is sit back and watch. Plus, if it doesn’t work out for Jack, at least he has Twitter to fall back on!
We all do it; letting our friends know we’ve gone out to see a movie, we’re at the park, the mall or our favourite restaurant. It seems harmless at first, updating status’, tweeting, blogging but how far is too far? We never seem to think twice about sharing our daily activities online from the mundane to the insane, so letting your friends know you’ve left the country, the city or even the house has never been something to dwell on, until now.
Earlier this year a website called www.pleaserobme.com began raising awareness on this topic and has since received a lot of attention for their approach. The site is no longer running but essentially it used Twitters search functionality to show location based updates from people all over the world who had no problem letting everyone know exactly where they were. The creators of this website had a simple message, take caution in what you post online that may let others know when you aren’t at home.
Location based applications such as Four Square are allowing users to check-in and notify all their friends of their current location. An awesome way to find trendy new hangouts and the best sushi in town, but on the flip side you’re letting everyone know that you aren’t home. These applications are revolutionizing the way consumers interact with businesses and brands. Although they may seem flawed, it is our responsibility, as account holders on these social media sites, to restrict our content, maintain our privacy, and interact only with people we know and trust. It becomes very easy to point fingers in a situation such as this but when someone leaves their entire Facebook profile (cell phone number and all) completely open to the public and adds 1085 people they have never even met in a race to be popular, I find it difficult to sympathize.
We value our privacy offline so why is the internet so different? We build large fences around our back yards, we lock our car doors, and we guard our credit cards and social security number with our life. Aside from the frequent criticism of Facebook’s policy, privacy seems to have taken a back seat when it comes to social media. In the past few years people seem to have grown more comfortable with the internet and have gone from providing fake names to posting full addresses and phone numbers.
Before the internet blossomed into what it is today, people used phone books to look up an address or telephone number. Today, personal database sites like www.dirtyphonebook.com are offering “uncensored people reviews” that prompt visitors to enter phone numbers and leave comments about the people with that specific number. Websites like www.pipl.com are powered by search engines that pull data on a specific person from every corner of the internet from facebook profile photos and data to news stories from local papers. Websites like these are causing a growing concern as internet users attempt to defend what little privacy they have left. Check the privacy settings on mobile apps and social networking sites so you know exactly what is being shared and remember, sometimes less really is more.
Foursquare may have been the first to make the “check-in” famous, but it certainly won’t be the last. In recent months, multiple services have appeared that are offering consumers the ability to “check-in” to entertainment and cultural concepts. Since the beginning of time, mankind has always possessed the desire to share, it is the means by which we do so that is constantly evolving. Whether it’s discussing a new episode of The Bachelorette, comparing opinions on characters from your favourite movie or just letting the world know how strongly a book resonated with you; GetGlue, Miso, and Philo are your outlets.
These services each have mobile and web applications that promote entertainment-driven social behaviour and each of them has harnessed the power of the check-in.
Philo focuses on live television and is doing so quite effectively. It pulls TV listings directly from cable companies and allows app users to earn show-specific awards based on what they watch and how often they’re watching. The reward system is similar to a hierarchy, as users will work their way up a ladder to earn credits for shows.
Miso, also known as the “foursquare for TV”, creates a social atmosphere for TV viewers. It supports TV show and movie check-ins through iPhone, iPad and web based applications while rewarding frequent viewers with badges.
GetGlue supports check-ins for much more than the mainstream television, it also supports books, celebrities, wine and video games. Users are offered stickers as rewards for app activity.
Checking in and allowing users to make social connections with culture is something that Twitter and Facebook cannot compete with. What each of these services strives for is to set themselves apart from other social networking outlets. Tweeting and updating a status is temporary and within a short period of time tends to fades away and become forgotten. What GetGlue, Miso and Philo offer is of more permanence. Essentially consumers are rewarded for engaging in frequent behaviour and demonstrating loyalty for specific networks, television shows, movies, books etc. It promotes interactivity with a multitude of cultural aspects in our everyday lives and when you stop to process the concept, it seems like a no-brainer.
On the other end of the spectrum, TV networks are salivating over the data mining possibilities. These services offer networks the ability to track a viewer’s engagement level throughout a program as well as further explore the demographics and psychographics of the specific target market. Using these services, networks would have the opportunity to fully engage viewers and ultimately be in control of boosting ratings.
When it comes down to it, each service is offering their variation of Foursquare’s model with the same cultural interaction process in mind. For the time being they will battle it out with consumers and networks but unfortunately, with all three offering similar services, only the best can survive.
The process of exchanging information just got a lot more sophisticated! QR codes have finally made their way into mainstream marketing tactics in North America and are beginning to spark curiosity amongst consumers and business people alike.
In countries like Japan, QR codes are used on everything imaginable to provide consumers with necessary information at their fingertips. Imagine, no more searching for a sales associate!
In mid-July New York City garbage trucks took the leap and began featuring QR codes on their trucks. The codes, when photographed with a mobile phone, will direct people to a video from NYC Media’s show The Green Apple: Recycling. QR codes like the ones used on New York City garbage trucks require users to download a special application in order to be re-directed. To read the code, the user simply takes a photo after launching the application and the software will trigger a specific response depending on the code. Some codes may launch a URL in the phone’s browser, some may download a video, provide a message etc.
Electronic retail giant Best Buy has managed to make their weekly circulars more interactive by including QR codes that do anything from linking to more valuable information to allowing consumers to view trailers for a new video game.
As more companies begin to adopt this technology, opportunities arise for new types of interaction and in turn, new types of QR codes. Text- message-based 2d codes may win the hearts of consumers in the long run as they require no downloading. When you look at the stats, it’s hard to ignore the fact that within the US cellular market alone, 68.7 million people use text messaging and 75% of mobile phone users have a standard phone, which wouldn’t allow them to download an application, but it would allow them to text message.
Only time will tell which QR codes will stick around for the long run. In the meantime retailers are beginning to explore their options and the ultimate result will be an enhanced experience for all consumers.