Marketers, Jishnu Sen, Deepika Tewari, Rajat Mehta, Anshul Khandelwal, Pranesh Misra and Raagaleena Sripada from top brands put forth POV.
If disgruntled consumers are bad for brands, disgruntled + social media-savvy consumers are super-bad. A sizeable chunk of the 55 marketers, from leading brands that we interviewed for our annual CMO Special issue, considered negative social media outbreak a nightmare in the digital world.
With digital turning into a major playground for marketers and advertisers, brands have been exposed to two way communication. This means, to a fuming consumer, the brand and the brand marketer are just a tag away on Twitter or FB. The ensuing communication is also laid bare for the world to watch. Left unattended, the complaint can swell further and spread to other geographies. A screenshot of an angry Facebook post can also be part of a tweet. The complaint can unite others who might have suffered similar problems. It could further find voice with a digital influencer. And if it doesn't stop at this, it could end up becoming a full-blown media fiasco.
Moreover, today, when potential customers run to a search engine for product reviews, an unattended irate consumer is just bad news for brands.
Among the latest examples is an angry complaint by a mother who, along with her kids, were riddled with bedbug bites while flying business class on a lengthy international flight from Mumbai to Newark, USA. Their anger remained untended. The woman followed up with an angrier tweet for not receiving a response from the brand. The tweet was liked and retweeted before being picked up by the media.
The internet is brimming with such complaints which range from delayed food delivery, wrong shoe sizes to soap cakes delivered instead of cellphones.
At times, the rage might also seem uncalled for; when the brand did not really deserve the bashing. However, we've also seen that swift response, coupled with a calm message, saves the day. An added discount coupon or refund can actually make a hero out of the brand.
So, the big question is - when people rage, should marketers quaver?
afaqs! connected with marketers for their take on the subject.
Jishnu Sen, chief marketing officer, Big Bazaar, Future Group's hypermarket chain, is of the opinion that brands and marketers cannot falter when there are consumers raging.
Putting forth his POV over the query, Sen says, "People rage either with good reason or not. If there is a good reason; listen, make the change, apologise, if necessary, and move on. If people rage without reason, ignore it. The truth will eventually prevail. The point is to never stop listening and embrace and utilise the two-way nature of digital platforms."
Sen maintains that responses should be calm, but quick, and unless they have serious grievances which are justified, there is little room for compensation.
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Deepika Sabharwal Tewari, AVP - marketing, jewellery division - Titan, believes that a brand should stand up and respond to each of its consumers while also being fair in its approach.
"The true test of a brand is when the brand stands up in front of customers and engages with them. A brand should stand up and respond to each consumer that it interfaces with. Each positive response is a clear way of building loyalty and a following. In the digital age, micro-catchments and personalisation are the ways a brand comes alive for each consumer," Tewari says.
"The response is a mix of explaining a brand's truth/ view and also owning up to issues. The brand should be fair in every situation. In case of issues, making good with an appeasement is a means of placating and retaining a customer while being fair to maybe an unintentional human error. At the end of the day, the stronger a brand is in terms of handling issues in the public domain, the stronger it becomes in the consumer's mind space," she adds.
Rajat Mehta, senior president, marketing and corporate communications at YES Bank, considers irate customers as the best feedback channels for the brand.
Mehta says, "I believe irate customers are your best feedback channels because they care about your service or product enough to highlight experiences that could be improved further. Hence, it becomes very important to evaluate why your customers are irate, gauge early warning signals on two-way communication channels like social media and improve service delivery mechanisms."
"Composed, understanding and solution-oriented responses help comfort irate customers greatly. In fact, it's service one-oh-one. More than discounts/ coupons/ refunds, I think customers want their voices to be heard, their troubles acknowledged and an assurance that the brand is there to safeguard their interests," Mehta states.
Anshul Khandelwal, head of marketing - Foodpanda India, maintains that the brand should connect with the person who might be raging due to a bad experience but pin-point relevant cases.
Khandelwal says, "No marketer wants to have unhappy customers, but if, unfortunately, it happens for any reason, today, we have the means to resolve issues immediately. Digital tools and technology have become the guiding lights for businesses to assess customer perception and resolve matters in a timely and personalised manner. If you have a raging individual who is upset with an experience, the brand should connect with the person. However, what brands have to keep in check is that the right attention is paid to relevant cases."
"Failing to respond to customers' queries can create ripples of negative brand perception. It is not always that a customer is looking for a discount/ coupons/ refund and hence, that is not always the answer. Rather, it is about listening, understanding gaps and offering timely assistance. Every user is important as an individual and hence, using the mediums of today, talking to them one-on-one, is important," he adds.
Khandelwal further claims that Foodpanda, as a platform, is able to resolve all issues raised on social platforms within 15 minutes, on average, depending on the nature of the complaint.
Raagaleena Sripada, senior marketing manager, Bigbasket, opines that when people rage on digital platforms, the brand/ marketer should, at the very least, listen to them and respond empathetically.
She says, "Customers choose to rage on social media because it gives them a platform to be heard in a public sphere - be it positive or negative. As a brand/ marketer, the least one can do is listen and respond with empathy. Not responding at all, however, is not advisable. As per research, failing to respond on social media can trigger a 43 per cent decrease in customer advocacy and a reply can give the brand a 20 per cent leverage."
Sripada continues, "Addressing the customer's issue in a way that he/ she feels like the brand really cares, is of the utmost importance. It reflects in the small things such as the tone used or promptness of response of every message that the brand puts out. About 71 per cent of all complaints are on Facebook and not Twitter."
Sripada suggests that a brand's responses should be public when others are training their eyes on the interaction.
Pranesh Misra, chairman and managing director, Brandscapes Worldwide, believes that dealing with customer dissatisfaction quickly would mean that a brand/ marketer should respond to a customer's issue within minutes and not hours.
Misra says, "The basics of effective problem-resolution, applies to the digital world as well. The main difference is that netizens don't have as much patience as the snail-mail generation. So, rapid damage-control and problem-resolution are essential. If a marketer can respond in minutes and not in hours, then they would have a good start at quelling dissatisfaction. If they take days, then the problem could go viral and gather much momentum."
Misra further adds, "Brands should set up social media listening posts and command centres that work 24x7. The response strategy should depend on who is complaining (an influencer with a lot of followers or a normal netizen), the nature and seriousness of complaints and so on."