Thursday, April 12, 2012

Consumers Turning To Social Media To Make Companies Listen

I love my clients--they come up with some of the greatest ideas! Just recently, I met with a really nice guy who was involved in a collision with a company truck owned by a "national telecommunications company" (we'll leave their name out of it). He's a disabled vet with a rebuilt knee that took a shrapnel hit in Vietnam.

He drives a large pickup because it is much easier on his crippled knee to get in and out of a truck or SUV than a regular passenger car. His truck is seriously mangled in the crash and it needs to be repaired. What's worse, he and his siblings are taking care of their gravely ill mother with 24/7 care at her home, so he needs a vehicle for his shift.

Enter the "national telecommunications company's" insurance company.

Long story short, there is considerable delay in getting his car appraised. After the appraisal, the adjuster refuses his request for a pickup truck or SUV as a rental vehicle. He is told "I see no need for allowing this" or words to that effect and is offered a small passenger car. He calls the "national telecommunications company" and relays this to them, and is promised that they'll "look into it," but after almost one month the truck is still not fixed and he's still without a car that suits his specific medical needs.

What he does next is brilliant.

He calls both the "national telecommunications company" and the insurance company and tells them that unless he gets the pickup truck or SUV he's been asking for, he is going to go on YouTube and post a video detailing how both companies treated a disabled war veteran after making a modest request for a different vehicle in an accident that was not his fault.

One hour later, the phone rings. It' guessed it...the rental car company. "We have an SUV for you, sir."

What's the message here? Social media, with the power of a few keystrokes or a smartphone video camera, can be a real equalizer when you're working your way through an endless maze of red tape, rigid "policies and procedures," and folks who may not be inclined to care about your plight or help you. I'm not suggesting that hopping online and posting a video or scathing comments is the answer to every corporate dead end you run into. You have to pick and choose your battles, and you have to be smart about it. You could easily cross the line and get yourself in a legal mess if you're not careful (you might want to brush up on your state's defamation and libel laws before turning on any video camera).

It used to be that you wrote a scathing letter and that was about it. Corporate America has always had quite a few weapons at its disposal, some legit and some sketchy, to deal with complaints. But with the advent of Twitter, Facebook, and numerous consumer complaint websites, one thing scares the hell out of them, and it's something they can't really control at the home office: VIRAL COMPLAINTS.

Thanks to social media, sometimes the little guys and gals can occasionally claim "scoreboard" too.

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