Recently, I was reading a gadget magazine in the reception area of one of my clients and two thoughts occurred to me (yes, I am capable of two at once). One, how in 2013 did a supposedly serious technology magazine think it was “creative” (let alone acceptable) to put a scantily clad woman on the cover (and inside) as mere decoration for the shiny gadgets and technology that the 99% male editorial staff purport to be experts on?* And that was the second thought. How expert are these guys anyway? A sample of the reviews revealed a level of ignorance of technical facts and an editorial bias towards certain products of which they knew quite a lot. Not surprising really, as these were their favourites.
As someone who knows a bit more than some about technology choices, I can see through their lazy journalism and get my reviews and technology from more trusted sources. What annoys me is that others, the readers of these rags, are being misinformed by the perpetuation of ill-informed myths. Such opinion is now being amplified on social media and is making it hard for good companies to make their case against a roaring tide of negative publicity on social media once it gets started.
In my previous posts I have talked about the perils of poor customer service or faulty products, when those customers take to social media to make their feelings known. If the company is question of negligence and genuinely shoddy service then social media is an effective weapon for the aggrieved consumer. And I think that’s fair enough. But, how do you deal with opinions and attacks on your business that are based on prejudice and falsehoods which have gained common currency on social media and elsewhere. Just as our friends on the gadgets mags (lad’s mags? ladget mags?) can’t be bothered to check the facts on the technology they are reviewing, so consumers are all too eager to believe the worst about companies (and that can be any company, not just the current whipping boys) and myths get turned into social media facts. Worse, age-old scandals that the company in question dealt with years ago still get dredged up as wholly representative of the company today.
However, unlike lazy journalists who have no excuse, customers are often reacting to received wisdom spread on Facebook and elsewhere. So the only answer is to start right there when your customers have the chance to meet your company away from the unregulated airwaves of social media – that’s right in the call centre! Here’s the chance to start reversing some of those myths and prejudices that have currency. If confronted by a customer, ensure your people have the facts to hand to (gently) counter the myth.
It’s not a bad idea to have the myths set against the facts written down for this very purpose. I recently got an excellent booklet produced by International Paper which does a very good job of putting paid to some of the myths around the paper industry and its impact on the planet. For example: “In 2008, the global spam footprint was equivalent to 3 million passenger cars on the road and required 33 billion kilowatt hours of electricity generation”. Bet you didn’t know that? One for your next dinner party.
Of course, this is just a form of good old fashioned PR, but instead of employing an expensive PR agency, how about redressing the balance against social media myths by utilising the next best messengers for your business – your call centre people.* I know what you’re thinking – which one? The answer: both of them!