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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How to avoid a YouTube video.

Do you actively seek out your organization’s “customer terrorists” – those subversive consumers that actively try to destroy your brand image by showing the instances of your service performance in its worst instances?

What do you see when you read / hear their comments? A crackpot with too much time and an axe to grind? An otherwise loyal customer with a legitimate beef? A threat that to de-legitimize your entire service promise?

What do you do in response? Assume personal accountability to address their problem and follow it until resolved? Pass them on to your customer service / service recovery team in hopes that either their concerns are answered by your best service professionals? Rationalize that you can’t get every interaction 100% right? Ignore it altogether? Use it as bulletin board material in your office?

It used to be difficult for a customer terrorist to get their issue visible. They had to take out an ad, or even devote time to picketing a location. It was too easy to lose customer terrorists in customer service bureaucracy, easy to wait them out until they tired of their complaint.

Now, it is all too easy for these passionate consumers to have their opinion heard. The internet in general, and social media in particular, have tipped the balance in favor of the people most dissatisfied (pissed off?) at their last experience with you. The subversive’s holy trinity of Blogs, YouTube, and Twitter have given their feelings and comments, correct or otherwise, far-reaching public domain. What’s worse, because they’re by nature guerilla anti-marketers, there’s a good chance that their communications are more edgy/funny/earnest/believable than what your corporate communications department is capable of putting out.

If you haven’t revisited your plan on how to deal with a customer terrorist from top to bottom, the time to do so is now. (Actually, it was 12 months ago) A hint: don’t start with communications strategy. By the time your marketing & PR people are involved, its already too far gone. Start with your service operations, customer service and service recovery process. Start by identifying who might become a customer terrorist, (Hint #2: They usually let you know at some point in the service process) and then putting in special procedures to defuse the negativity of the experience.

You’re going to see more dissatisfied customers targeting your products and services with grassroots negative marketing of your brand. Planning ahead and being a little more nimble in response will help you prevent these instances from occurring altogether. It’s a much better alternative than improving at dealing with the aftermath of a 4.3M hit viral sensation so popular it’s available on iTunes.

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