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Customer Bloggers Pumping Up the Volume

As we’ve said here before, blogs have been an excellent leveler of the playing field for consumers. Had a poor customer service experience or are just feeling aggrieved with a service provider? Complain to management, yes, but then blog about it. While such posts are generally considered to be the realm of consumers, occasionally a practitioner in the industry takes a stand as well. Denis Pombriant, principal with Beagle Research, vented about American Airlines in his post. He didn’t have a bad experience, but does have his reasons to target American.

One commenter took the opportunity to rail against American: “They have instituted unreasonable extra charges now where they are nickle and diming their customers for making reservations over the phone, for checking baggage, for food on the plane…”

Blogger Maria Palma, though, did have a problem with the service provided by Amtrak. She writes about it here:

“I was trying to explain my situation to a [Amtrak] manager at the Los Angeles Union Station and she just kept telling me, ‘Well, someone told you wrong … someone told you wrong.’ The manager kept reiterating that I was ‘wrong’ and that she was right. I was perfectly fine and calm until she said: ‘What part do you not understand?’

“It wasn’t so much the words, but the way she said it as she glared at me authoritatively. She said it in that tone you use on a child who won’t take ‘No’ for an answer. Instead of apologizing for the miscommunication or showing even one ounce of empathy, this manager wanted to exert her ‘power’ over me.”

Best Practice?

Most interesting is that neither of these are relatively recent posts — yet neither company has bothered to post a comment or explanation on the blog. Best practices for managing a brand or corporate identity include trolling the Internet for complaints — and then reaching out to the blogger to give its version of the events, or barring that, to apologize for a bad experience.

Not surprisingly, some of the feedback Palma received from her post came her peers in the CRM industry. “Interesting post… now the main question is what are you prepared to do about it?” wrote Esteban Kolsky, a practice leader with eVergance.

“If you just post this blog and bear it, then you are part of the problem and part of the reason that lady has her ‘tude. If you take action beyond this blog and act towards changing it, it make take some time but eventually you will see the ‘tude beginning to change. It won’t be because of you, but because more like you… as many as we can get. We are, as customers, the agents of change for organizations’ customer service practices,” he added.

“She probably learned early on in her career that belittling and taking a hard stance goes a long way in getting rid of a pesky problem like a customer. Apologizing, taking ownership and showing empathy takes too much time and work,” wrote Bill Gammell, who writes the Ubereye blog.

A 10 Percent Minority

It is true that there has been much publicity around companies that are proactively engaging with bloggers to maintain their reputations, Kolsky, who used to be a Gartner analyst, told CRM Buyer. “But in reality they are in the minority, even though it is a very good thing for them to do.”

Dell, for instance, suffered a significant blow to its reputation as it let blogger after blogger complain about its products without any response, he said.

“I would say about 90 percent of companies fall in this category.” Of the companies that do care about what the blogosphere is saying, 8 percent tend to be reactive — that is, leaving a comment or otherwise contacting a blogger after a negative post. The top 2 percent, though, are being proactive in a positive manner, he continued. “These companies are encouraging employees to reach out to bloggers that have questions about their products and answer them proactively on their blogs.” They view it as an important component to customer outreach, he explained, even if the posts are not critical.

Guide to Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is a relatively new concept, but the space is already crowded with entrants, confusing companies that wish to take advantage of this business model. Peter Laird, an architect for Oracle via its BEA acquisition, has developed his own road map for people.

Laird served on the BEA WebLogic Portal team for more than seven years, and was chief architect on the BEA SaaS (Software as a Service) platform initiative. So he has the street cred to assemble the visual map of the industry as it stands right now, at least. It shows how the major players fit into the overall space and provides an overview of who’s who, and what types of solutions are being offered.

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