There is a view that the availability of social media platforms has given rise to heightened consumer activism. Sometimes, it’s not because of an ‘activist’ attitude that the consumer goes public, but because s/he has no choice. You realise the pain only when you experience it.
We engaged a company to deliver a shipment of two pieces of cargo from one metro to another. One of the pieces was delivered. The online tracking system worked smoothly. It told us that the shipment, of two pieces of cargo, were delivered. The details captured on the cargo’s movement from warehouse to warehouse had no relevance when it hadn’t been delivered in full, while the system said it was.
Attempts to call the service provider proved futile. Forget getting help on the line, there seemed to be no helpline that worked. Calls to the head office were unsuccessful.
We took to a social media platform, tagging the brand. It was responded to instantly. We were asked for details. We also sent an e-mail to customer care on an ID provided on the site. An auto-generated response followed. A few days later, delivery of the second parcel was confirmed. We thanked the brand, also via social media.
We went social because we had no other option. The brand would have done itself a favour had there been a mechanism in place to hear our angst in private. But it doesn’t seem to matter anymore.
There are also innumerable instances of brands becoming totally immune to public shaming. Brands that send inappropriate automated responses that add insult to injured consumer pride, don’t care to see the irony of it all. Some service providers to brands say they also ‘blacklist’ ‘troublesome’ customers, reveals an executive in the know. It is also not uncommon today for consumers to tag CEOs of companies to elicit a response. It works.
Digital was supposed to be the great leveler. But it also creates a divide. Brands can distance themselves from the consumer. They have the option to respond only if the opportunity to cause damage is significant.
If digital becomes the only channel through which one can reach brands in times of distress, it could shift power to the brand, despite the ‘all-empowering’ social media. Apathy will become the norm, unless it is an exceptional consumer angst story that gathers mass. Gut – and data – tell us that there will be fewer organic virals than in the past. So where does that leave consumers? At the mercy of brands. Those that genuinely care will be rewarded all the more.