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Beware of the Unhappy, Web Savvy Customer (Wall Street Journal)

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I once had a problem with ICICI Bank. I visited the branch three times to get it solved but nothing happened, even after three months. I tweeted about my case and the problem got solved in two days. The branch manager even visited my home to resolve the issue.

Here is the tweet that got their attention:

“ICICI bank’s customer service sucks. 3 visits to the branch and the problem is still there. Worst, they don’t even care about calling back.”

In December of 2007, my Apple Macbook started giving me problems. Plastic was chipping off near the keyboard and the battery would suddenly stop functioning. I gave it to an Apple service center in Delhi. They promised to resolve the issues in three to four days but couldn’t, even after 15 days and despite my frequent follow-ups. They wouldn’t even take responsibility for the delay. Finally, I wrote a review on and sent it to the head of Apple in India.

Looking at the popularity of the review – today it has a view count of more than 58,000 – he offered me a new laptop. However, even with the new machine the problems persisted. Finally Apple had to refund my money, even though I had been using the computer for two years.

These two personal experiences teach us two things:

1. The consumer really is king today – With the tools like Twitter, review sites and other social networking sites, an ordinary consumer has got many easy options to let hundreds or even thousands of others know his opinions and experiences.

2. Brands can’t ignore their customers – More and more people are going to express their experiences about products and services with the other people in their lives. Brands need to monitor and leverage the new tools and technologies to continuously serve and satisfy their customers. They must start to listen and take responsibility.

According to a report by SMC Capitals, there are over 3.1 crore active Indian users on social networking sites. According to a report on retailing by FICCI’s B2B directory website, over 60% of India’s population is under the age of 30, which means they are more likely to take their thoughts and complaints on line.

As these numbers are only expected to grow, keeping track of and caring about what’s being said about a brand in the digital world is increasingly important. Companies can spend millions of dollars to promote their brands, yet a single negative post can damage their reputations.

Earlier companies only had to worry about bad publicity in conventional media such as print. Today, the power of media also lies in the hands of regular people. The shift from conventional media to social media makes every individual a potential journalist.

The key to transforming customers’ experience in this open world is ‘listening’. With tools such as Google Alerts and Twitter Search a brand can continuously monitor conversations about it. If you really want to leverage the opportunity of social media to transform your customer’s experience, start to listen before it’s too late.

This article was originally published at WSJ’s India Chief Mentor

  • social-media-training

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