Public Relations & Customer Service – Don’t Get It Twisted

Hey friends, don’t mind me, but this post is yet again a school assignment. Please feel free to stick around and read my thoughts on customer/public relations. I’m considering creating another blog in the future about my professional interests. But I’ve been saying that for years. Anyway – disclaimer done.

The social space on the internet has finally become a staple for a lot of big (and small) brands out there. This is no secret. Companies and organizations are utilizing social media to generate interest for their products/services. But with this easy-to-get-attention machine comes the scariest thing to a company.

Quick and easy access to rate anything and everything.

And when people complain about your brand on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter, or even LinkedIn… don’t you want to be the one to help ease the situation?

Before these incredibly powerful tools became accessible to the masses, customer service was something all together different from public relations. Even today, you have to really think about it to correlate the two. But when the consumer has the power, it’s best to make sure the customer is happy and helped

Ignoring a complaint today is damaging. Ignoring too many complaints becomes a crisis.

In case you didn’t know, if you want your business to succeed… try and avoid crises. 

When it comes to handling customer service in the era of real time customer reviews social media, my favorite brand to use as a benchmark is Wegmans.

Customer service has always (in my opinion) been phenomenal in the stores. Everyone is completely helpful, knowledgeable, and for the most part, quick. Because this foundation has been part of their customer service practice, it’s no surprise that they’ve translated this to the social space.

Wegmans has an astounding social media team that will answer in a flash. If you have a problem with a product, can’t find a product, or need to know specifics about products, there is a team there that will check into all of the above for you.

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I once asked @wegmans how big are their chicken breasts. Within five minutes, I was told they average 5-6 oz. When I was unhappy with a vegetarian noodle bowl I bought, they asked me for my address so that they could send me coupons to use in the prepared foods section. That coupon bought a Wegmans sub.

What you should take away from this is… I’m talking about them. And I would recommend anyone go to Wegmans.

Are the prices more than at comparable grocery stores? Well, probably no comparable… because it’s Wegmans. But yes, it is a bit pricer.
However, you get so much in that extra price. And I love Wegmans.

This is the power of word of mouth marketing. This is where their public relations pros are keeping an eye on customer service practices to ensure that the customer (me) is happy. I forgave the flavorless noodle bowl pretty instantly and still go there happily.

And when Buzzfeed published an article about why Wegmans is basically the best, you better believe I retweeted and posted that article to Facebook!

What happens when you turn this around though?

Oh… bad social media practices can cause a crisis. For instance, banks. Banks don’t have the best rap right now… but Bank of America showed just how bad customer service (social media common sense) can backfire.

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This is the kind of post that Bank Of America could have ignored all together and there would have been no ramification to them whatsoever. However, afterwards… this happened:

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After this, it was brought to light that BOA consistently uses generic tweets to answer to any message directed at them. And I mean anything:

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Engage in online customer service the way you would face to face. And if you don’t? Well…

I hope you’ve got a stellar PR team on hand. And even then… it doesn’t always save you.


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