Dealing with a crisis of any magnitude is a challenge for any organisation. This challenge becomes greater as a result of digital media. A bad review about a product or service can turn into an uncontrollable hive of bees, and if ignored will sting your business. It has been said time and time again that the consumer is always right and this still remains true. One scholar pointed out that “No matter how certain you are that the customer was at fault, denials, counter claims and buck passing are the social media equivalent of throwing a grenade into your own side’s trenches.”
Here are some ways that can help with regards to controlling or preventing backlash:
Inform your consumers in advance
When launching something new, it is always important to let the consumers know in advance, so that they are prepared for the changes. This can help the organisation better handle some of the backlash that can come, as a reaction to a new product.
A good example of this is, #BringbackMazoe. Consumers started complaining about the change in the taste of Mazoe possibly since late 2017, which is when I am assuming that the “new Mazoe” started to be distributed. The new range of cordials had reduced sugar. Consumers were not only complaining about the taste, but were also concerned that some of the ingredients could cause cancer. The bottom line is that, the consumer did not know that the ingredients of the beverage had been changed, which made consumers outraged. Despite that the organisation meant well, the consumer still had the right to know.
I would like to however commend Schweppes for attempting to respond to the comments on social media politely, while giving assurance that the concerns were being addressed. Despite efforts by those handling their social media to steer attention to other initiatives of the organisation, it made matters worse as the problem was not being addressed. However, a press statement was released towards end of June, where the company buckled under pressure to satisfy consumers’ needs. Part of that statement reads:
“We have listened to consumer demand and appreciate all the feedback that has been received. In order to meet those desires but still provide choice, both the original recipes of Mazoe and the reduced sugar recipes will be offered.”
One loyal consumer of the brand commented and said:
“I respect Schweppes for listening to their consumers too. We have complained to so many institutions and nothing has changed, it's like they are doing us a favour. Well done Schweppes.”
Another commented and said, “Ndakakuregerei hangu ndakadzoka kuMazoe, asi makazviita futi ndoenda kuBally House.” This comment is basically a consumer threatening to change their preferred beverage to a competitors’, if Schweppes repeats anything similar. This goes to show how fickle consumer loyalty can be especially if demands are not met. Brands have got to be aware that there are other options to choose from.
Do not remove negative comments
Any feedback about your brands is important, as it will help you improve and give better services or products. It therefore will not do you good to block out comments, no matter how bad they are. Sometimes you can even choose to respond privately, but by all means let the consumer speak, because your business exists because of consumers.
Be open and always respond
Make sure that responses you give are adequate with whatever situation has been presented or else you will be making the situation worse for your organisation. It is good to respond always. As an organisation facing a major backlash make sure that there is at least one person responsible for handling comments on platforms. According to Convince and Convert survey, 42% of your customers will expect a 60 minutes response time and 32% of them expect a response within 30 minutes. The faster you respond, the more favourable the perception of your brand will be. Responding to people on social media should be your opportunity to shine because remember, however you respond could potentially stay online forever.
According to a www.livechatinc.com blog post by Justyna Polaczyk:
Whether you’re talking with an angry customer or troll, make sure you’re doing the following:
- thank them for their opinion (try not to be formal, short “thanks for reaching out to us” should be fine),
- apologize for inconvenience (“sorry to hear that you’re having problems with our product / you didn’t like our services”),
- encourage them to send you a private message
As marketers you may want to assess the recent issues with regards to the Colcom Pie. The social media debates on the pork pie began a couple of years back where there was a consumer outcry to increase the quantity of meat that was being put in the pie. The debates resurfaced again and Colcom responded in a press statement. Part of the press statement reads:
“Whilst maintaining the original Colcom pie has been the objective since the commissioning of the new pie plant, we have committed significant resources to achieving this result including seeking the assistance of international technical experts, it has until now not been possible to replicate all aspects of that product.”
The statement also went on to further say that work is in progress to get back the “original pork pie” but this may take time and that all queries should be directed to a customer care email. However, I believe this did not address the concerns of the consumer. This is evident in the further backlash received from that statement. Unfortunately on Facebook, most of the consumers’ comments were being ignored without any indication that the page responded privately. Some comments even humorously accused Colcom of “blue ticking” them, which usually happens on Whatsapp when someone reads your message and ignores it.
Be on your toes with regards to news about your brand
As a person in charge of digital media or in a marketing related department in the organisation, you have to keep your finger on the pulse of what is happening in your industry. Equally you have to know what people are saying about your brand, whether it is on Whatsapp platforms, Twitter or Facebook. Social media is your strategic tool for organizational marketing management. One way of doing this is signing up for Google Alerts.