Telstra has learnt the hard way that responding to an angry customer with a cat meme is not always a good idea.
Earlier this week, Telstra customers experienced outages across the country.
On Wednesday, the telco took to Facebook to say it will give all of its mobile customers free data on Sunday to apologise for the outages.
Facebook user Jaime Murphy commented on the announcement, asking if Telstra’s NBN customers will also get compensated.
Telstra responded by asking the person to contact the NBN assurance team and check whether there was an outage in their area but, in doing so, spelt the person’s name wrong twice.
“J.A.I.M.E,” the customer wrote.
In response, someone from Telstra’s social media team posted an image of a cat with the words “I hope your day gets better”.
The disgruntled customer told The Daily Telegraph the cat meme was not good enough.
“When I saw the meme I genuinely felt I was being mocked and that they must have a work experience kid answering Facebook posts for the day,” Murphy said.
“It’s not good enough for the amount of money it costs us each month.”
Others have since taken to the Telstra’s Facebook page to complain about the response, describing the cat meme as “immature”.
“Think it might be time to sack some of your staff if they are posting up cat memes towards their customers,” one woman wrote.
A Telstra spokesperson told The Daily Telegraph the interaction was not the appropriate way to handle the situation.
“Clearly the interaction with Ms Murphy was unacceptable in this instance and this is not the experience that we want our customers to have,” the spokesperson said.
“The leader of our customer service team in Adelaide is contacting Ms Murphy to apologise and assist in resolving her service issues.”
Business should stay clear of memes when responding to serious customer complaints
Telstra is not the first business to try to use humour when dealing with a customer complaint
Last year, Coles provided a tongue-in-cheek response to a customer who found a caterpillar in his capsicum.
“Thank goodness, we’ve been looking everywhere,” Coles wrote.
However, unlike Telstra’s cat meme, Coles’ witty response won over the customer and led to other people posting photos of their capsicums and asking why they missed out on caterpillars.
Social media and crisis communications expert Nicole Matejic told SmartCompany memes are “generally not a good idea” for businesses to use unless they are sure they will be received in a light-hearted way.
“Where complaints are involved, making light of the situation will always inflame people’s opinions of how it’s being resolved,” Matejic says.
“So it’s a very misjudged interaction.”
Matejic says a better course of action would have been to acknowledge the mistake and take the interaction offline.
“It’s a lot easier for complaints to be resolved person-to-person,” she says.
“Pick up the phone and have a conversation because that way you can gauge how upset or inconvenienced they really are.”
Social media expert Catriona Pollard told SmartCompany the cat meme clearly inflamed the situation.
“I really think that when a customer is complaining, you need to judge how to respond based on how the customer is responding to you,” Pollard says.
“In this case, the customer was annoyed and taking it very seriously. So Telstra needed to pick up on that cue and respond in the same way.
“If she had posted a cat meme herself and did it in a light-hearted way, it would have given Telstra permission. So it’s all about matching communication when it comes to dealing with customer complaints online,” she adds.