If you think managing customer complaints and feedback in your own business is tough, you should take a look at what some of the more high-profile players contend with every day.
When there’s an open forum like Facebook to facilitate the process and hold brands to account, lessons abound for the rest of us.
The Cheesecake Shop and “that pie post”
Earlier this year, the Cheesecake Shop was forced to apologise for an open letter it posted after Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce had a pie shoved in his face at a Perth business breakfast.
The letter said the Cheesecake Shop was “somewhat concerned” the lemon meringue pie shoved in Joyce’s face “was not appreciated to its full sweetness” before going on with a sales pitch.
Customers were quick to criticise the letter, labelling it “in poor taste” (no pun intended).
Less than 24 hours after sending the message, The Cheesecake Shop issued an apology via Facebook, saying it had shown “a lack of sensitivity on the matter”.
Lesson: While newsjacking is a great tactic, you need to ensure it’s tasteful.
“When you’re dealing with acts of violence, making fun of it in this way is borderline offensive. This is a very serious matter over a very serious issue,” Crisis communications expert Nicole Matejic told SmartCompany at the time.
Nivea’s “white is purity” ad
The ad that prompted the “what were they thinking” response was a reminder that digital advertising is global.
Cosmetics giant, Nivea, learnt this quicksmart when the brand’s Middle East Facebook page sent out an ad featuring a woman wearing a white robe with her back to the camera, with the slogan “White is Purity” stamped across the image.
The backlash was immediate and widespread.
By the time the company responded with, “Diversity and equal opportunity are crucial values of NIVEA” the ad had already been adopted by both satirists and members of the ALT-Right and white supremacists on social media, with hundreds of customers from across the globe complaining on Facebook and Twitter.
Lesson: Remember that digital advertising is global and use common sense.
“As part of a stringent and regulated marketing process, teams should get the approvals and perspectives from a number of ‘hats’ within an organisation, including legal, technical and public relations and consider every stakeholder that would consume the campaign,” said director of InsideOut PR Nicole Reaney at the time.
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The Kmart and Target question on ethics
Last month consumers took to Facebook after Oxfam urged customers to demand more to be done to ensure producers of clothing and products for Australian companies are paid a living wage.
It called out a number of brands including Kmart, Target and Big W for having no time commitment on their goals in this area, despite signing up to global ethical trade initiatives like the ACT (Action, Collaboration, Transformation) program.
Customers took to social media in droves, threatening to take their business elsewhere.
Lesson: Honesty is the best policy. Take the opportunity to change people’s perception and tell customers your position.
Director of Social Concepts, Jessica Humphreys, says it is important to note that these campaigns aren’t purely about encouraging these businesses to make a change.
“They are also about educating consumers about the business practices of those who they may make purchases from, as well as potentially gaining traditional media coverage in a non-expensive way,” she says.