There’s a fantastic article by Farhad Manjoo on Slate today entitled “Tweeting Avengers: Does venting consumer outrage on Twitter actually work?”
It details the rise of Comcast Must Die and its transition to the more general Customer Circus–both creations of NPR host and Advertising Age columnist Bob Garfield–and the growing prevalence of consumers crying for justice using Twitter, blogs and other social media.
The article is a must-read for consumers and businesses alike. You can read it for yourself, but here are a few of they key points:
… (Comcast Must Die) attracted thousands of visitors, lots of press coverage, and, most surprisingly, Comcast’s ear. The company began responding to complaints posted on the site. People who hadn’t been able to get through to Comcast on the phone were suddenly getting personal calls from executives eager to help them resolve what had gone wrong.
Airlines, cable companies, large retailers, restaurants and all sorts of other firms now maintain a presence on Twitter, Yelp, and other feedback sites, watching out for people with complaints. But how should you go about griping? And will you get any real help? After all, Garfield is a media personality, and Armstrong is one of the Web’s most popular bloggers. They’ve got huge megaphones, and companies have an incentive to listen to them. What about you, with your 20 Twitter followers and 50 Facebook friends? Can you get satisfaction online?
It dependsâ€”on which company you’re complaining about, how loudly you complain, and perhaps also who you are.
Garfield points out that it’s in the companies’ interest to grease these squeaky wheels; it doesn’t cost firms very much to monitor online conversations, and when they make it right, the payoff can be immense. “Comcast learned that they could immediately convert people,” Garfield says. “When they flew into Comcast Must Die and took care of people, those people became instant convertsâ€”you can turn your enemy into an evangelist in a five-minute phone call.”
There is also a great caveat about how far one should go when airing customer service issues for the world to see.
It is possible to take your Twitter gripes too far. The Web gives you a lot of power, and you’ll be doing a disservice to your fellow unhappy consumers if you get greedy.
This week I e-mailed him to ask if United had reached out to him. “No they never did,” he replied. “Who cares. Not traveling on united ever again.”
Now go read the whole article and prepare to feel empowered, whether you’re a business or a customer.