Halley Knigge (Griffin)

Write. Share. Communicate.

With great power comes great responsibility

1 Comment

Social media can be a powerful tool. But in the wrong hands, it can become a weapon.

It’s an amazing, quick-moving forum for customers to voice their compliments and concerns while feeling heard. But how do you balance wanting good, responsive customer service with not abusing your newfound power?

I’ve been very interested in Facebook-era customer service lately. A lot of companies are still getting their feet wet and are still of the mindset that if someone complains somewhere online they need to make them happy at any cost. Just because it’s a new medium doesn’t mean the old rules no longer apply. Sometimes people still need to be told “no.”

A digital shout-out is huge to a brand, but so is a complaint. How do you ensure you’re being fair with what you’re doling out?

Example 1:

I recently bought a pair of sale shoes online from a brand I’ve purchased from before. The sizing was weird in this particular pair, but because it wasn’t the company’s mistake, they didn’t want to exchange them for a smaller pair.

I called the customer service 1-800 number figuring it was a long shot. They were on final sale, and I’d most definitely read the “cannot be returned or exchanged” caveat. But the woman I spoke to on the phone rubbed me the wrong way, so in a fit of mild rage I posted the same complaint to Facebook. Five minutes later, I had an apologetic phone call, a return label, and a $60 gift certificate.

I totally did not deserve that response. I was just being a jerk, pulling chains because I know how. Just because I put it on Facebook does not mean you have to give me your first-born child. What do you think? Temper tantrum, or legitimate customer complaint?

Example 2:

There’s a brand that I love.  I don’t want to name names, so I’ll stop at telling you that they make an amazingly, addictively delicious line of crackers. Or are they chips? Or are they pretzels?! I’m obsessed. I have a favorite flavor for the beach, a favorite flavor for afternoons at work, and a flavor I only purchase when I’m feeling particularly indulgent or am on a long road trip.

I don’t follow a lot of products on Twitter, because, frankly, who cares what a paper towel or a cookie is Tweeting? But, for whatever reason, I recently followed this fantastic chip/cracker/pretzel company. And, they quickly got a little weird.

Slightly creepy Twitter personality? Fine, I can look the other way. I work in social media – I don’t feel the need to throw a company under the bus by poking fun at a few less-than-brilliant (but certainly not offensive) tweets.

But then I went on a road trip. And somewhere along the way, I purchased a bag of my favorite, most indulgent flavor of these tasty snacks. Midway through the bag I found a CURLY BLACK HAIR. It was alarmingly pubic-looking. It was twined around a pretzel with a light dusting of parmesan, so I knew it had to have made its way to the bag before I found it.

My first instinct was to tweet a photo. If I tagged the company, I’d probably even get a free bag of snacks out of it. But I stopped myself. What if that was me behind their (yes, very, very weird) Twitter handle? This would be my worst nightmare.

Would that have been an abuse of power? Knowing how to work the system, and tossing in a healthy dash of public shaming to benefit myself? I’m still undecided. Because CURLY BLACK HAIR. Gross. What do you think? Temper tantrum, or legitimate customer complaint?

Author: Halley (Griffin) Knigge

Storyteller and adventurer with a focus on new and social media. Ten years of award-winning writing and editing experience, eight years working professionally to share compelling stories through brand journalism, three years as an airline spokesperson, two years as a Tacoma Arts Commissioner and 30+ years of learning something new every day.

One thought on “With great power comes great responsibility

  1. Shoe example: this is like asking for a credit card interest rate reduction three times. Apparently if you ask three times, most companies have a policy to give you a reduced rate. If their system gives rewards for a certain behavior, because they don’t want to train their customer service people to be real humans and not have to rely on a manual and a script for every interaction (and pay what that costs), then why not push the lever that actually gets you free returns and a gift certificate?

    Pretzel thing example: I agree, I wouldn’t tweet the photo. But not because it’s an abuse of power. But because it’s gross. Is tweeting a photo of a pubic-looking hair on a parmesan encrusted pretzel to a few hundred people worth another bag of the pretzel chips? I’d say no. Why share that?

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