To Be Human, or Not to Be…That is the Question

Rachael Arnold


 

Have you ever tweeted at a company or commented on its Facebook page and never heard a response back? Ya, me too. So often these companies are too busy to respond to everyone’s questions and comments, yet it still stings to get no response.

As consumers, we all want to feel like our opinions/concerns/questions are important and being heard by the companies that we invest our money in, so when companies that are of the larger scale like British Airways don’t respond it can leave consumers feeling upset and unimportant.

But what about a company employee responding to you? Is that kind of response more valuable than a response straight from the company’s account? David Weinberger, co-author of best-selling book The Cluetrain Manifesto, would say…probably if done correctly.

9894304255_eba5d96aed_oAs companies expand in popularity its humanity can often fade with more comments on social media than time to respond, yet we always expect a response back. While I have yet to experience a company employee directly responding to a comment I made, I see some pros and cons to that kind of communication.

Pros:

  • If the employee responding holds an authoritative position within the company that relates to your question/comment, then its more likely to be received as credible to the consumer.
  • It can be received as a more personal and humanized when its coming from an individual.
  • It illustrates how the company cares about your thoughts and wants to personally diretly address the consumers.

Cons:

  • The viewer could be upset that the company’s page wouldn’t personally address their comment.
  • The employee could not say the right thing and cause a problem, or worsen a preexisting issue that the consumer could have with the company.
  • If the employee is not an authoritative source it could discredit any response they give the consumer.

Whether the response is coming from the company page or an employee, I believe that companies should always try to respond to consumer questions or comments. If the consumer’s complaint is bad enough it could generate negative backlash and make it appear that the company doesn’t care. Just because a company expands in popularity, doesn’t mean it should forget its consumers and having employees personally respond gives the company a human value.


Find Rachael on:

 

This Article Has 14 Comments
  1. Jennifer Vance says:

    I agree, I think social media has the potential to be an excellent asset to a company or a terrible one if not managed correctly. I can think of a few instances where customers were unhappy with there experience and brought up the issue via social media and received no response – this of course, made the situation worse and lead to an angrier customer.

    • Rachael Arnold says:

      I agree, Jennifer. Companies and organizations need to be careful when it comes to responding or ignoring consumer comments and the potential backlash from doing either.

  2. Polly Irungu says:

    Great insights – I completely agree with you two. The few times I have seen a company or representative reply to a customer, it did not go well. I believe that these negative instances happen because companies don’t actually listen. As Mr. Weinberger said, the human voice is still lacking. I think it just becomes so routine that the company/employee representative often forget to put themselves in the customer shoes. Hopefully, companies will start to realize how powerful social media is…that customers are more likely to share a bad experience online than a positive one.

    • Rachael Arnold says:

      Thank you for your thoughts, Polly, I agree. Negative experiences are shared online far more than positive, which makes it the company’s responsibility to try and turn negative experiences into positive future outlooks if possible. Your point on company’s and employee’s forgetting to put themselves in the customers shoes is absolutely correct. All it takes is looking at the customers situation from a personal perspective and a human conversation is more likely to happen. Empathy is key.

  3. Social media is definitely a powerful tool when it comes to issues with companies. I was having some trouble with furniture I ordered from IKEA (FYI: NEVER order online from them), and I couldn’t get a response via the phone that was shorter than a two hour wait… So I turned to posting it on my personal Facebook page and tagging IKEA in it. Let me just say, that’s the fastest (and only) response I’ve ever gotten from a company on social media. I definitely think that companies need to hold themselves more accountable for keeping customers happy on social media — where I would say a lot of their customers take their complaints when they’re not feeling heard. There are a few companies that are fairly good at it, but there’s not an industry standard that they’re really should be.

    • Rachael Arnold says:

      It’s very surprising that IKEA responded via social media as quickly as they did, but in the end how did their response work for you? Did it help improve the experience, or did your feelings remain the same? I agree that social media is a great tool that companies can use to connect with their customers, outside of customer service and face-to-face interactions. Hopefully companies can take social media more seriously in the future.

      • Kira Hoffelmeyer says:

        Honestly I was surprised too! I definitely didn’t expect a response after all the hassle I had been put through over the phone. I appreciated their response, but it definitely didn’t change the experience or feelings surrounding. By the time I had resorted to the post I did, it was far too late in the game for them to really fix it. But, had I taken to social media sooner, based on the rapidness of the response I did receive, I feel like it might have helped.

        I had a similar interaction with Delta when my flight was delayed four hours.. They kept me updated on my flight via Twitter (the fate attendant had basically disappeared) and then gave me a flight voucher! So you never know 🙂

  4. Kayla Gordon says:

    Great blog post Rachael! I found this topic very interesting when Mr. Weinberger Skyped with our class. The term “uncanny valley” was entirely new to me but it is relevant to many of our interactions with companies online. Polly, I agree that few companies address concerns adequately. I rarely Tweet at companies because I have little faith that they will respond. Once, I Tweeted at a restaurant when I discovered that the majority of the lettuce in the salad I bought was old. No response and I haven’t been back since. I think that even a simple apology would have improved my view of the company and encouraged me to return.

    • Rachael Arnold says:

      I had never heard of the “uncanny valley” before that class either and I agree, it is so relevant. It’s also interesting to see the effect that not responding to a tweet can have on the consumer and in your case it stopped you from going back again. It goes to show that even a simple apology could have turned the whole thing around. Thank you for your thoughts, Kayla!

  5. Rudy Omri says:

    Great post! I remember Charter Internet used to have a good Twitter management team; they responded to their customers’ problems so well. Back when I lived in Wisconsin, I remember my Internet connection got disconnected every 5 minutes so instead of calling them (I hate phone calls…) I took it out on Twitter, they sent me a PM and asked a technician to come to my house to fix it. Very fast and efficient. However, about a year after that incident, I found out that they don’t reply to as many complaints on Twitter anymore. I guess their efficiency has led to an influx of complaint tweets? Perhaps it takes too much to try and solve thousands of issues in 140-word messages. There’s a limit to how much interest you can cater on social media; there’s so much you can do.

    • Rachael Arnold says:

      Thank you for your thoughts, Rudy! I do see the difficulty in responding to every complaint when you’re being flooded with thousands a day. Especially, without the resources or time to manage those complaints, many of those get left in the dust. If only more companies had the time and resources to respond. Hopefully in the future this can be made more of a priority to companies.

  6. Very interesting post!
    Have you ever looked at Taco Bell’s social media? They are really great about responding to their audience via social media, and let me tell you, they are also super funny. I think that what Taco Bell does is so great because not only do they respond, but they have a personality. It is often hard for consumers to identify with businesses because it seems very impersonal. Every business should strive to give their customers a great customer service experience that is both personable and helpful, online and in person.

  7. Michael Eiden says:

    Rachael,

    I cannot agree more with your statement about company’s responding to customers and followers. Companies tend to stray from replying to consumers and I believe it is missing an amazing opportunity to humanize the digital world. I believe companies would get such a better response if they chose to respond to more of its followers.

    -Mike
    @mikeeiden11

  8. Sasha Martczyanov says:

    Great post, Rachael. I definitely agree that receiving a response can make the company in question seem more personal and humanized. It’s also a great way to inspire two-way communication with stakeholders. For me, I understand when a company or business doesn’t reply to me, especially bigger companies who probably have a lot of incoming feedback. Although, I understand how users who posted a question or complaint could be frustrated by a lack of reply. You mentioned in the cons section that an employee not saying the right thing could be a potential threat. Do you think the individuals in charge of replying to consumers’ posts and comments should undergo some type of training before they are allowed to rely?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *