One of the dangers of social media is that everyone suddenly becomes a spokesperson for your brand. This danger is intensified when something is increasing the social temperature of an organization – like the inflammatory nature of a strike.
Look no further than the build-up to a potential strike by Canada Post. This is an organization that already takes a fair beating on its social media networks, including Facebook, from disgruntled customers. And now, with the drums beats hearkening a potential strike on the 25th of this month, customers are looking for a place to vent their frustrations.
Unfortunately, Canada Post has given them that venue – and it’s right smack dab in the middle of an employee communications page. When you click on the Facebook link to learn more about the strike, you’re taken to the Employee Communications page. And anyone can join the conversation.
There’s often an inversely proportionate relationship between passion and common courtesy. So when the public has access to a private spat, those fanned flames of passion can come back to burn both sides. So you have angry customers mixing with passionate employees and supervisory/management staff to create a witch’s brew of bad potential – and the worst-case scenario is already developing.
You have customers venting their frustrations and thoughts on the employee channel, only to be met with anger, condescension, and accusations from the regular employees. In the end, what you have is an anxious customer rapidly galvanizing his or her decision to become an ex-customer with just a few comments.
For example, a response to one small business user’s comment about switching to a private carrier was met with a number of “See ya!” messages and then, this:
“It’s obvious that [Canada Post Corporation] has deemed it necessary to ‘plant’ ladderclimbers [sic] on this employee chat room, [user name withheld], business owner and [user name withheld]. Is this your post that you stand guard? Is this the duty you’ve been given with the promise of a promotion after? Woohoo! You’re living the high life now! Climbing your way to the top. Of what, though? Why are CPC executives sabotaging this company? When the ship goes down, you think they’re gonna [sic] throw you a rope? You’re the bottom of the chain. You’re just a number. We are going to lose customers, we already know that. We’re not just work horses. We’re not the ones causing this strike….you are! We’ll still have our jobs!”
Who does this benefit? You have employees developing conspiracy theories and increasing their distrust of management; you have customers being abused by the very employees with whom they’re being asked by union leaders to support; and you have a management team asleep at the switch.
Of course, Canada Post’s social media responses have long seemed to be on autopilot. Their Facebook replies to complaints read like cut-and-paste responses from the Biz Speak Bible. But what they’re doing here is real damage to their brand.
Leave the employee communications to the employees. Create a separate blog post/channel for customers looking to get information and have questions answered. And then let the employees responsible for managing those channels respond with real answers – not cookie-cutter-corporate blather.
Only one thing frustrates a customer more than a canned response – and that’s being verbally berated by an angry employee. Either way, you run the risk of losing that customer for something that can be avoided.
With social media, everyone can be a corporate spokesperson. That’s just a fact of life. But the savvy companies know how to appoint people as corporate ambassadors and direct traffic to those people. These ambassadors must be armed with information, access, and the ability to respond honestly and openly.
When you do that, you can mitigate some of the damage and diffuse the anger. Unfortunately, Canada Post has decided to throw everyone into the same pile – and now that a spark has appeared in an already combustible mix of people, is there any reason why a powder keg of misinformation, anger, and resentment has gone off?