If you have any money at all, you must be prepared to fight for your survival. As a consumer you have a big target on your credit card, debit card, and FICO score. You are under siege by every business in the world. And you need a fight plan.
Up until the last few years, you had to play the story book hero. You had to go up against big corporate brands by yourself... unless you had the resources to write some "lawyers" into your epic adventure. It was often frustrating, sometimes infuriating.
You had to do it alone, or you had to accept defeat without even trying. It use to be easy for brands to win. Everything was shifted in their favor. Not anymore.
Most businesses are very happy to keep complaints in the complaint box, locked up in the back office. They are very much aware of breakage models, and how it often makes financial sense (to the bean counters) to break you!
"Breaking you" means to knowingly provide you with less value than offered. However, we live in a new era, where our technological communications have evolved. You no longer have to be the Lone Ranger.
Now you can put tremendous pressure on businesses to treat you more fairly, deliver on the value they promised, and resolve any problems for you with real priority.
It's our turn to win. It's time to transition from the breakage era to the value era, shifting power from brands back to consumers.
It's possible, because we are now living in a Social Media world. Wait. I know how much that sounds like overused new geek-marketing-speak, but we still need to give this phenomenon a label. This is the term that won.
What it really means is that we are more connected than ever. We have computers and smartphones (everywhere); Internet, social networks like Facebook; and online platforms like forums, blogs, or Twitter to instantly voice our opinion, place our vote, or shout calls to action.
A business has a brand to protect. When enough feedback is delivered to them out in the open, they have no choice but to take action to correct the issues we bring to their attention. If they don't, their brand can be diminished. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Every complaint we have is not going to result in an #Occupy movement getting behind us. Likewise, brands know the new power we possess, but they also have public relations, marketing, and customer service people equipped with strategies to minimize our impact.
If one critical tweet goes out into the ether, they are aware that it doesn't always have to be acknowledged. Sometimes the best strategy for them is to avoid confrontation. They'll do this when the consumer seems to have a small footprint (i.e. few or no influential Twitter followers, for example). Are you a VIP? They'll also do it when they haven't yet realized their Twitter channel is for engagement, not just for broadcasting of promotional stuff.
First, I want you to realize that you are under siege. This isn't a conspiracy theory. We know that businesses are out to make money, and they get that money from consumers. We are their targets.
While they focus on profits and building their brand, we likewise need to focus on ourselves, our own happiness and self-preservation. So accept that you are in a fight, and let me give you one new strategy to add to your fight plan.
In boxing, the big blows are flashy, but the jab often wins the fight. A jab is a light, frequently thrown, fast punch. It keeps your opponent at bay, scores points, and creates openings for big hits or the KO.
I want you to adopt the equivalent of the jab in the Social Media world, when it comes to dealing with brands. I'm going to tell you exactly how to do that using the social network Twitter.
The Fight Plan
1. Always start by being reasonable. If a problem arises, attempt to contact the business using the methods they advertise and give them an opportunity to help you. Do that only IF the methods they promote are reasonable and expedient. If they are not reasonable or expedient, or they do not result in the outcome you wanted, move on to Step 2.
2. Tweet about your issue to the brand, and people associated with the brand at a management level. This helps get their attention, and usually results in expediting your assistance. They don't want to be unreasonable in the public eye. However, it's also possible they may ignore you. If your issue requires more detail to explain than 140 characters, create a post on your blog, a forum, Tumblr, or TwitLonger to explain. Commit to brevity. Make it only as long as need be to explain your position. Brands are busy and sometimes lazy too, so get to the point quickly and keep your thoughts organized.
3. When they respond, communicate and try to resolve the issue in your favor. They may direct you to private channels, and you may agree to do so, but consider it Step 1 again. If they don't deliver or the process is complex, insist on continuing the dialog out in the open and tweet at them again.
4. If the issue is resolved in your favor or to your satisfaction, tweet them a thank-you. Also update any blog, forums, or Tumblr post with the updated info on what happened.
5. If they do not respond, or refuse to provide you with your reasonable request, you will begin with your sustained jab. Remember, you should be reasonable. This is a strategy for people who play fair, but I realize it can be abused by people who do not play fair also. I do believe that all else being equal, the consumer always deserves the most favorable outcome. This is because each decision they make impacts their life, whereas for brands it just represents a single, generic transaction.
How to Deliver a Sustained Jab with Gremln
1. Sign up for free account at gremln.com. Gremln is a service that lets you repeat tweets on a regular schedule. It's all automated.
2. Create a scheduled tweet that summarizes your issue with the brand, and link it to any other online info you've posted.
3. Set the tweet to run indefinitely, at appropriate intervals depending on the severity of the issue. Every day, week, month? Use your best judgement. You may also change the frequency over time if the matter goes unresolved.
4. Include the username of the brand, customer service accounts, and management level employees of the brand in the tweet so they are notified each time. Note: Even if they block you, the brand references are still going to be searchable/discoverable in the tweet universe.
5. Discontinue the automated tweets only when the brand finally responds and resolves your issue. If they don't, let your issue echo for eternity. Brands monitor their "social mentions" closely (especially large ones) and it's in their best interest to resolve any issues so that they do not have critical feedback circulating about them.
6. This should be step 1, but it'll serve as a final reminder: Be smart. Be assertive, not rude or abusive. Be fair and expect what is reasonably deserved - don't exploit them. Be careful in your accusations - this is about getting what you want, not getting sued.
Don't Get Sued
I'm not a lawyer and I cannot offer legal advice. I can remind you as a layman that anything you say in public you must be willing to be held accountable for. Stick to the facts and remember that your goal is resolution (aka to get what you want), but not to punish the business.
For complex issues, or if you are uncertain what is the appropriate way to complain without crossing over into defamatory speech, you should consult a lawyer.
As a rule of thumb, don't do it when you are angry. Take time to think it through and make sure you don't end up becoming the one that is being unreasonable.
The brand needs to see you as someone that is assertive, reasonable, but persistent. You'll throw these metaphorical jabs when you're being unheard or treated unfairly, but you'll also be open to throwing out a big hug when they help you out.
Get tough with the brands who don't deliver. This is a part of your Social Media fight plan. Let me know if you have any success.
I would love to hear your thoughts about this strategy, it's pro/cons, or any improvements that you would like to suggest. Please sign up and post below.
Getting Tough with Brands - A Twitter Fight Plan @Gremln
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