The power of the social media whinge

A decent whinge has always been an effective method to get your own way but some recent issues I had with a pair of Dunlop Volley’s shows that social media takes the reach and results of a whinge to a whole other level.

I recently posted a light-hearted, largely frivolousness piece outlining my disillusionment with the drastic drop in the quality of the Dunlop Volley. I also shared the link to the post on both Facebook and Twitter. The post itself wasn’t that widely read and didn’t generate that much comment so when my tweet resulted in a response from Pacific Brands I was quite surprised.

My tweet, which read:

The Dunlop Volley works as well on the dance floor as it does in the bedroom. Or does it? My latest blog discusses …

prompted a response from @DunlopVolley with request for my contact details so that a representative from Pacific Brands (who manufactures the Volley) could discuss my issues. After some back and forth online I spoke to a lovely woman in their online customer service team and as “a long term devotee to the Volley” I was offered a free trial of the new Volley prototype.

Companies have been buying off dissatisfied customers with free stuff since the day dot. While my interaction with Pacific Brands provides tangible proof of the power of the whinge what it says about the customer service model is far more interesting. The model being used by companies to retain dissatisfied customers is changing in response to the risks presented by social media.

The interesting part of this interaction is that I didn’t actually send my complaint directly to Pacific Brands but my innocuous little tweet was still plucked out of the out of the ubiquitous mass of the internet  (presumably by the social media monitoring processes in place at Pacific Brands) and a customer service process was set in play.

This is tangible proof that increased sensitivity to the potential risks social media presents to the brand of companies means that many are pursuing far more pro-active strategies to manage customer dissatisfaction. In the past an angry punter would pen an irate letter outlining various gripes with a given product and the world in general. If so inclined, the company would then send an apologetic non-incriminating response and throw in some free product on the side. They could also opt to do nothing. In the case of the latter, there may have been some word of mouth damage to their brand but its reach would be minimal and very localised.

The extended reach of social media means that inaction is no longer an option for many companies. Instead of voicing their dissatisfaction to friends and family by word of month people can now take to their social media platform of choice and vent their frustrations to the world. Instead of telling the 10 or 20 people you may run into over the course of day about how unhappy you are you can now tell 400 people across the globe in an instant. Then through friends of friends and online networks the number of people reached has the potential increase exponentially within minutes.

The potential to ‘go viral’ can definitely empower consumers. I managed to score a free pair of shoes through a trivial blog post. However, the mobocratic nature of social media also has massive downsides as shown by the online hate campaign unleashed on Charlotte Dawson, the trolling abuse directed at Julia Gillard during an online Q&A and the issues that Facebook hate pages have raised in the Jill Meagher murder trial.

Whether the new Dunlop Volley is any more robust than their current kicks remains to be seen but I will say the customer service I received from Pacific Brands both online and in person was excellent. In this instance, I salute the power of social media.

4 Replies to “The power of the social media whinge”

  1. Will be interesting to see how the new prototype holds up though. Customer service is one thing, but if your product is no good you can only trade on history for so long.

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