Preventive care for bad PR

It's become accepted knowledge that people talk more about bad service experiences than good ones. That extra energy people put into spreading the word was bad enough when they talked to friends and family. Now that energy is going elsewhere, and seriously bad experiences are no longer just someone complaining, they're now news and entertainment thanks to technologies like blogging and YouTube. In other words, they're mass media bad PR.

On the blogging side, Technorati is currently tracking 49.9 million blogs and indexing 1.2 million posts a day. Some are fluff or incoherent ramblings, but many posts are well written personal opinions or experiences, as well as business blogs like this. Blogs are also more likely to be indexed than static sites, and Google can be remarkably blind to the credibility of the source. (I was surprised to see my personal blog show up above Roger Ebert on a silly movie topic.)

As for YouTube, they're:

"Currently serving 70 million videos per day to six million unique users daily...with more than 60,000 videos being uploaded per day. YouTube is serving more than 200 million page views a day and is ranked the 18th most trafficked site on the Internet, according to Alexa."

And the service only launched 8 months ago. As with blogs, many of the videos are just for fun, but others are recordings of bad service experiences such as these for Comcast and AOL

So why is a survey research person talking about this?

Because this is the sort of venting that happens when customers don't feel heard.

While I focus on surveys as a tool, they're just one tactic in maintaining communications with customers, employees, shareholders, constituents, members, and any other stakeholders you may have.

Surveys are how organizations can monitor opinions on an ongoing aggregate basis. The AOL video was not a spontaneous recording—instead the creator expected to have a bad experience and was prepared. Surveys would have revealed the issue with their call center and given them an opportunity to change their scripts (cancellation should be as good an experience as sign-up).

The Comcast video was a spontaneous recording, but the odds of it being broadcast would have been greatly reduced by good escalation channels. Things go wrong, but customers can be very forgiving and even turn into champions when you recover well. However, spending two hours watching your service provider ignore one of their own staff doesn't inspire hope that a call to complain will generate results.

How do you listen to stakeholders in your organization? What channels do you have in place to keep aggregate information coming, and to hear and address the outliers?

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Ann has been a great resource for us. She responds timely, has good suggestions, and really knows her craft. Ann is our primary resource when it comes to major surveys and reports.

Barry L. Brown
Effective Resources