This week I’ve had a fascinating and frustrating encounter with a branded business, one outcome of which is the unpleasant realisation that my relationship with a brand I’ve loved and want to keep loving has suddenly turned to crap.
And that it’s turned to crap because no digital, social media interaction could prevent, in just two or fewer moves, a business, and me with it, reverting to old modes of behaviours.
A little history. (It’s a little messy.)
I’d wanted to alert a brand to a point, a point I felt strongly about. Let’s call the brand, The Brand, and more generally, the business, the company, etc.
So, good lad, I went through their website. I heard nothing for over a week. First fail – because my absolute expectation, knowing and feeling everything I do about The Brand, was that my clear and measured message would be pounced upon immediately, setting those values-led The Brand-ers into a useful spin; useful because their immediate actions would correct an astonishing oversight, a genuine but terrible transgression of everlasting principles of community respect and forward thinking. Instead, silence. First fail – because now I had no reliable ‘in’ with The Brand, and watch where that would get us all…
I sent a reminder, but programmed to expect no reply to it, thought instead to tweet them. The response was instant, and chatty and bright and ‘oh golly!’ as I’d expect. I was back with The Brand! Tweeting suited them. (It hadn’t suited my bank the week before, because you really can’t be chatty and ‘yay!’ about interest rates. Not on your own account.)
The nice tweet bumped the email into action, but the response was surprisingly thin, replacing my ‘values-based’ comment with one of my own presumed ‘offence’. Gosh, The Brand wasn’t listening to me properly; first they’d said nothing, and then they’d said anything.
But the email had a name, and was pleasant and applied. The problem was that it was shuttling The Brand messages to and from (low drum roll) The Buying Department. The Buying Department wouldn’t come out to see me, as it were, but I’d been told they were there, so I had to imagine them growling answers through forboding drapes.
The Brand, my brand, was transmuting and morphing madly with every send and receive.
So then it was their Facebook. Good old finger-clicking Facebook, where the brand-people busy uploading and Liking must be the agency kids, or bright young dudes with light touches and broad remits. Sure enough, when I posted there I got a nice ‘woah!’ of a reply – not that actual word, it just felt like that, I wanted it to, I wanted my The Brand back so I could have a proper me-to-The Brand chat about an issue I just knew we were both, in our hearts, concerned about. And then I got a shock. The Facebook dude responded in the comments by copy-pasting the customer relations’ email from the day before. Not even in Facebookese… it was a copy-paste… in the comments! Is that even allowed?
I couldn’t believe it, I was getting shoo’d off and ticked off… on Facebook… by a friendly business! A friendly business in a friendly medium was giving me the old policeman’s repeat. I think they might have had a decision tree. I lost it a little, and sighed and huffed my final response to them – final – The Brand had broken Facebook! Love at an all-time low.
Oh, I still had The Brand’s Twitter route. But – no way! – they knocked me back with ‘cool, customer relations are on it!’ So The Brand’s Twitter has palmed me off to someone who’s words have been copy-pasted onto The Brand’s Facebook by someone who’s not speaking to me anymore, other than to repeat a ticking off!
And still no-one – NO-ONE! – had addressed my message to The Brand.
Before I started down all these so-optimistic social media routes – optimistic because I still believed The Brand I know would never be so dismissive, so apparently unbothered – before I started, I had typed and printed a letter (I know!), complete with a summary of my customer relations interactions, all ready to post out in the mail.
Now, sadly, I’ll have to post it after all. Not to some bright bunny online, or a lively and listening tweeter, but to a Chief Exec, in some high-up office, unreachable, unseen, as they always were, in the days when brands like The Brand didn’t much want to interact.
And the Chief Exec’s office will post me back a letter, just like when brands were unsocial for real. And I’ll feel connected with The Brand again.
© Copyright, Steve Mitchell and Fisher Lane, 2012