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September 8th, 2008

When Ad Age columnist Bob Garfield first proposed the idea of a “consumer jihad” against Comcast after a series of service blunders that could only be described as comc-assinine, some people laughed. But when he took his war against the company further and created www.ComcastMustDie.com, people really started getting into it. So did the media. The Washington Post, USA Today, New York Times, BusinessWeek, and Good Morning America all picked up on it. The site even eventually got the attention of Comcast itself:

(from the homepage) In the next few days, our site ComcastMustDie.com will be changing. This is partly because we have declared victory against Comcast, a vast, greedy, blundering, tone-deaf corporate colossus which, in one short year, has seen the light. Now it is now merely a vast, greedy, blundering corporate colossus.

Comcast isn’t the only one who has faced the online wrath of scorned customers. www.Starbucked.com, www.ihatestarbucks.com, www.BankofAmericaSucks.com, and www.AgainstTheWal.com have all joined in.

A new study out from FairWinds Partners, an internet strategy consulting firm, that was featured in The Wall Street Journal this week showed that companies are doing something about the online hate mail. They are cybersquatting on the URLs so that angry customers can’t spew venom on their brand.

In many cases, companies like Xerox just leave www.IHateXerox.org empty, but that’s not always the case. Go to www.SouthwestSucks.com or www.LoewsSucks.com and you’ll find yourself at customer service websites.

While its good to see companies acknowledging the power of conversation among their customers, many are not doing enough. In fact, the web gives them a remarkable opportunity.

In the past, customers who had a bad experience would complain to their friends. The company could never really get a handle on what customers thought about them and the experience they offered. This is no longer the case.

If you had a chance to know what bothered your ex-girlfriend about you before she dumped you for another guy, you’d likely take it. Imagine having that opportunity and blowing it. That’s what many of today’s most well-known companies are doing.

There is an alternative, and advanced companies will hopefully evolve into it. The secret is simple. Respond. That’s it. Respond to people who complain and join in the conversation. You’ll surprise the hell out of them. And more importantly – if you do it well, you’ll convert them to customers for life.

Posted Under: Crisis Communications, Digital & Social Media, Public Relations
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