It started off as a tongue-in-cheek Facebook post, by a Wellington mother-of-two to her friends about her despair when The Warehouse failed to deliver the dryer she’d paid them for fair and square.

So far, so boring, you might think. But Emily Writes’ story, and her witty writing style, tickled the fancy of her followers and was shared more widely. Before she knew it, it had notched up more than a thousand comments. And then The Warehouse got involved.

We’ve all seen this happen countless times before, and the usual corporate response runs something along the lines of: we’re terribly sorry, please get in touch directly and we’ll sort it out. Blah blah blah.

Not this time. The Warehouse penned an equally witty comment underneath Emily’s post promising to sort it out and adding: “Is it a coincidence that if you rearrange the letters in dryer (then remove some, then add some others) you get desirable? We don't think so."

Their response got thousands of likes and will have generated unmeasurable goodwill among the people who read it. The story was then picked up by the NZ Herald, giving The Warehouse even more positive – and free – advertising.

The speed of communication means that businesses need to be constantly listening to what people are saying about them, both the good and the bad so they can try to keep control of their messaging and story.

This is crucial not just to resolve issues, but also to harness relevant and popular conversations and use them to build responsive relationships with their customers.

The Warehouse struck gold because it answered Emily’s plea in the spirit it was written- showing they understood their audience and demonstrating that they had a heart. But, they couldn’t have done any of this if they weren’t keeping an eye on social media chatter.

So how do you do that? The media intelligence that Isentia can deliver tracks millions of sources, with a focus on local content, using a combination of RSS and other data feeds, as well as custom crawlers, which index social media sites in near real-time.

Like all other types of media, an organisation’s social content is filtered and customised to their exact needs and developing issues. They can get a continuous update, which incorporates social and traditional news outlets, so they can keep track of how an issue is developing across all outlets and channels and respond quickly if necessary. That might mean a phone call to a journalist, a swiftly written media statement or a few well-crafted words on social media.

As the way we communicate continues to evolve, and rapidly, it’s vital that businesses keep up. Not only are New Zealanders keener than ever – and more adept – at seeking out information, they are adept at sharing it too.  

Couple this with their high expectations of the businesses they use, and one wrong step can be devastating. Like Emily, they’ll have no qualms about telling the world if the product they’ve bought or the service they received isn’t up to scratch. Social media gives them the means to make or break a company’s reputation and it can take a long time to recover.

Fortunately, social media listening tools can help to nip problems in the bud by monitoring issues before they go haywire. The key for customers who want to be heard is to respond as quickly as possible and in language they can relate to.

Anyone can see how quickly, or slowly, messages are answered on social media and few will be impressed if the responses are late and lethargic.

That doesn’t mean you have to follow The Warehouse’s example and continue the conversation online - a friendly phone call can also diffuse a situation. But businesses might find it worth their while being bold, as Emily was soon back online with a message to say “UPDATE: Check the comments for the amazing response from The Warehouse. They’re the best and soon I will be reunited with my beloved dryer.”

 

Originally published on The Register.