I will start this column with two recent personal experiences. The first one is about this pizza chain that promises to deliver your pizza hot or give it away for free. While trying to order our pizzas over the phone during some recent festivities, I was told the company had stopped delivering to the area of Noida where I live. This, after being kept on hold for an unusually long time. I thought it was strange, but let it rest. We ordered from a rival brand, had our pizzas and almost forgot all about it... until two days later when some unexpected guests - my daughter's friends - dropped by and wanted nothing but pizzas. And pizzas from the same pizza chain. I said, forget it, they have stopped delivering here. One of the more pesky ones was adamant: no, she said, we had pizzas from these guys only yesterday.
She picked up my mother's cell phone, ordered it at her flat number, which happens to be right across the corridor. The pizzas were delivered, we polished them off in a jiffy, but I kept thinking why wouldn't they take my order the other day. When I got sufficiently angry, I logged onto their website and shot off an e-mail through their feedback section. I promptly got a response: Thank you for your feedback. We will get back to you shortly. Your feedback ID is ABC.
That was the last I heard from them.
Thank you, you are no longer my favourite pizza brand. I don't know what happened on the day they refused my order: Was there a rush because of the festivities? Did they not have enough delivery boys? Was the guy on the other end unable to connect to the local shop? - I had called on the central hotline. Or did they simply run out of flour? Whatever it was, they should have told me upfront. What rankles more is that my e-mail was ignored.
Now take the other instance. This is a durable company, not Indian but supposedly among the country's biggest in terms of market share. I had to send my washing machine back to its service station for repairs. That part of the process went off without a hitch. They came at the appointed time, inspected the machine thoroughly and decided the machine had to be hauled back. They promised to send a van in the evening. The vehicle arrived... bang on time... and took the machine. Efficient, I told myself.
Obviously, I spoke too early.
My trauma started when they had to send the machine back. They took an appointment from me three times - but failed to turn up at the appointed hour every time. On each of these three days, I either returned home early or left late for office. I was frustrated - but I knew feedback on the company's website won't be of any use. So, I called up the service centre and told the manager I am putting my experience up on Facebook and then tweeting it also. The whole world will know how inefficient your company is, I barked. You have not only lost me as a future customer, but also my Facebook friends, Twitter followers, Google Group members...
"Madam, are you at home right now? Can we send the machine back," asked the guy at the other end. I actually got my machine machine back in 30 minutes flat. I should have tried this trick with the pizza company!
Long live the social media.
I bet I am not the only one; many of our readers would have faced similar situations and might have done the same thing. But the point is, while companies do understand the reach and power of the social media, many of them still don't know how best to use it. And when you don't know something, or can't fathom it, you are afraid.
I am not proselytising here, but here are two examples of ways in which two early adopters of social customer relationship management are doing it. Take Dell. The computer technology corporation embraced the social media in right earnest in 2010 when it opened up its social media command centre to all employees, regardless of their function. By 2011, Dell had trained more than 25,000 of its employees in "social listening". These employees now track social mentions of the company every day in about a dozen different languages. This means that insights collected from social media feedback is shared across ranks and assimilated by the entire organisation rather than being "hoarded" by one department.
For Domino's, the potentially disastrous YouTube video posted in 2009 - that showed two employees sabotaging a pizza - was the turning point. The company launched a massive social media campaign to gauge public opinion. The negative feedback prompted Domino's to make a series of changes - not just in marketing and communication, but in the product as well. It launched a marketing campaign acknowledging its mistakes and promising a better product, then it altered the pizza recipe, and now it keeps in touch with customers relentlessly via social media.
So, there you are: If you're not using social media now, you're already late.