In the early days, when companies were responding to customer complaints, whether on social media or product review channels, they would always take the high-road. This often made them sound out-of-touch, and awkward. Responses like, “hey Jim, sorry you didn’t like our product. Please call our 800 number and we will listen closely.” Or, “please email this complaint to this link and we will get back to you.” These kinds of responses plastered a face and voice to consumers that companies were big machines with no heart. Kind of like the Borg.
From Awkward to Funny… or Not
Things have changed. Granted the responses have become more human and less pedantic, but also companies risk alienation. Vita Coco is taking no prisoners when consumers are critical. Wendy’s is riding the fine line between humor, which they often accomplish, and alienation, which they also often accomplish. Here are some examples of both.
The coconut water company is launching Vita Coco Pressed Coconut. And here’s the tagline: “Impossible to Hate”. They then targeted the haters so they could convert them. Mellisa Locker at TIME reports that Twitter superuser Tony Posnanski got into a war of words with the brand. Posnanski is a known coconut water critic (who wrote about his hatred of the beverage for the Huffington Post back in 2013) and was not interested one bit when Vita Coco’s social media team asked him to try their new drink. “Save that nasty s— for someone else,” he wrote on Twitter, and didn’t stop there either. “I would rather drink your social media persons piss than coconut water,” he continued. And the response from VitaCoco?
— Vita Coco (@VitaCoco) May 15, 2019
That stunt didn’t sway Posnanski saying that Vita Coco is the equavalent of “the Miracle Whip of beverages.”
And on to Wendy’s that responds continuously and furiously to customer feedback. The company is constantly selling its fresh beef and doesn’t care who it offends. At times it is humorous and often biting. Here’s an example of an exchange.
Keeping things fresh is sort of our thing
— Wendy’s (@Wendys) May 21, 2019
So, things are changing. From “thank you for the information customer and here’s the 800 number” to start the runaround, to “we the brands aren’t here to get trashed”.
True engagement is somewhere in the middle of biting/humorous and a pass-off to a help site. Most consumers have real questions about product performance and they want real answers from a real human being, whether that be via email or phone. Some Twitter trolls are just trying to make a name for themselves with stupid insulting humor. Once a company goes down that road with a troll, it risks the scorn of the silent majority who are reading the exchange and not responding. Channel Signal’s guess is that there is more harm than good in acting outside the lines of corporate responsibility.