Belgian telecom player Telenet has been having a very hard time coping with a pop-up Facebook page criticising the provider for attracting new customers with an iPad mini as a welcome gadget. In less than two days’ time the “Telenet, we loyal customers would also appreciate receiving a gift” Facebook page accumulated more than 110.000 likes, far more than Telenet’s proprietary page ever had.
For us, issue managers and crisis experts, it’s yet another interesting case underlining the power of social media. Did Telenet pick up and manage the sudden reputation crisis in a professional manner? Unfortunately not. When the company announced that they would respond at the end of the day, it was clear that the response would be too little too late. And so it was. But I don’t want to analyse Telenet’s response and missed opportunity to prevent a reputation issue from turning into a business issue. I want to go to the essence of the story.
A rightful claim launched on a newly created Facebook page completely derailed under a wave of frustrations vented by Telenet customers. It was probably not the intention of the creator of the page, a loyal Telenet customer, to kick off such a chain reaction. She merely wanted to make a point about companies attracting new customers with new toys while ignoring existing customers’ concerns and complaints. Mobistar learned a hard lesson in this respect. Now it seems to be Telenet’s turn to learn that customer attraction and attrition should be equally evaluated on service quality and pricing and not be influenced by perks awarded to merely buying the service. Isn’t high quality service for a correct price what all customers – new and existing ones – at the end of the day are really looking for?
Social media platforms are great tools to bring people together and make things move forward for the better. Telenet’s experience unfortunately highlights the vulnerability of B2C companies in this respect. It’s a hard learned lesson about customer relations, as the power of social media can turn an innocent initiative of one individual into a an unforgiving crowd in no time.
It will be interesting to see how Telenet will pick up its customers’ signal and how companies in general will learn from its experience.