Bad Hair Days And A Hippopotamus

Issue 66

In the mid nineties the Spice Girls ruled the charts and business was coming to terms with a new opportunity called the internet. There were stumbles on the road.

Pen Island should have thought it through before they simply stuck dot com on the end of their name. In the mid-noughties social media changed the game completely by allowing true interaction with customers. Again, there were stumbles. Most company bosses did not understand social media so they handed responsibility to someone who did. Usually a young intern. This was the case with a multi-national food and beverage manufacturer.

All was well until the firm got some low level flack regarding abstracting water and denuding forests to plant their crops. The intern fought her corner until she had bad hair day when she screamed “GET A LIFE YOU DISMAL HIPPOPOTAMUS” to an eco-warrior on Twitter. The retweets went viral, mainstream media caught on and the reputation of a global player lay in the dust. Today we have strategies for conflict resolution and dealing with news fakers. But some firms seem unable to grasp the dynamics of social media, to their cost. A law firm recently charged a client £200 for advice. The customer was not happy so left a negative review on Trustpilot.

The law firm, being a law firm, went to law. The judge awarded £25,000 against the customer. But as the dogs of law headed for the champagne bar to celebrate, the law of unintended consequences was dusting off his top coat. The story went viral on social media then was picked up by the BBC. As a result, hundreds of disgusted individuals swarmed onto Trustpilot and left one-star reviews citing the bullying tactics of the law firm. This took their Trustpilot rating down to two stars and the page has been locked meaning it will stay there. So, an exercise in trying to protect reputation on social media has backfired in spectacular fashion. With Covid restrictions, social media has become increasingly important over the past twelve months. In the event we have a dispute our proven resolution method is to invite the complainant into the office for an Italian coffee and a biscuit. On pretty well every occasion, half an hour later both parties walk away smiling, dispute resolved. This is no longer possible since we must enforce a ‘locked door policy’. While phone conversations are still possible it is often on social media we first become aware of an issue. So, it is on social media we must resolve it. But we are always aware, in tough times many people are having a bad hair day.

Lockdown, vulnerable friends or relatives, home schooling or just crushing boredom. Many people just need to vent and if we are the ventee, we will roll with it, offering virtual coffee, biscuits and conflict resolution. Patience and understanding are key. Sometimes it is not easy but perseverance pays off. To quote entrepreneur Elon Musk, “Patience is a virtue and I’m learning patience. It’s a tough lesson”.

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