Big business fails the Internet test

Major brands had better watch out. They are going to make their customers angry and that does not bode well. Indeed, big business is losing control to its customers. Take the American store Macy’s for instance. Last year they were under enormous pressure to end their relationship with Donald Trump after a chorus of complaints from customers. Macy’s refused and Trump threatened legal action against the campaigners. Even so, the data show that Macy’s ultimately lost out.

Back in 2009 the home furnishings retailer, Habitat, suffered a significant loss of face after a “spammy” Tweet appeared on their account trying to get people to buy furniture on the back of the uprising in Iran. Habitat was already in financial trouble at the time and eventually went into administration. However, it did return to Twitter four months after the high-profile error saying it is “clear that you have to engage with a community on its own terms”.

There are dozens of “social media disasters” for big business. They are an indication of the age of transition in which we now live. In the past, big business could be controlling and could cover-up errors. Now, those mistakes can be amplified in an instant and mass campaigns against brands can be arranged on Facebook and the like. Big business is slowly losing control to its customers.

That should be a warning to firms because new data show that the vast majority of big brands are ignoring their customers. The study reveals that 63% of people who email a company NEVER get a reply. Furthermore, even though big business is quick to respond to people who connect with them on social networks, one in five people still do not get anything back from the company.

The survey of 2,000 consumers also found that big business is very slow to respond to people trying to contact them. Whilst Twitter and Facebook contacts get a reasonable response, other forms of communication such as email and letters are dealt with only slowly.

The problem for big brands is this: if they fail to respond quickly and appropriately to all communications, then people will take to the social networks and start saying negative things about these firms.

It means it is no longer acceptable to only deal with incoming communication “as and when” or “when we get time”. Answering emails, replying to letters, dealing with Facebook posts should all get the same priority as answering the telephone.

The question is whether or not most businesses are geared up for this kind of operation? This new data suggests that most are not – and that implies big brands have more negative fire-fighting ahead of them. They could, of course, prevent that by having a root-and-branch overhaul of communications with consumers.


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Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones


Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
Graham Jones
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