Scoop from the Group

A lesson from the FedEx and UPS Social Media debacle

December 26, 2013 by Todd Obermoeller

I hope everyone had a great Christmas! It’s an interesting one for sure because this is the first year that corporate Social Media issues have been at the forefront of the news anytime that I can remember.

It really goes to show the importance of having professionals to manage your Social Media presence. Reputation management is crucial to any business that puts itself on the global landscape because of exactly what’s happening with UPS and FedEx.

If you haven’t heard, basically, they screwed up. They promised and accepted payment for deliveries that they couldn’t deliver. The backlash has been a nightmare for both companies because the Social Media community has gone “postal” (sorry, I had to) on them. Now, every company makes mistakes, it’s unavoidable. But it’s how you handle that mistake that matters in the end.

If you look at either UPS or FedEx’s Twitter feed or Facebook page, they’re completely inundated with negative comments and I don’t even see an apology! (I’m sure this will come but it should have happened yesterday) People are pissed and they want the world to know. It’s worked too. The lead headline on national news is NOT where either of these usually flawlessly run companies wants to be right now. In this case, bad press is NOT better than any press at all.

One of the things that I absolutely disagree with is deleting these negative comments. In all fairness, I don’t know for sure if that’s what’s happening, but from my view of the pages, it appears that some damage control has taken place. When I looked at the FedEx Facebook page yesterday afternoon, it was far more cluttered with negativity. That tells me that someone went in and tried to fix this mess.

As I just started, one of the things that I didn’t see was an apology. I understand that the companies are trying to figure out what to do, but I strongly advise against any excuses. I’m sure that some high-level exec told them not to admit guilt or something. Bad Idea! I see this all the time and it drives me crazy. Just say you’re sorry and refund the additional fees.

The smartest thing that either of these companies could do right now would be to issue an immediate refund of the fees, make an apology statement across all of the Social platforms and give customers a PRIVATE forum in which to lodge their complaints. Not doing anything just exacerbates the issues, and people want answers. Today and tomorrow, the focus should be on nothing but restoring their reputations. If your package didn’t arrive on time, you not only get this delivery fee refunded, but you’ll also be credited with an additional delivery for free to be used within a year. That would fix the problem immediately and probably ward off some pointless and frivolous lawsuits.

Companies that use Social Media as a selling tool need to be prepared for failures. They need to have a plan IN PLACE for things like unhappy customers. Companies need to start treating Social Media just exactly like they treat TV, radio or print. They need to understand that what they do matters and that “word of mouth” spreads a million times faster than it did even 3 years ago. One unhappy customer can take a company down.

So while Social Media is a great tool, it can also be a double-edged sword for service companies with customer issues. Hire an outside professional firm that knows what they’re doing. Having an in-house crew is too risky because eventually, like in all companies, the department becomes just another biased branch that functions as a talking head rather than a way to engage customers. Social Media is a public relations (which should also always be an outside service for the same reasons) initiative and needs to be dealt with as such.

Hopefully, in the New Year companies will begin to realize that Social Media isn’t going away. I hope that they’ll start taking it a little more seriously and learn from the example that FedEx and UPS have unfortunately set. The time of using Social Media as a selling tool without having any substance behind it is over. Although Social Media is not a new medium, the corporate world is just now starting to realize its power. Not only can it be a massively useful selling tool, but also it can be a massively harmful one if not managed correctly.

Posted in Advertising, Content Management, Cool Stuff, Graphic Design, Internet Marketing, News / Press, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Uncategorized

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