How can out-of-touch companies stop alienating customers with messy p.r. battles and embarrassing reversals?
Thanks to social media, consumers have a force multiplier to help them combat corporate policies they see as unfair, especially fees. In the last year, we’ve seen the defeat of a $5 debit card fee at Bank of America and the mass rejection of Netflix’s attempt (since cancelled) to split into two different services. The latest victim of this wave of minor consumer revolts was Verizon Wireless, which chose the week between Christmas and New Year's to announce a $2 fee for consumers who aren’t enrolled in an automatic payment plan. An avalanche of consumer complaints—and word of an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission—led the company to reverse its position. How can out-of-touch companies stop alienating customers with messy p.r. battles and embarrassing reversals?
Talk to users first. “Why not post it on your Facebook page?” Ron Shevlin, a business analyst, suggested to The New York Times. “Maybe the feedback would have been just as bad, but then you’re seen as heroes for listening to feedback ahead of time. These firms are not reading the mood or living in the real world.” It’s hard to believe that Verizon didn’t anticipate any backlash from this decision, but apparently they’re that out-of-touch. Their troubles are compounded by the reversal, which gives the impression that the wireless giant’s execs got caught with their hands in the cookie jar.