Social and digital media has become a tool for individuals to express their thoughts, for news organisations to cover news and for candidates to campaign and interact with supporters.
Social media platforms, such as Twitter, have enabled individuals and news organisations to have a two-way dialogue with their audience. Most people think that social media is only for connecting with friends and family. Although that is a great use of social media, there are many other things it is being used for.
If you are a company, social media is a great way to find out more about your customers and maintain the relationships you have with them. If you are a customer, social media can be a great way to communicate about your likes, dislikes and offer suggestions.
A decade ago, if you wanted to complain about a product or service, you had to send the company a letter or an email or make a telephone call. Sometimes they would offer a solution, sometimes you would not hear back from them.
This was a confidential process that almost never impacted on the public consciousness and therefore had little significant effect on the company involved. Nobody would know about your complaint except for you and the company.
Now you can post your complaint or suggestion on the company’s Facebook page for the entire world to see. Whether it is Twitter, Facebook or any other social media site, poor performance from a company can be laid bare for millions of people to see and the company can be faced with very serious damage to its reputation.
This pretty much guarantees a response, and if the company knows what is at stake, it will offer a solution and work darn hard to keep its customer.
Companies are compelled to respond. If they fail to triage and address customer issues effectively, the customer will be left disgruntled and anyone else who reads the comment will feel offended as well and gradually, they will start looking elsewhere.
There can be no doubt that social media affects customer complaints, but the good news for both customers and companies is that the effect can be a positive one.
By encouraging open discussion and a combined approach to incidents, confidence in a product or service will be improved whilst also building brand loyalty for the future.
This platform also has a big role to play in politics. As we go to elections, we now have a forum to speak to leaders. Almost all the aspirants have online social media accounts where you can write to them and post comments on how you feel for everyone to see.
Leaders without online presence have no business asking for your votes in this digital era. They are still in the “analogue age” and therefore technically out. On this online social media age, we can no longer complain of not reaching our leaders and aspiring leaders.
Some of the leaders may not respond but they will read your comments. If more people complain about the same issues, the leaders will be compelled to respond.
This is not to mean that complaints are bad. No. Customer complaints are a fact of business life. No matter how well a business strives to deliver the best service on each and every customer interaction, even the very best will sometimes come up short. What matters is how complaints are dealt with when they occur.
So customers and pretty much everyone have a voice now. Even when companies and individuals themselves don’t answer clients publicly via social media spots like Facebook or Twitter, someone consistently does – other customers. You now have a voice, you are now an influencer. You hold the power.
Sam Wambugu is a monitoring and evaluation specialist. Samwambugu@gmail.com