Just recently a customer posted on social media about a receipt from Pizza Hut Singapore with hand-written scribbles describing her as 'Pink Fat Lady'. The post went viral immediately with 376 likes and 181 shares to date. The incident was later picked up and published in various renowned news sites immediately.
From this episode, we entrepreneurs and marketers can learn four important lessons on social media PR management.
i) The Customer Has the Power to Manage Brands on Social Media
There is a saying, "The customer is king." It is even truer today especially when we, as customers, can post and share any opinions, comments, or content that we like on social media. And each comment a customer posted on social media has the potential to reach hundreds, thousands, or even millions of consumers online.
What we have learnt today is that the marketing landscape has changed completely. It is no longer the brand that holds monopoly to the kind of messages they want the consumers to know.
Customer feedback is no longer kept in closed drawers. Each customer feedback on social media has become very powerful and influential today. We cannot avoid customers from commenting about our brand on social media, but we can manage it.
ii) Responsiveness of Brand Has to Be Faster. And FASTER!
The social media PR management team of Pizza Hut Singapore has done a very good job in responding to the customer complaint the very next day. This is to show the customer as well as the public that they are responsible for any customer's unhappiness about their products or services.
Still remember the days if a customer complained to a company, the company may take days, weeks, or even months to reply to that customer. We may think that those days were gone when brands are becoming more conscious about customer relationships and online reputation. However, that is not so.
Even today in our social media-empowered economy, I still have experienced with some companies that responded like a turtle to a customer. (Exactly 6 weeks, then I received a response from a very renowned international airline. By then, my wife and I had already booked our flight tickets with another airline.)
Iii) Sincerely Apologise to the Customers
The customer hoped to receive an apology from Pizza Hut Singapore, and Pizza Hut Singapore issued a sincere public apology two days later. If the communication team of the brand can admit its mistakes caused by any of their staff, the good image and reputation of the brand will still be protected.
The key factor in issuing an effective public apology is sincerity. It may look easy but not many brands really understand that. Just a few months back, many readers and netizens had feedback that the public apology by Anton Casey is not sincere.
A sincere public apology has to include two things. Firstly, admit the mistake and then find ways to personally express your apology to the customer. Secondly, ensure the public that your brand has learnt your mistakes and will improve on your standards and customer service thereafter.
iv) All Employees to Have Good Service Standard and Social Media Etiquette
It may be easy to manage a company with 5 to 10 staff. However if you have hundreds or thousands of employees to manage, then it is very crucial to teach every employee on how to exemplify good customer service at work.
From the Pizza Hut episode, even if there was only one staff who had written just 3 simple words on the receipt - it can already start a PR avalanche on social media!
If a PR disaster on social media is not managed properly and instantly, it can cost the company to lose in terms of revenue and reputation, to a point that even million dollars worth of marketing and advertisements cannot help to gain back what had been lost.
One classic example is United Airlines, which lost almost 10% shares (worth USD 180million then), in a matter of four days after the protest song “United Breaks Guitars” was uploaded on YouTube by Canadian musician, Dave Caroll. The song chronicled his bad experience with the airline and how indifferent he had been treated by the airline when they refused to be responsible for breaking his guitar. (Source: Wikipedia)
We have to train our employees, whether they are the frontline staff or the behind-the-scenes staff. Each of our staff has the potential to be commended or complained about by our customers. They are the representatives of our brands.
Another important point for businesses to take note is that we have to remind our employees not to post anything that is inappropriate, unbearable, or rude to the public, even on their personal social media accounts. (Still remember the Amy Cheong saga?)
In conclusion, I should say that Pizza Hut Singapore has a terrific social media PR response team. And it is important for businesses today to learn from them.
Companies today have to understand the importance of social media especially when the customers are more in control than before. If you are in charge of managing your brand reputation or public communications, here's a little something for you to take away, “Social media cannot be avoided, but it can be managed.”
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Jacky Tan is a professional marketing writer, blogger, speaker, and the author of 'Social M - How Your Startup Can Take On the Big Boys'. Jacky leads the boutique marketing communications and branding agency, Jack and Chaz Pte Ltd. He specialises in the creation of successful branding, content marketing and pr strategies for companies of any size.