Todd Defren wrote a great post laying out the life cycle of a “firememe,” or a crisis caused by a negative post about your company that spirals out of control.
Basically, it boils down to having a good customer service system that actually tracks and responds to widespread complaints. If you have a customer service call center, do you track the types of complaints that come in daily, look for similarities and respond accordingly?
Not many companies do, including supposedly “clued-in” companies like Google. For instance, last week Blogger.com went down for quite a few days, and the updates at their status site were always behind by many hours or even days. To be sure, they were working on the problem, but the communication was abysmal for a group of bloggers that work in real time.
They posted in a popular blogger help group, but not before the frustration level was high and comments were flames. Additionally, they use the moniker Blogger Employee, which has the effect of making them seem less human. This is their custom in that forum, but it seemed like one that they should change.
While all hosted platforms have the possibility of equipment failure, the lack of communication is the bigger problem. Customer service would diffuse so many situations, along with taking the power of consumer generated media seriously.
Just look at the case of Kryptonite locks, if they had spent as much time on building relations in the blog-world as they did mainstream media, they might not be a case study in how NOT to do it.
Today, a search for Kryptonite locks still nets a organic search result of the Engadget article from 2004 that announced the lock could be picked by a Bic pen. Luckily for them, the first result is the company, but almost everything after that has to do with the controversy.
The third result is an interview with Donna Tocci, Public Relations Manager for Kryptonite.
Kryptonite did do the right thing, replacing all locks and working through what sounded like a classic crisis communication plan (ala Tylenol). However, they didn’t count on the lasting effects of a firememe in the age of consumer-genreated media, something Tylenol did not have to contend with in 1982.
Tocci said they decided early on that while they knew about the criticism in the blogosphere, they didn’t want to release information before they had all of the pieces in place. Tocci rightly explains that the time required to answer every post in the meme that resulted from the Engadget article would have been impossible.
“There isn't enough time in a day,” she said.
She also admitted that the only thing she would have changed about her response would have been to get up some information on their website a few days earlier explaining that they were working on a solution.
She also recommends knowing, as she said, “Who the influential bloggers are in your space and start a conversation.”
How true, but I wonder if there were any complaints in the customer service system that could have helped Kryptonite connect the dots before the issue spiraled out of control?
If nothing else, it is a good thing to monitor.