My growing dilemma with bad customer service. Consumer conversation management.

by Polle on June 22, 2011

Let me tell you a little story first.

I stayed in a hotelroom last night at a large and international hotel chain in The Netherlands. The room cost me 164 euros a night. Normally that would be waaaay too much for what I would pay for a decent bed and a roof above my head, but now convenience (I had to be at the office across the hotel this morning and there is no hotel really near) and the fact that the hotel was booked through my employer made me accept the treat. I would deal with my karma later and would make sure to make up with my colleagues by doing some really efficient sales meetings the next day.

I accepted that the 17.85 euros for 24h internet (or 5.95 euros for 60 minutes) wasn’t included in the hotel room. Internet is just really expensive these days.

Chewing gum, strange spots and bathroom math with hole When I walked into the bathroom this morning, I encountered this scene (see photo). My floor math had a hole in it,  there was a chewing gum stain on the floor (small stain on the right) and a strange red smear in the corner (that I could clean with some water and towels).

In my no-nonsense mind, a 164-euro-room sets a bandwidth of expectations. As does a 50-euro room. Or a room at a youth hostel. Or, for my part, a 500 euro room. Depending on location and cost, there’s a certain level of cleanness and luxury one expects in a room. Let’s say that in the bandwidth of expectations of a 164-euro-room, I expect a clean room.

But that’s only where my dilemma starts.

I had dinner with PR people last night and we talked about how some bloggers/twitter users misuse their influence and put brands and companies under unreasonable pressure. Some demand free products, demand customer service to call them whenever they like and start unreasonable rants. I totally recognize that. Even I think some people go too far in sharing their frustration with the world.

It’s about consumer conversation management. As a consumer, when will you share your frustration and dissatisfaction with the world and when do you swallow your frustration? How far will you go in showing your negative emotions about a brand? How will you avoid being the guy/gal that complains about every brand and annoys their followers/friends?

To be more precise,

  • Obviously, this must all be a misunderstanding. I might be naïve, but I believe most companies truly want to please me as a consumer. In this case, there must be a perfectly normal explanation why my room isn’t clean. Maybe I should go to the hotel reception first before complaining via twitter or putting a negative experience on tripadvisor.com.
  • I don’t want to be a frustrated person. I tend to be a positive person. I believe happiness spreads. I prefer spreading positive experiences over nagging about customer service, especially when nagging costs me 17.85 euros for 24h. People complaining about bad products or bad customer service in my timeline usually annoy me. I don’t want to be that person.
  • I don’t want to be a frustrated blogger. I hate it when bloggers or influential twitter guru evangelists use their perceived online influence to complain and get things done. I’m in no way influential, but I don’t want to use my twitter followers to get things done. At least not when it’s about complaining about a company.
  • I don’t want to insult a (possible) client. At InSites Consulting, my current employer, we work with over 250 clients. That means that pretty much every brand I mention online, is a current client, a former client or a possible client.

What is the new etiquette for consumer conversation management? What is an unreasonable rant and what is a valid complaint?

 

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