Poor customer service is a major reputational issue – but doesn’t seem to be taken seriously as a responsibility of public relations in many organisations, instead it is seen as part of operations or marketing, with PR handling media fall-out. This reactive strategy in PR is surprising given the ability of the traditional media and online bloggers/new media to highlight problems that can easily become critical strategic issues or crises.
As an example, look at the Carphone TalkTalk broadband fiasco. Today it is slated by the The Observer as the headline company in its new Why are We Waiting campaign to highlight companies failing to deliver on customer service. On Friday it was named as recipient of the first “Tony” award as “the worst of the worst” for customer service by The Guardian. Earlier this month, research company JD Power rated TalkTalk at the bottom of its satisfaction ratings.
The Guardian cites a “Talk Talk spokeswoman” justifying the company’s strategy for dealing with customer service problems: ‘If you’re on a train and you’re told there’s a delay, you don’t feel happy. If you’re told why there’s a delay and when you’re going to set off, at least you know what’s happening and that someone’s working on it…” She also claims “next year, we intend to become just as clearly the leader in customer service as we are in the customer offer.”
This “leadership” is not evidenced by negative reactions among stakeholders. In November 16% was wiped off the shareprice with the defection of Vodafone, Carphone’s biggest and longest-standing client to rival Phones 4U. I also hear that employees were concerned as the boss, Charles Dunstone rarely keeps them up to date on news – and was a rare sighting at the HQ.
Similarly, Dunstone has been lax in updating his blog – or rather the clog (corporate blog) since it is clearly not the hand of the man itself – nor does it allow any feedback postings. His last entry apologising for not updating the blog is dated 17 November. In fact there are fewer than 18 entries since it started in April – not exactly demonstrating a commitment to corporate blogging.
In contrast a blog set up by a frustrated customer – http://www.talktalkhell.org/ – is a lively forum of problems. With no engagement from the company with these vocal publics.
Clearly a PR strategy which understands the impact of stakeholder relationships, online social media/networks and reputation management is urgently required.