The Amul – Neha Tomar Case is a classic example of Social Media Crisis Management for a legacy brand, at the same time the case exemplifies the power bestowed upon customers with the virtue of Social Media. As they say with great power comes great responsibility, we as responsible denizens of India should channelize this power for the greater good.
For the uninitiated, it all started on 9th October with a Facebook post from the complaining customer that entailed her personal experience with Amul Gold Milk pack which ended up in a stretchy chemical mass when they tried to make cheese out of it. The disgruntled customer even called for an action stating “Stop buying deadly milk of Amul”. The post with her personal experience went viral surpassing “Three Circles of Content Sharing” as propounded by Scott Stratten. Till date the post is has received 82,000+ shares.
Considering the gravity of situation and virality of the initial post by the customer, Amul resorted to the Social Media route to explain their stance on the whole issue. The brand posted an account of things as they happened with valid reference points, screenshots of the post and a video demonstrating the whole process of making the stretchy mass. The act of presenting the nitty gritty of the situation was commendable and probably the most pragmatic solution. However, Amul went all out against the complaining customer quoting the misuse of her official position.
“Based on the misrepresentation of facts by the said consumer, we infer that the expired milk used by the complainant was deliberately abused to malign the brand.”
As the saga unfolds, we observed that the whole incident has various lessons to teach. Learnings and anecdotes which can help
- a) A Brand in preparing themselves for the worst
- b) A complaining customer for utilizing the power at hand for spreading awareness and improving customer experience
- c) For Denizens of India on validating the information available, reading both sides of the story and then forming an opinion rather than sharing it with limited knowledge.
1.Stay Active and turn on the LISTENING mode.
It is imperative for a brand to listen to the conversations on Social Media and respond to them accordingly. At the first instance of this situation, Amul could have responded to the complaint online, presenting the facts and information on the move. This would have resolved the customer complaint and decelerated the journey of virality for the post.
2.Transparency holds the KEY
The complaining customer reported the whole incidenct on Social Media and to the Amul team as well. Amul responded to her in quick time and expected her to be transparent to state the whole process. While the customer should have been more transparent in updating her experience, Amul could have responded to the thread with the video and explanation.
3. Eye for DETAIL never hurts anyone
Brands and customers need to develop a critical skill set that’s an eye for detail. For brands this assists in enhancing customer experience and resolving customer grievances. For customers this is really crucial to make an informed decision.
4. Bury the Hatchet, don’t BREAK it
In any case of argument, it is recommended to make peace and bury the hatchet. In this case Amul dint bury the hatchet, they broke it. While the explanation was spot on, the brand should have acted maturely by focusing on the issue rather than pointing out malign intentions of the customer.
5. RISK is rewarding. Take it.
The conventional school of thought would argue that Amul should have kept mum throughout and addressed the issue only if it had gone out of hand, say a news article in main stream media. Amul took the risk of addressing the issue amongst 12 Lakh followers on Facebook which is 15 times more than the number of shares for the post. I believe it has paid off well scintillating people’s emotions for Amul and restoring faith in the taste of India.
6. Extinguish the fire en route VIRAL, don’t WAIT.
A stitch in time saves nine. Amul sensed the virality of the post and its immediate impact on the brand. The post was drafted to answer all the queries of customers who have read the complaint and to assure them of Amul’s superior quality. If the brand had waited some more time the situation would have resulted into a big time CRISIS.
7. Mind your Tone, it HURTS.
We cannot deny the fact that the anguish and disappointment leads to a state of frenzy and people tend to blurt out things which are not meant in the right stead. But one should mind their tone while expressing themselves on Social Media. In this case both the parties were at fault while the customer said “Stop Buying Deadly Amul Milk”, Amul raised questions on “Malign intents” of the customer.
8. Keep CALM and choose your words wisely
The concept of having brand pages on social media is to humanize the brand, recreating the element of personification. Each brand has a well-defined personality and they communicate in line with the personality. Although Amul is being applauded for this bravado, there are reactions criticizing the choice of words from Amul which could have been avoided. Had Amul stuck to the clarification on the issue without hurting the sentiments of the customer, situation would have resulted into a WIN-WIN scenario. Similarly the customer could have been more polite in her post defining the situation.
9. Be cautious with Social Media the double edged SWORD
Social Media is the double edged SWORD which facilitates two way communication between brands and individuals. Brands have to stay cautious while using the medium because it can help them fly high like a butterfly but can also sting them like a Bee.
10. Check with your LEGAL experts
The constitution bestows us with the Right to freedom of speech but one needs to make sure that their act of expression does not amount to defamation i.e The communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation. (Definition from Wikipedia)
11.Build Communication in lines with ETHOS PATHOS LOGOS
In the attempt of communicating the key message to the audience one should incorporate the following factors i.e Ethos (Credibility/Trust), Pathos (Emotions/Value), Logos (Logic/Reason/Proof). In Amul’s post explaining their side of the story, Ethos and Logos were in place but it lacked positive emotions towards the complaining customer. A tinge of let go attitude, empathy with the customer would have made it the ‘PERFECT’ response.
12. Don’t FUEL the Brand Vs Human Contest
In such a situation which involves a state of argument between the brand and a customer, the communication from the brand has to be carefully planned at the same time the human element should be introduced into the picture like a Senior Management Personnel who gives voice to the brand’s stance on the whole issue.
13.Look at the bright side, be POSITIVE
There are opportunities which knock at the door out rightly, then there are ones which look like crisis in disguise. At all points of time , a brand should understand that there lies an opportunity in every crisis, the opportunity to prove a point. In this case, Amul managed to demonstrate their strong CRM skills involving personal visits , quality checks at the factory and so on. That’s why they say any publicity is eventually GOOD for the brand.
14.ACTIVATE your evangelists and advocates
When the odds are against you on Social Media, identify evangelists and advocates who love your brand, who would stand by you through the thick and thin. Connect with them to spread the message across the social media universe.
15. Don’t THREATEN the customer
Whatever be the odds Don’t THREATEN the customer, agree that you are disappointed with their outburst on Social Media. This is the moment to win over the heart of a disgruntled customer who can become a brand loyalist for life.
16. STOP the Blame Game
All said and done , go all out in addressing the issue with full throttle but STOP the blame game. No one likes to end up losing out in a battle, make sure that you reach the state of WIN-WIN.
17. Step into CUSTOMER’S shoes
When working on the response for such issues, step into the customer’s shoes see what they would have felt while writing the complaint. Put everything aside and hit the bulls eye to calm the customer down and everything else will follow.
18. Present your SIDE with facts don’t defend
It’s not a battle between you and the customer, treat it as an unfortunate incidence. Don’t defend your stance just present your side with required facts and information and let the target audience decide.
19. Stick to your Brand’s PERSONA
In your response to the issue, stick to your brand’s persona rather than responding as a human. If you want to incorporate a human element get a senior management officer to be the voice or probably the celebrities who endorse the brand.
20. FIGHT against the issue not the Customer
As a brand, your focus should be to fight against the issue at hand and not the customer. Everyone wants to see the issue resolved. Fighting against the customer is not required. In fact, efforts should be made to close the issue with the complaining customer’s testimonial on the quick resolve. All is well that ends well.
21. Keep your customers happy , cause Customer is the KING
The purpose of any business is to deliver customer delight and not just sell products. A Happy Customer is an additional asset to business but a disgruntled customer brings in great amount of liability and questions the core proposition of business. Brands should always work on keeping the customers happy cause no matter what “Customer is the KING”