Using Social Media to Save Customers, Build Brands

The folks over at Plaid have provided our tradeshow topic, Using Social Media to Create Brand Evangelists, the best anecdote to date.  They were feeling justifiably upset over a gigantic roaming bill ($1000 per card) for 24 hours of mobile internet service while passing through Vancouver on their recent roadtrip.  They prepared for a word-of-mouth war against Sprint after being given the runaround, but what followed was truly remarkable.  It turns out that the guy in charge of running Sprint’s social networking community had his ear to the ground for tweets about Sprint and heard the shots on the horizon.  He asked about the trouble and got an executive from the regulatory services department to call Darryl (he who runs one of Plaid’s blogs, the excellently titled Brand Flakes for Breakfast) – the matter was quickly resolved and Darryl was happy.

So what happened there exactly?  A huge company, Sprint, the kind that we generally think of as being able to railroad whoever it pleases, had given its employees the ability to correct rule-driven mistakes by using social media and thus avoid the kind of customer pain that results in signs like these (from the blog Church of the Customer):

Moreover, instead of getting bad press in the blogosphere Sprint is getting promotion for free – first from Brand Flakes itself, and now here, and if I’m blogging about it, who knows who else is – it is just such a powerful example of how easy it can be to turn an ‘incident’ into an exercise in brand building.

Ironic, is it not, that technology which allows us to be more distant is actually connecting companies and employees in a more meaningful way.  Of course, none of this would be possible without first recognizing that people are going to talk about your brand/company/service online whether you like it or not – but it is up to you how you go about learning from what they say, and really, finding ways like this to turn potential enemies into (in effect) promoters of your brand.