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Monday, April 15, 2013

Solving the Problem of Customer Attacks II

Colleague, correspondent and former co-fellow of mine at  SNCR Paul Gillin has written a book on customer attacks using social media.  I posted about it once before and now continue my look at it:

Attack of the Customers: Why Critics Assault Brands Online and How To Avoid Becoming a Victim  by Paul Gillin with Greg Gianforte.

The first chapter included a detailed example from my former enterprise, Procter & Gamble.  I was especially intrigued because I had been peripherally involved with the early use of social media in the company.  Just how do you address customer attacks? How do you detect them before they start to steamroll?  What are the ideal reactions?

As they state:  "This book is about how to anticipate, prepare for and defend your organization against customer attacks, but more importantly its an argument for building an orgaization that values critics as allies ... " 

The example is about the 2010 rollout of the Pampers Dry Max line.    The new disposable diaper product was mercilessly criticized in the social press as allegedly causing serious diaper rashes in babies that used it.  It was also claimed that the supply chain was already substituting the product well before it was being identified in the marketing.    Thus giving customers no chance to make a clear choice.

Historically P&G, as a large consumer products company, has experienced this kind of rumor explosion before.  But this newest example is beyond the era of the mimeograph machine.  Social media like Facebook and Twitter change the volatility and speed of both exposure and reactions.  The chapter covers the role of social media in the start of the rumor, how it spread, and how P&G reacted.  Gillin makes the point that P&G did not make perfect decisions, but could quickly see what worked versus what did not.   Nicely documented.

Later chapters detail a number of very useful ideas.  In chapter 5, the kinds of attackers you are likely to see are categorized and how they are likely to respond to engagement.  Good examples are given.  In chapter 7, about peer reviews, statistics and the nature of online reviews are outlined. Emphasized is how each peer review system has different means of checking (or not checking) the legitimacy of reviews.  Some of the examples given and the effect of reviews surprised me.

Chapter 9, about preventing an attack and chapter 10, about how to handle an attack, are particularly on point.   These chapters should be read by everyone with a web social presence.  Finally chapter 11 addresses building a attack resistant organization.

The book is very readable, has many recent examples, some of which I knew about and some not. It should be on the shelf of every company of anyone with social web interest.  Any company, especially if you are large, will eventually have to deal with these issues.

See the book's web site at Attackofthecustomers.com

You can read part of the Dry Max chapter in CMO magazine.   And here is the book's Facebook page.

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