Manufacturers Failing at Customer Service

By: John Honovich, Published on Jun 25, 2012

Historically, manufacturers reaped the benefits of abused customers powerless to fight back. Now, with the rise of social media, the tides are turning yet many manufacturers refuse to help customers that voice their complaints publicly. In this note, we examine the factors involved and the growing impact this has on marketing and competitive positioning.

Regulars readers of the IPVM discussion group are aware of new field problems posted every week. Today, I was pleasantly surprised that within 30 minutes of an integrator sharing a problem with a Samsung dome, not only did Samsung respond with detailed technical feedback, they offered and had a call with the integrator.

Alas, often manufacturers leave their customers out to dry and see this as part of a sophisticated 'strategy'.

Don't Reward Bad Customer Behavior

Manufacturers are concerned that answering complaining online will reward bad customer behavior. Instead, customers should toe the line and wait their turn on official support channels.

However, this is silly as typically customers turn to IPVM (or other social media channels) when they have exhausted traditional means. Indeed, if they could just call the manufacturer and get it resolved on a phone call, they would obviously be much better off than submitting a post and hoping that others can help them over the course of days or weeks.

Social media posts are generally a sign of a problem in the manufacturer's traditional support process that prudent manufacturers would want to address and improve upon.

Don't Reward IPVM

The other more specific fear is that some manufacturers do not want to 'reward' IPVM, thinking that helping users who share problems on IPVM will benefit us. This is even sillier.

IPVM 'wins' whether or not manufacturers respond:

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  • If a manufacturer does not respond and we do, we 'win' because their customer and our member feels that we care more about them than the manufacturer.
  • If a manufacturer does respond, we may 'win' but they 'win' too.

Free Marketing for Manufacturers

Ultimately, what is most insane about this approach is that these same manufacturers spend tens of thousands of dollars on trade ads that have questionable readership and even worse impact.

By contrast, a post by an integrator or end user on IPVM saying "I am having problems with Manufacturer X and Manufacturer X won't help me" has far greater (negative) effect than ads that manufacturers pay big money for.

The bottom line is that a manufacturer who responds to a customer complaint is getting themselves free marketing that is easily worth thousands of dollars. By not jumping at the opportunity to respond, manufacturers not only hurt their customer, they damage the brand they spend so much pumping up.

Manufacturers reading this, wouldn't you want to be Samsung in this article - the company that rushed to support their customer within minutes of hearing about a problem posted online?

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