The internet is about 2 way communication. A company that “broadcasts” but doesn’t enter into a dialog runs the risk of alienating their customers and appearing authoritarian.
Recently a bit of an online dispute arose when a local representative from a security company failed to adequately respond to some criticism from members of community mailing list that I’m on… not only did he fail, but when the pressure got too much he just disappeared and stopped responding to the list members questions.
Then a few days later the regional GM of the security company wrote a response, but instead of joining the list and posting as himself, ie. embracing dialog, he chose to ask one of the list moderators to post the email on his behalf. That undermines the dialog since no one knows whether he will ever read the replies.
While he did address some of the issues and make promises to meet with community, his email generally felt a lot like something between a press release and damage control. It was impersonal and failed to address all the complaints.
However, my biggest criticism of the communication was the GM’s suggestion that people submit their issues or complaints in writing directly to the local representative instead of airing them on a public forum and asking for public response.
This is where I get up on my angry horse and start shouting. That’s the “old way”… this is the “new way”. In the “old way” you could tell each customer who complained “We’re sorry you had that experience but no one else is having a problem so it must be an isolated incident“… The “old way” isn’t going to work any more, and the more companies try and push people back to the “old way”, the more they’ll think you have something to hide.
The good news is that a company who embraces the “new way” can reap the rewards. If you respond on a public forum to one person’s issue you’re actually communicating with the entire group in a personal manner, and they all walk away thinking you’re a good guy who answers their questions and deals with their issues, even if you weren’t actually responding to a question they asked.
It remains to be seen what the fallout from this issue is, but it certainly isn’t having a positive effect on the company’s sales… especially since I need to decide which security company to use in a months time.