Does your organization have a Facebook page where a customer can either "Like" or become "Friends"? Nowadays businesses are either riding the social media train or stranded at the depot. Clients and customers love the personal touch and having the ability to comment on an issue; the problem arises however, when no one from the company responds back or follows up on a complaint, lack of service, or even a social issue.
Statistically the majority of Facebook posts and Tweets remain unanswered. Of course, if the news media grabs onto something particularly egregious, the firestorm rages on, but in general customers just fade away because no one ever responds. As we live in a technologically advancing world where even seven-year-old children carry smart phones, social consciousness becomes a major factor when building brand loyalty and increasing the number of new customers referred by existing customers.
Recently the Northface clothing company, a high end organization of outerwear was singled out by one of the humane organizations for purchasing and using duck down for their coats and vests that had been purchased from a company who participated in the especially cruel practice of raising ducks for foie gras. If you're not familiar with the ongoing contentious issue, geese or ducks are fattened artificially by inserting metal tubes down their throats and fed enormous helpings of maize to fatten up their livers. Foie gras is considered a delicacy and commonly sells in excess of $30.00 an ounce. At first Northface ignored the comments on their Facebook page, but as irrefutable evidence of Allied Feather and Down being one of their suppliers who support the foie gras industry, Northface needed to address the issue. Finally on February 20, the organization posted an update stating they did not condone the practice of force-feeding geese, apologized and regretted not having "greater insight into the origins of down" and were working to find long-term solutions to avoid sourcing down. The company now claims to have organized a Down Task Force establishing a traceability system of new procedures.
In another example of a growing social consciousness, Lancome (L'Oreal) still tests finished products on animals; another especially cruel practice when photos of suffering dogs, cats, rabbits and even mice are posted all over Facebook and other related media outlets. It is interesting to note that by 2013 all animal testing for cosmetics will be banned across the European Union. A few weeks ago I posted on the Lancome Facebook page and asked why they were still using live animals. My first post was deleted, but the second time I received a reply denying that animals were still being used, but also directing me to a press release link explaining that the company was working on alternative skin testing methods.
There's no doubt that companies need to continue working on their social media listening skills because the Internet is not going away. Customer service representatives need to establish reasonable policies aligned with their brand in a social conscious world where information is no farther away than typing in the word "Google". We live in an ever emerging mindset of sustainable products and new moralities. While we all strive to make a living and produce the best products at the best prices, the world has changed and more customers demand more answers.