Q&A: Eric Roach, chief executive, XYDO

  • Read our feature on why brands should be wary of the rise of consumer espionage, here
  • “To catch a thief, it takes a thief” find out why from an ex-hacker, here
  • Discover the attributes of a customer-obsessed company, here
  • “Consumers are much more likely to listen to a message from each other in social media terms than they are from a brand” says Mumsnet co-founder, read more here

Marketing Week (MW): How can brands best protect themselves from consumer espionage online?

Eric Roach (ER): When a complaint arises, companies should immediately address that concern and turn a disgruntled customer into a company advocate. Online conversations will happen about your brand whether you participate or not.

MW: How can brands best avoid a backlash by consumers in the social media space concerning their behaviour or policies?

ER: When interacting in the social media space, it’s important for companies to be transparent and authentic. Nothing will upset the online world quicker than an organisation that comes across as disingenuous.

If a company is being criticised in the social media space, then the best strategy is to admit fault, reveal the steps that are being taken to fix the problem, listen and interact as much as possible.

Companies should also consider consulting with their online constituents prior to large announcements or new product launches. After all, active online customers can serve as a “free focus group” that can help brands avoid potential pitfalls.

MW: How should brands handle consumer espionage in the social media space?

ER: A brand’s social media representative should interact and address concerns as much as possible. However, if a customer is acting irrationally and abusively within an online setting, it’s often best to ignore those comments and move on to more sincere questions and concerns being raised.

MW: Is consumer espionage in the online space particularly dangerous because of its ability to spread news fast and worldwide?

ER: If a brand is attacked on any media platform, then it can be quite damaging. However, online attacks can be particularly dangerous as they’re often not moderated or fact-checked and are solely opinion-based. The viral nature of these attacks can extend the life of a negative story.

Brands can’t afford to not spend time becoming familiar with their audience. It makes sense that if you are going to sell a product or service, you need to understand those who will one day purchase or use it.

MW: Which brands find it hardest to deal with consumer criticism of their behaviour online?

ER: Those that are heavily regulated by the government or which risk potential litigation as a result of what would be considered transparent communication. For example, a healthcare or insurance provider can’t directly comment on a customer’s complaint about their treatment without, in some cases, risking a violation of legal restrictions.

MW: Do you expect this to change as brands become more familiar with online platforms?

ER: Many brands in various industries are realising the impact social media has on their business. As this realisation increases and more social media tools become available, companies will become much savvier in managing and protecting their brand image in online settings.

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