The problem within a little knowledge is that people risk making big decisions from it

This week my brand has been dealing with a minor PR crisis. Nothing untoward, but the board got a little twitchy and asked for 24/7 social media monitoring to be introduced. Their fears were heightened when they saw two tweets and three blog posts from customers critical of a change in service that we had made.

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I tried to make the case that with half a million customers, five negative comments on social media, while a heads-up, was unlikely to represent the mood of all of our customers but the board was unconvinced.

The problem with a little knowledge is that people risk making big decisions off the back of it. Members of the board had heard that social media is ‘the real customer voice’, so must be listened to. They failed to appreciate that the type of customer who comments online is likely to represent an extreme and that the underlying stats around service performance, customer satisfaction and sales data, are more representative than five lone voices.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that any symptom of customer dissatisfaction is helpful feedback; and I accept that social media is more immediate and will highlight issues more saliently than other measures, but it needs to be put into context.

Take the debate about Scottish self-rule. In 12 months’ time, the Scottish people will have a referendum to decide whether Scotland should be an independent country. While this is important for those living in the north of what is currently Great Britain, has anyone asked the 50 million or so people living south of the border, whether they want Scotland to remain part of Great Britain? If they were, it would be interesting to know the response, as it may not be as favourable as some may think.

The point is that in making decisions, we need to consider input from many quarters and to contextualise that input. Too many knee-jerk decisions have been made and as marketers it is our role to be insightful and independent. While passion should be in all of our hearts, we don’t all need to do an impression of Mel Gibson’s character in Braveheart.


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