When Customer Feedback is like Drinking from the Firehose

phone as social media toolLast night, I was talking on the phone with my best friend from high school.  She refuses to join Facebook – despite the fact that about 1/4 of the members of our graduating class are communing there and despite considerable pressure from friends who still live close by for her to join the social media revolution.

My friend cited an interesting anecdote as a compelling reason for not joining Facebook .  A woman in her social circle was having serious marital problems and was considering divorce.  Despite the fact that this woman had set her Facebook profile to “private” – one of her friends posted a well meaning “wall to wall” communication which effectively broadcast as fact the possibility that this woman would soon be  filing for divorce.  This news quickly  jumped”offline” as church members and co-workers who were friends of Facebook started burning up the telephone lines with this juicy piece of gossip.  This is how my friend found out – via an “old school” social media tool: the telephone.

So my friend’s reasoning for not joining Facebook is simple:  there’s no way for her to control her privacy there because there’s no way to control what other people are saying there.  Even though my friend can control what she says – she can’t control what others say and that is reason enough for her to “sit out” when it comes to joining the social media revolution online.

While my friend can decide to “opt out” of the whole social media game to preserve her online reputation – it’s not an option for business owners.  When you make a sale to a blogger – ready or not, your business must be prepared to enter the wild, wonderful world of social media.

Long ago, you could tell yourself that because customers weren’t calling, they didn’t have any complaints.  However, it’s important to note that your customers have NEVER contacted you first when they were unhappy with your product or service.  They have ALWAYS bitched to their friends and family first.  The first course of action has NEVER been to pick up the phone to call the company.

What’s new now is how easy it is to spread the word via social media.

In the days of picking up the phone to communicate, the tales of customer mistreatment would have to be carried one person at a time – like leaky buckets of water. Today – social media can carry those tales of customer service and deliver them with incredible intensity.

I’m not saying your business has to be perfect to thrive in this new world of social media.  No person – no business – is perfect.  None of us is able to deliver 100% perfection in the world of customer service.

With that said, it takes a LOT to frustrate a customer to the point of  investing the time and expense Dave Carroll did when he created a social media shit storm with the “United Breaks Guitars” music video.  That wasn’t the result of a single “dropped the ball” in the customer service department.. it was the result of consistent and blatant disrespect of the customer.

Fortunately for Dave Carroll – he was creative enough to create a music video.  Two years ago when a woman was frustrated by Comcast’s blatant lack of respect – she went berserk with a hammer in the Comcast offices.  A new meaning emerged for the term “Comcastic“.  Instead of meaning a satisfied cable customer, the word began to take on a new meaning –

“willing to delay or deny services to which customers are entitled.”

Is it any wonder that Comcast no longer USES that term as part of their marketing message?

When these tales strike a collective nerve –  instead of receiving customer feedback one glass of water at a time – a business can be overwhelmed by a flood of customer feedback.  This flood of feedback can be overwhelming –  almost like trying to take a drink from a fire hose.

I’ll illustrate this with a clip from the movie UHF from the twisted mind of Weird Al-


  1. Kathy,

    I can completely understand your friend’s strong decision against Facebook and social media as a whole. It’s scary what others can find out about you without yourself even being aware, and then it becomes a viral epidemic!

    I could say a couple of bad things about Comcast, but will refuse with all the commotion they are constantly receiving.

    You are quite right tho- it’s hard to handle a flood of complaints at once. Wouldn’t life be so easy if it could be handled one at a time, but with this online revolution – that becomes quite impossible. There must always be eyes and ears to see what others are saying about your business, both negative and positive.

    – Daniel
    .-= Daniel Pry´s last undefined ..If you register your site for free at =-.

  2. Daniel – One thing I will give my old time BFF- she’s making an INFORMED decision. She’s carefully considered the pros – and the cons of participation in social media.

  3. Hi Kathy – And so, I’m confused…wouldn’t there be even less control over what people are saying about you on FB if you weren’t around to monitor it? Or am I missing something. Seems to me your friend’s example was really an inevitability.
    .-= Betsy Wuebker´s last blog ..PASSING THRU: A YEAR =-.

  4. What my friend is hoping to avoid is someone MAKING a comment on her profile which would expose personal information.

    Which happens. There are a LOT of people who don’t seem to realize that when you write “wall to wall” that EVERYONE can see it!

    I’ve had that happen to me MORE than a few times. I’ve written to someone “privately” on Facebook – and instead of replying or clicking on the relatively small “Send Kathy a message” link under my smiling face – they’ve written on my wall.

    Amongst my “blogging buddies” there – no, that kind of stuff NEVER happens. Amongst my high school classmates – yes. I recently had someone “check up on me” via my wall. I didn’t realize it until I replied – and saw it front and center on my wall!!!

    So that’s her concern – which as a teacher, she can choose to “opt” out. However, as for me – I’ve GOT to be there to do exactly what you’ve said – monitor and “protect” the brand that is me!:)

  5. Hi Kathy. I thought the same thing as Betsy. We can’t stop gossip no matter where or what the source; it still spreads like wildfire. I don’t know a lot about Facebook. I chose to not go there because of time constraints. I’m guessing that at least on Facebook she would be more likely to find out about the gossip and have the opportunity to deal with it. As opposed to those snide whispers behind her back.

    I do understand that the “juice” can be spread quicker over social media, though it is obviously not what we want to have happen. But on the upside, there is the advantage that it can be turned around with there being more opportunity to undo the damage using social media.
    .-= Davina´s last blog ..Come Alive with Favourite Music =-.

  6. To me, the wall-to-wall isn’t that different from betraying trust at a party. In that sense Facebook isn’t new.

    However your friend is right that a broadcast on FB is more public, more loud, more permanent than the party.

    It’s like when we used to dub songs on cassette tape. You could steal songs but the quality degraded on every copy so soon it petered out. The song can’t travel too far.

    But now a little comment is like an mp3 — it can be seen a million times with perfect fidelity.

    In that sense I feel for her. I agree about joining the revolution but it is sad that it enables certain negative things to happen. I guess all revolutions are like that, and we just need to learn how to navigate.
    .-= Jason Cohen´s last blog ..Tips for increasing software conversions, parts 1 & 2 =-.

  7. Jason – I think part of the problem is that new users just don’t understand the “rules”. Like you said – it’s a revolution. Bloodshed is inevitable. Learning to navigate is the task at hand.