Issues don’t have to start online to go viral: #GASPFail

This scenario is not unique.  One of (no doubt) many examples of poor customer service around the world each day, but this time something’s grabbed and the world is listening.

Glad it’s not your brand?  It could very well be next time.Over the past 24 hours, the #GASPFail phenomenon has been circulating social media channels like wildfire.  It has caused the company involved, GASP Jeans, to go into hyper-damage control, but it’s all too little too late. Two Facebook pages reveal a treasure trove of abuse (example one, example two), Twitter criticism is trending both here and in the US, and blogs are reporting on the failure of another company which fell victim to being unprepared.

Even Perez Hilton has weighed in on the debate.

But this is an incident which started offline and had no ‘social media’ origin until two emails were uploaded to dropbox and the links went viral.

Essentially, GASP’s poor customer service offline has led to severe brand reputation damage online.  It’s unfolding as a public relations nightmare for those watching on.

What we can take from this experience is that you can no longer ignore social media for your business, whether you’re proactive online or not.  As consumers, we don’t distinguish the on- from the offline any more, and businesses should be quick to learn from this lesson.

But while we all sit with mouths open as GASP seems to continue to make matters worse, what could they have done differently and what should other companies be doing to prevent this sort of situation from reoccurring?  Here are a few key steps:

  1. Have a crisis preparedness plan in place that includes an online response process – whether you consider your business to be ‘engaged’ online or not, you can’t ignore your customers
  2. Set up monitoring tools and listen regularly – be aware of the issues affecting your business or industry
  3. Educate your staff and ensure they are aware that their actions representing your business can (and in this case will) have wider implications
  4. Learn about online channels and how people use them – deleting negative comments on Facebook or shutting down branded platforms won’t stop the problem
  5. Be transparent and honest in time of crisis – you can’t hide online and trying to do so will often only spark further interest in your story.

How would you have responded if you were in GASP’s position?  What would you have done differently?

 

This post originally appeared on Sefiani Communications Group’s Blog.

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Comments
2 Responses to “Issues don’t have to start online to go viral: #GASPFail”
  1. Watching the manager’s response on The 7PM Project, the thing that struck me was his ill-fated attempt to defend his staff member.

    The key to issues management is admitting you stuffed up (I have written a blog about that in fact: http://gettingpastpr.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/i-dont-want-your-excuses-i-want-your-solution/ )

    By excusing his moronic staff, he has done the whole company a disfavour. You should defend your people if they are in the right, but not if they have clearly done the wrong thing, by being snarky and rude.

  2. kr says:

    6. Don’t be a jerk on/offline.

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