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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Is a public 'Outburst' on Social Media ever Necessary?

Bharat Thakrar vs RMA Kenya

On Monday morning, Scangroup CEO Bharat Thakrar was not having an awesome Mashujaa Day as every other Kenyan is assumed to have been. He was upset because his top of the range Range Rover was spending too much time at RMA. He tweeted:

He went on:

RMA is the official Jaguar and Land Rover franchise holder in Kenya. Land Rover makes the * magnet that is Range Rover.
Anyways, RMA, specifically it's customer care representative on Twitter, was having a great time. S/he first informed Mr Thakrar that RMA CEO has tried the Scangroup CEO on phone, albeit in vain. On this day, guys were at home putting families first.
The following tweet then suggested what he ought to do with the rest of the day.

Note: The tweet depicted in the above image has since been removed.

At this point, Bharat Thakrar reminded RMA that he runs a digital, public relations, and communications business.

This story was then reported on Daily Nation and elsewhere on the web. It elicited a Twitter storm where the usual Kenyans on Twitter, #KOT had much fun with the back and forth. At some point, a competing dealer of premium vehicles was brought into the 'conversation'.

Click to enlarge image

And here is a warning to those interested in buying a Range Rover:

Eventually, RMA Kenya tweeted this:
RMA Kenya CEO also responded in this Daily Nation article, saying:

"None of our other high profile customers have ever resorted to discussing their issues and slating us in the public arena. Generally owners of these type of vehicles (and we have many delighted such customers) are private, discreet and very friendly."

What I find interesting is the thrust of the article:
In this rejoinder, RMA stops short of calling Mr Thakrar a hostile customer out to besmirch the dealership's good name. RMA also took issue with Mr Thakrar, saying that none of its high-end clientele had ever taken their issues with the motor dealer public.

Mr Sanjiv is also happy with the publicity Mr Thakrar has garnered for them, terming this a bitter-sweet moment for the company.

All said and done, Bharat Thakrar is now a happy man:

Safety in numbers and moral support?

The above has made me consider the growing use of social media in business and customer handling.Simply scrolling through the social media timelines of companies that daily deal with the general public such as banks, the power utility, telecommunication firms and media houses shows just how impassioned some users are in complaining to all and sundry.

It even gets worse when other users join in a la rabid dogs, many with scanty information on the matter at hand and launch personal attacks on either or totally unrelated parties in a dispute. This was one such attempt to address a very genuine issue but at a most inappropriate time and place:
It seems to me that mob psychology, and the invincibility that many wallow in while hiding under usernames and avatars on the Internet finds its best manifestation on social networks. It is in such fora on the web where many get the balls guts to say to others they may not like, the one thing they can never say to them in public.

In the Daily Nation article above RMA questioned Bharat Thankrar's reason for raising his concerns in public through his Twitter "outburst", unlike other high profile clients. Whereas I do not hold brief for the Scangroup CEO, the fact that he enjoined AlyKhan Satchu in his initial tweet who to my best knowledge does not work at or represent RMA Motors points to a desire that friends on Twitter (popularly known as tweeps) to pick on a story, retweet or voice an opinion perhaps and thus enhance the gravity of any complaint, genuine or otherwise.

As expected, others soon joined in the fray and soon, the conversation went out of hand and eventually became a trending topic across the web.
Most of what those #KOT who joined in tweeted was, however, not at all relevant to the issue at hand.

Do we just love to complain publicly?

Consider the following post on Wazua:

It seems to me that we are too quick to post things on the Internet, something that recently informed the Think Before you Click post in CCM Midweek Digest.

In Public Interest

At times, I do feel that it becomes necessary to share a concern with a company or organization that deals with others in the belief that a particular issue is in public interest. By this, I mean that same issue may be something others may also be going through. Additionally, addressing the issue at hand in public may directly or otherwise benefit members of the public.

Care should however be taken to avoid creating the impression that one is deliberately tarnishing a company's image on the Internet or actively disparaging those persons (yes, it is humans with real feelings) who handle the social media customer care centers.

Yet another reason to engage publicly on a personal matter would be when all else has failed.
Some months ago, I had a situation where I received many spam texts on a daily basis from a premium information services provider. After several unsuccessful requests to my service provider to unsubscribe me from said service, I resorted to airing my grievances on Twitter in addition to an Email copied to CoFEK, the ICT Authority, CCK and the service provider. CoFEK went ahead and published my complaint online.

These are the texts I received in under 5 hours in one day:

Only after this matter was addressed publicly did it receive due attention and conclusively sorted out.

At the end of the day, what matters is what every person participating in any online discourse hopes to achieve through their words and whatever they may be construed to mean.

I end with one of my favorite quotes which I keep seeing every time I read through the topics on Wazua:

"I am only responsible for what I say,  
Not for what you understand."

 But as an experienced communication specialist such as Bharat Thakrar will most likely tell you:

Communication is about what they hear, not what you say

Have a great Wednesday guys!