The power of social media

January 15 2008 by Ellen Roseman

I’m a believer in posting your complaints online, especially when it’s done with a light touch (no name-calling, please). And I’m impressed when I see people set up websites to air their dirty laundry and provoke a response from the company that has done them wrong.

Jeff Jarvis got a rise out of Dell in 2005, when he posted his story on his Buzzmachine blog. He paid his time in Dell Hell and now he thinks the company has come a long way in learning from customers. Heck, he even got Businessweek magazine to pay attention.

Here’s a Canadian example, involving Nick Breau of Fredericton, N.B. His 52-inch TV set, purchased from in 2005, stopped working recently and he couldn’t get it fixed. He sent me an email yesterday morning:

A friend sent me a message that you may have contacts at Best Buy that can help resolve my situation. I have been fighting with Best Buy for the last 4 weeks to get a television serviced under their PSP (personal service plan). So far, all they have offered to do was refund the price I paid for my service plan and not service the set.

Breau knows computer code. So he started a website to express his outrage.

By mid-afternoon yesterday, he had an email from Best Buy, saying he’d get a refund of the $2,300 purchase price. That’s better than the previous offer to give him back the $300 cost of the three-year warranty.

What caused the about-face decision? Maybe his blog — and maybe my sending his email to several Best Buy contacts, asking them to do the right thing. This was one of the swiftest capitulations I have seen.

After reporting his victory at his website, Breau recommended checking the website of a social media expert in the U.S., Jason Falls, who recently gave a talk in Fredericton. I find some of his stuff mystifying to read, but I liked what he said about building brand communities. Something’s happening here.


  1. Jason Falls

    Jan 15 2008

    Another powerful result of social media is when a friend of someone who was in the audience you spoke to links to your website. How pleasant a surprise to see you pointing people my way. Thank you in spades!

    It’s true that social media is changing the way corporations do business. The watercooler talk is now seen by thousands and the Best Buys and Leons of the world had better pay attention or the repercussions of the negativity could adversely effect their businesses for years. Some companies get it. Others fear it. Still others haven’t a clue.

    That’s where folks like me come in. I’m honored (oops, honoured) you would mention me on your blog. Thank you so much and thanks for sparking the conversation about social media here. The more learning that takes place, the better our marketplaces will be, both on-line and off!

  2. Pam Breau

    Jan 15 2008

    I’m an old fogey (must be, I’m Nick’s Mom) and I just think this whole thing is sooo cool. I love learning from my kids!

  3. Ric

    Jan 23 2008

    Although I agree 100% with slamming companies who refuse to listen to a customer or make things right, I also believe that it is important to praise a company or its staff member if expected or exceptional service is received.

    I, like most of the readers and contributors here, have dealt with customer service agents both in Canada and offshore. Although I don’t agree with sending these jobs offshore, I am more than ready to compliment the agent when they do a good job.

    Trouble is that most of the bad customer service comes from companies who first of all do not hire the right agents (either because of attitude or their inability to speak the language of the country they are providing service to) and then not training the agents properly.

    I sometimes think that people criticize agents because they are irritated at even having to call them. This is usually because the company they work for has screwed something up and the first contact with that company is the poor agent who will now receive your wrath !!

    So on a positive side, here are a few agents I have dealt with recently who were great:

    The Palm technical agent in the Philippines, who not only fixed my problem 100% but made me feel good about calling her company.

    The ICICI bank agent in India I called today in order to find out where their customer service centre was for Canadian customers. Answer is that like her, all customer service agents are in India but again she was bright, friendly and well informed about her company’s products.

    The agent at Statistics Canada who explained how their website worked and how to “data mine” the information I wanted. He also added that I should understand that much of the information was misused by politicians to make their point (like how the average wage in Ontario is over $19 per hour).

    And finally the Microsoft customer service agent in China some months ago, who gave 110% when trying to solve my problem (the final solution was to reinstall XP).

    Although there are some really bad customer service people on the other end of our phones, there are also some great ones who need to be complimented for their GREAT service.

    Finally on the subject of Air Canada and baggage.

    Prior to my retirement 3 years ago, I had been flying at least twice a month for over 25 years. I have traveled to 40 of the 50 US states, all of Canada’s provinces and territories and many foreign countries. Not all of those trips were with A.C. but most were.

    In all those trips I have NEVER lost a piece of luggage and on only 2 occasions have had luggage delayed to a later flight. I know it only takes one instance of all your luggage disappearing to make you really upset, but the reality is that most airlines do a great job of getting your bags to the same destination as the passenger. One key to good service is to get to the airport well in advance of your flight. It never ceases to amaze me how some people think that an 8 am departure means you can check in at 7:45.

    Bottom line is if you get good service from an employee, make sure their company knows about it. On the other hand, if it is really bad, be sure to contribute to Ellen’s blog !!

  4. Carole Schmidt

    May 4 2008

    I purchased 4 appliances at Leon’s in Sept. 2001. Within 3 months, my fridge, a GE Profile, had major problems with the freezer portion. After 2 different technicians came to “repair” the fridge, it was finally replaced.

    I now have extreme problems with my front loading tumble action washer Frigidaire Gallery, model GLTF1240AS0.

    The bearings are shot and the oil is leaking inside the tumbler and is ruining my clothes, notwithstanding the fact that during the final spin, the noise level has always been like a helicopter was in the house and my neighbours feel there is an earthquake as everything vibrates in their apartment. On the front panel of my washer in lovely dark grey letters are the words “sound silencer”.

    After the initial shock of finding all my whites were smeared with oil, I called the manufacturer and was told that I had to wipe the rubber inside the washer door opening after every load. Of course the problem seemed to be solved when I did that and I continued to wash. Now the oil spill is reaching epidemic proportions and countless items have been ruined.

    I have never heard of anyone having this problem and there is no mention of such a thing on the internet. I believe this is a manufacturing error and the maker is responsible for this even if the warranty is over, after all the washer is just 5½ years old.

    Have you ever heard anything about this kind of problem? I will be calling the manufacturer tomorrow.

    Thank you.