We live in a digital age of high expectations and instant gratification. Disappointment in a service can be rapidly spread online, yet the same tools can be used to ensure customer satisfaction.
Radiohead understands this, Vodafone has no idea.
The last year has seen Vodafone Australia lurch from one PR disaster to the next. Their main selling advantage, low prices and cheap data bundles, has led to their biggest problem – too many customers for an under-serviced network. As a result data access can be unreliable or non-existent in areas where you’d expect to be able to have good data access.
Vodafone’s initial response was to ignore the problem and growing number of complaints with a “nothing to see here” PR approach. That was until 23 year old student Adam Limo decided to launch his crusade against Vodafone’s awful service with his now famous #Vodafail campaign. #Vodafail lit a fuse that the telecommunications giant could no longer ignore as the media coverage spiraled out of control. It led to Vodafone CEO Nigel Dews acknowledging they had let their customers down and they were working hard to address network coverage. They also began allowing customers to break their contracts without penalty if they complained hard enough.
Last weekend Vodafone’s latest PR distaster erupted when their SMS system failed, preventing customers to send messages at Easter, one of the biggest holidays of the year. Social media sites were flooded with anti-Vodafone messages.
Vodafone then showed how out of touch they are with their customer base by offering a day of free SMS on 1 May to make up for the glitch. Problem is that most Vodafone customers already have free SMS as part of their contract so it wasn’t much of an offer. This actually added volatile fuel to the fire and Vodafone spent the next few days trending world-wide on Twitter with the #vodafail tag. Not good PR.
Contrast this with my favourite band Radiohead. As I have blogged previously, here and here, these guys understand modern marketing and communication. They understand their customers (audience) and make every post a winner.
Following the successful release in 2007 of In Rainbows via a unique online offer to “pay what you want” (alleged average price was around $10AUD) the band once again went to the web to launch their newest album King of Limbs, this time offering several different packages and prices.They even released it 24 hours earlier than promised to the delight of their fans. Under promise, over deliver.
Being a fan, I ordered the full “Newspaper” package which allowed me to download the album immediately several months ago but also receive the full kit in May.
Since then the band have kept fans up to date on the progress of the “Newspaper” package right up to today when I received an email from Radiohead saying, “We thought you’d like to know that production was quicker than we had anticipated, so we are now sending you your copy of The King Of Limbs Newspaper Edition.” It then goes on to advise anticipated delivery times around the world.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the package has already shipped and we receive it sooner. That’s how Radiohead work.
In the meantime conspiracies theories have been rampant online (possibly encouraged subtly by the band) and amongst fans that the initial release of King of Limbs is only half the album and many suspect the full “Newspaper” package will contain more than we expect. If so, this has been brilliant viral marketing. If not, it was just a theory and the band have never officially promised any more.
It doesn’t end there. A few weeks ago Radiohead released a limited edition 12-inch vinyl record with 2 new songs for the international Record Store Day promotion. Fans lined up at independent stores around the world to get their hands on the rare EP and hear the new music. Alas, most, like myself, missed out.
But once again Radiohead understand their customers and a few days later an email arrived in my inbox inviting me to download the new songs for free. OK it wasn’t the limited edition EP but we got the new tunes. It was free and it was totally unexpected. The bond with the band grows stronger yet again. No wonder their concert tours sell out in minutes.
The digital world makes it so easy to quickly respond and satisfy customers. It means that communication can be instant and inexpensive. We expect it but we’re still delighted when people do it right.
Seems to me that Vodafone executives should arrange a meeting with the Radiohead team to learn how to provide better customer service.