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August 25, 2005

Who deals with bloggers, media relations or customer service?

Stephen Baker

Here's BW Online's story on Jeff Jarvis's campaign against Dell.

My question: Is this a lesson for how companies should deal with bloggers? Or simply with big bloggers? Jarvis, after all, launched nothing less than a media campaign against Dell, one that spread to hundreds of other blogs. 386 by this count at IceRocket. But compare that to this blog post that complains of a problem with an HP printer. That seems more the domain of customer relations. But why dwell on these differences? We're heading into a world where customer and media relations are merging.

07:29 AM

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? The New PR: Blog Monitoring for Media & Customer Service Issues from Weblogs Work

Stephen Baker at BusinessWeek?? Blogspotting asks of the Jarvis/Dell kerfluffle:

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?? PR Mash-Up Redux. from Media Guerrilla

Who deals with bloggers, media relations or customer service? That was the question Steve Baker put on the table earlier today, sparked by ongoing chatter around Jeff Jarvis and his war of words with Dell. The heart of Baker?? question [Read More]

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?? ON "DELL HELL" TREND EVOLVING INTO "COMPANY X HELL" from *michael parekh on IT*

CRIES IN THE DARKNESS My last post made reference to the recent trend of prominent bloggers complaining about computer problems directly to the vendors via their blogs. The trend got kicked off by A-list blogger Jeff Jarvis a few weeks ago complaining ... [Read More]

Tracked on August 27, 2005 03:18 PM

Both media relations and customer service should be part a Corporate Communications and Customer Service department. This deparment's role should be guide, co-ordinate and enable all other parts of the organisation to improve every aspect of its communication and customer service. We need to see a long-term culture shift within organisations so that every colleague understands that ultimately every action has a role on customer service.

Posted by: Stuart Bruce at August 25, 2005 08:05 AM

It seems to me that the otherwise obsolete public relations team :-) (see the ongoing debate on my site) should be managing something like what's going on in the blogosphere relating to the firm. That you didn't add them to the list actually reaffirms my position that PR, as most business people think about it, is dead.

But that's another posting.

I would say that as the Dell blogger situation degraded that customer service should have jumped in and made the situation right. Somehow.

If the blogger was with a major blog network or otherwise was trying to get at the problem from a perspective other than the classic blog-as-diary, then media relations could ostensibly get involved, but I think it's a bit of a risky stance to say that all blogs are ersatz media and that therefore the media relations team should be involved in all blog issues.

So that's my answer and I'm sticking with it: the PR team should already be tracking the blogosphere for problems and success stories related to the company, then customer service should get involved in the interest of resolving the problem, and finally media relations if it's a blog that's more of a publication and/or as media spotlight blogs (like gizmodo, for example) pick up on the story.

Posted by: Dave Taylor at August 25, 2005 10:08 AM

The title poses a good question. Another good question in the post is: "why dwell on these differences? We're heading into a world where customer and media relations are merging."

Reasons to dwell on the differences include the following. The differences are already embedded in many organizations: public relations and customer relations are different departments. (Hmmm...). Although we're heading into a world where hybrids like "citizen journalists" are common, we're not there yet. There is a difference between a customer who posts a complaint on a blog that few people read, and Jeff Jarvis.

On the other hand... but this is a comment, not a post of my own, and I haven't finished sweeping the dog hair off the floor.

Posted by: Andrew at August 25, 2005 10:32 AM

My two cents:

CRM/Customer service to solve personal complaints.

PR to manage brand threats.

Both departments should monitor the "conversation" of several blogs but just one dept have to act, to avoid duplicities.

Posted by: Octavio Isaac Rojas Ordu??a at August 25, 2005 10:45 AM

I guess that the discussion over corporate blogging should be about the customer and not the CEO or employees blogging. Where are the customer service blogs, Blogspotting?

Posted by: Jim Dermitt at August 25, 2005 11:25 AM

To counteract the PR is dead hype, PR is changing with these type of events - hey, just like any industry changes with the times. And, it's not media relations - that's just one part of PR.

I wrote back in March that customer service is just a part of corporate messaging - http://pop-pr.blogspot.com/2005/03/customer-service-is-corporate.html - and Mike Manuel recently noted that customer service and public relations need to be more aligned - http://mmanuel.typepad.com/media_guerrilla/2005/08/pr_remixed_or_m.html.

The Dell incidence shows that PR needs to be aware of how customer service is handling issues, and that PR needs to be tracking blogs. But, where is that line drawn? Do you jump through hoops each time a blogger posts something negative, or do you weigh the options, and try to figure out what the end game is for the blogger.

Posted by: Jeremy Pepper at August 25, 2005 01:38 PM

Steve, I'm writing this as someone who spent four years in the CS trenchs - everything from taking calls to training agents to managing them. This issue is one that upper management can't even see happening. And it's not only a "blogging" issue - the entire way that companies see their customers' needs is the issue.

The first thing that should happen is a recognition that customers don't want service - they want to solve a specific problem. That might be a technical issue, an account issue, or a personal issue. It doesn't matter - that's why they've contacted the company. To solve a problem. So forget a customer relations or customer service department - we need customer success departments.

In my experience, a customer isn't going to blog about an issue unless the escalation path hasn't worked for them. The customer success department needs to help the customer succeed before it even gets to that point.

Now by this time, the customer has most likely dealt with a primary agent, a level 2 agent, and a cs "coach" or supervisor - representing at least 3 calls, with the voice response system trying to direct them to the website each time. By this point, assuming that all three of the people (or any of them) are competent, it's pretty clear that CS can't help the customer solve the problem.

It is extremely doubtful that marcom or pr is going to be able to solve the problem for the customer. Indeed, if the problem is a personal one of expectations, marketing may have created the problem in the first place. This is perhaps more common than people are aware of. The solution is better communication between the techs and the marketers, and by noting trends, the cs folks can mediate that.

If it is a technical problem, the issue likely needs to be addressed by engineering - and the customer thanked for bringing it to the company's attention. (This should have been identified earlier, of course).

If it is a fulfillment issue, then there is a problem with the supply chain. It may be a relatively minor glitch (a box got lost in shipping, customer got a DOA, etc.) or a major one (hundreds of customers get DOAs, hundreds of customers get wrong shipments). In these cases, CS should be tracking their escalated issues and giving trend reports back to management, so that the appropriate department is aware of, and can solve, the problem.

Involving pr or marcom or media relations assumes that the important problem is the company's. The important problem is the customer's, and until that focus is shifted and the right people (those who can solve the problem) are involved, this kind of situation will be more common.

Posted by: Greg Burton at August 25, 2005 03:06 PM

Media relations, PR, marketing, customer service, product management, brand management, product development, QA and sales all need to listen to what customers are saying. But customers want answers, communicated clearly. Occasionaly the best person at a company to do that will come out of a communicatations background but most often, the best person to provide answers is going to come from customer service or product management. That doesn't mean that media relations and PR aren't important - they can be critical if they put themselves in the position to add value. They can make the rest of the company aware of the issues and get the right people in front of the customer quickly to deliver answers or share information that customers and other bloggers are looking for.

Posted by: Julie Woods at August 25, 2005 03:27 PM

"i hear the train a coming...."

yep. it will all be different for many companies once they understand the power of 1 million blog posts per day. that's potentially 1 million voices either praising or damning the company.

they will either partake in the conversation or pay the price. reading Dell's corporate speak, they haven't learned the lesson. they are already well documented for the shoddy methods of treating their suppliers. their assuming they can treat individual customers in the same manner will eventually exact the toll.

however, that toll will take a long time. Dell is well entrenched in corporate, government, education and server sales. don't be terribly surprised if they eventually pull away from direct to consumer PC selling. clearly, it's a changing environment and they may simply decide to not play. IBM divested from PCs, so the precedent is certainly there....Jarvis won a skirmish. A war is a much different playing field.

Posted by: jbr at August 26, 2005 12:06 AM

Whoever gets blogging in an organization should be the person assigned to blogger relations, IMO.

Posted by: Amy Bellinger at August 26, 2005 08:07 AM

You spieled: "We're heading into a world where customer and media relations are merging."

I thought that was a very interesting point.

Since, I've seen two sites that I thought contributed to the discussion.

1) The new PR ( http://communicationnation.blogspot.com/2005/08/new-pr.html )

"If you??e a communication professional, there?? no doubt that the media landscape is shifting under your feet ?some would say it’s turning to quicksand, where no footing or approach feels secure."

2) The site he links to: NewPRWiki ( http://www.thenewpr.com/wiki/pmwiki.php/Main/About )

"a repository of relevant information about how the PR practice is changing"

Posted by: Busty at August 28, 2005 04:28 PM


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