MT Masterclass: Cyber-bullying (of business)

What is it? This interweb palaver really is getting out of hand. Not only are some of your customers proving to be hard to please and ungrateful, but they are displaying this ingratitude in full public glare, on blogs, on 'suck sites' where your good name and reputation are besmirched, in chat rooms, and in all other forms of so-called 'social media'. 'Web 2.0' heralds the inversion of the traditional power relationship between businesses and their customers. Today, the little guy, armed with a PC and a broadband connection, can take on the (corporate) world.

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Where did it come from? There have always been graffiti, the anonymous protests of unseen scribblers trying to hit back at the powerful without getting caught. Customer complaints departments came into being to snuff out the flame of protest and dissatisfaction before it could do damage. But in those good old days, mere word of mouth was limited to a street or, in the worst case, a town or district. You used to be able to stop a campaign in its tracks by controlling the flow of information. Now a slur is halfway around the world before the customer complaints staff have got their trousers on.

Where is it going? Customers are as mad as hell and they are not going to take it any more - and they're equipped to do something about it. Scary. So the onus is on business to listen more carefully to the voices of legitimate concern. If you don't, then the internet army of the discontented will soon be on the march against you. The headmaster in Alan Bennett's 1968 play Forty Years On says: 'I am all in favour of free expression, provided it is kept rigidly under control.' But he hadn't heard of the internet.

Fad quotient (out of 10) Need you ask? A perfect 10.

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