What are the implications of System Graph taking a customer to court for complaining on the social web, and what can we learn? Gill Grassie, a partner and Head of IP & Technology Group with Maclay Murray & Spens LLP, explores.
MyCustomer.com took a voxpop of opinions on the case - here are a selection of the opinions:
- "Freedom of speech is freedom of speech. If you feel you got bad service and can tell enough people about it, then do it. Right now, Twitter provides an asymmetric advantage to the disgruntled, because it is real-time, global and has more members than most countries. Taking this to court, rather than solving the problem one-to-one is possibly one of the most moronic courses of action since Steve Jobs retired. They used to say, do not pick fights with the press barons who buy ink by the barrowful – now it is anyone with a grievance and an iPad. As the Twitterati would say, for the marketing department, this is a FAIL." Paul Maher, director, positive marketing
- "Much recent research has shown that consumers are somewhat ‘privacy blind’ on social networking sites, not feeling that their contribution is as public as it often is and rarely feeling exposed. If this new case results in the customer being successfully sued over their online complaint, it poses a question about their vulnerability in a format that may seem to the consumer as a modern day equivalent of a conversation between friends – this may herald the start of new phase in the lifecycle of social media making consumers much more wary of their online comments than they have been in the past. The risk is that this case will spark a change in how consumers share their thoughts and opinions via social media and as a result could backfire for businesses, who will lose out on opportunities to engage with their customers, at particularly critical moments and through a medium which has an almost uniquely powerful effect on encouraging consumers to openly share their feelings, experiences - and frustrations." Amy Hawthorn, project director, Sundance.
- "If System Graph is successful in its court action there could be serious repercussions for Twitter. The Chambers case has probably made most of us a little more wary about the language we use in our tweets. Adding to Twitter’s troubles, there is now a looming threat from the Newspaper Licensing Authority to enforce its copyright over links to online articles. If Dr Papadimitriadis were to suffer a 200,000 euro fine for moaning about his supplier, we could soon find Twitter populated only with reports of what people had for breakfast." Xanthe Vaughan Williams, director, Fourth Day PR
- "Let’s be clear, it is highly unlikely that System Graph will win the case. But if by some miracle they do it will not have any impact of how customer service is managed by reputable companies. If used properly social media provides a powerful tool for delivering great customer service. But whatever the communications channel suing your customer could never be described as best practice." Matt Lynch, partner, Insight Exchange
- "Dimitris obviously felt he wasn’t receiving the support he expected from the System Graph and so, like millions of other internet users, he took to the only medium in which consumers appear to have a voice – the internet. He is not the first to air negative feedback online, nor will he be the last and System Graph has made a fundamental error in taking legal action against him. As the story has gained momentum it has prompted individuals to form a negative opinion on a company they hadn’t previously heard of – and has become a case study of how not to deal with online complaints. I don’t anticipate that this case will have a negative impact on the way in which consumers voice complaints online, I think the only change will be how businesses choose to engage with these complaints; a welcome change for many consumers." Bob Pike, COO, SITEFORUM
- “It seems madness that System Graph should take this action, and I don't believe other companies will follow suit." Tamara Littleton, CEO, eModeration
- "Trying to suppress a customer complaint through the courts is ludicrously heavy-handed and simply draws attention to the complaint. Consumers will not tolerate this type of oppressive behaviour." Richard Ilsley, founder, Synogis
After two decades of experience working as a journalist and editor covering business and technology, including over 15 years as editor of MyCustomer, Neil now works as senior content manager at skills-based workforce management platform provider Spotted Zebra. ...