AntiSocial – Undercurrents of Anger

I had coffee with a friend this morning.  The topic turned to customer experience —  as if often does.  Not only do I do a lot of work in CRM, but I’m planning a new series of podcasts on the topic and I take the opportunity to discuss this every chance I get.

As inevitably happens – he brought out a recent experience where the customer service was appalling.  I’ve heard many of these over the years.  It doesn’t take much prodding and we can all come up with one.  And I want to stress that I’m not talking about simply bad service.  That happens all too frequently to count.  This was appalling service — you’d almost have to try to make it that bad.    In his case, what was promised to be a 24 hour turnaround from a major bank, conveniently done on-line turned into many weeks of trips far out of his way to the only physical location where this business could be done, many phone calls and even with all of this – never a really satisfying conclusion, let alone an apology.

Yet he told it to me, matter of factly, as only one in a history of disappointments.   It was appalling, but nothing special.

Conversations like this have been going on for years in coffee shops all around the world.  But I think something has changed.  I can see it.  We all can see it

In Toronto, where I live, a recent fair hike was handled abysmally by our Transit Commission.   I don’t think there’s any question of it.  Is is a coincidence that a picture of a Transit employee sleeping on the job went viral?  It also sparked a multitude of similar pictures.  Public pressure was so intense that some of the transit workers were considering a work to rule.  That silliness prompted some awful cartoons suggesting that a work to rule would be an improvement in service.   The whole thing threatens yet to spin out of control.

Second case in point.  The Sons of Maxwell, a touring band had a fate that is as old as musicians and flight.  A classic guitar, checked as luggage by a member of the band was thrown and damaged.  If the reports are true, the band member actually saw an employee throwing a guitar.  You have to be brain-dead to not know that throwing a guitar is a bad thing.   It can only be thought of as malicious.

What did the band do?  They complained, certainly and were told that there was nothing that could be done.  So they wrote songs about it.  One of these went viral on youtube and at last count got 7 million hits.  Seven million.   As United Breaks Guitars went into the millions, so did the losses at United Airlines.

What’s unique about these?  Well, you have to remember, this is Canada.  It’s not New York.  We used to be the most polite  nation on the face of the planet.  The old joke was that a Canadian was someone who apologizes when you step on HIS toe.

But you can kiss that s**t goodbye, apparently.  Now if you step on the toes of a Canadian, they’ll shoot you — not with bullets — but with the always ready cell phone camera.  Blame and shame are concealed weapons of choice with Canadians.

Yes, it’s as if we all woke up and discovered that the meak may inherit the earth, but the cranky get revenge.

It’s also no surprise that Canadians are turning to social media to vent that outrage.  We’ve always been the biggest users of social media.  Facebook took off in Toronto.  The groups of Linked In are full of Canadians and Twitter is on fire up here.

Not that we’ve lost our sense of humour.  This is, after all, a nation whose greatest export is comedians – some of America’s funniest are Canadians – Dan Akroyd to Jim Carrey.

When you bring together that sense of outrage, a penchant for comedy and social media a virtual explosion happens.  A recent example?  In a wave of outrage directed at our current Prime Minister, some ingenious sole got the idea of trying to see if an onion ring could have more friends than Stephen Harper, leader of our nation.  Now Stephen has millions to spend on handlers, publicists, web artists  — whatever it takes.  In fact, we seem to have an entire province of millions in population who, if they found Stephen Harper copulating with a sheep would still leap to his defense (as long as it was a girl sheep – he is leader of  a right of centre party).  Yet one lone person with a sense of humour and a social media device was able to trump this and tramp the politician down into the abyss of humiliation.

Last count?  Onion Ring – 80,000 friends.  Harper?  29,000.

Frustration?  Anger?  These are new to Canada, but we’re learning fast.

Someone told me recently that in the US, 20% of people actively hate their cell company.  In Canada?  That number is purported to be more than 60%.  In fact, judging by a recent meeting that a friend was at, it may be more.   When the head of a new upstart cell company was introduced at a recent gathering in Toronto, the audience applauded vigorously at a comment that this new company was going to do some damage to the existing suppliers.

There was an old commercial for tea that ended with the tagline, “Only in Canada?  Pity!”    I don’t think this is a “Made In Canada” phenomenon.   I do think that the fact that the anger has exploded North of the 49th parallel should be a warning sign to companies and even governments.  Canadians are the direct opposite of the the Canary that miners used to take into the coal mines.  These birds were small and sensitive, if they got exposed to gas, they reacted early and gave the miners a chance to escape.

Canadians are more like a tsunami warning device.  By the time you see a sign from them all you can do is get washed away.  It’s simply too late.

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Filed under Commentary, Customers Relationship, Marketing, Sales, Social Networking

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