So two days ago (4th April 2016) I wrote a short article about how Maxis (a local Malaysian telco brand) had managed to antagonise thousands of its customers with just one very misguided post. That article has now received over 40,000 views. Yay for me, nay for Maxis!

I wrote the article purely to highlight what a terrible, yet elementary mistake the brand had made from a social media point of view. It was in no way meant to discredit Maxis as a quality telco. In fact my original intention for this follow up article was to argue why all the thousands of customers who were now planning of porting out from Maxis and switching to the competitors should think carefully before doing so and not be guided purely by emotions. After all Maxis generally provides very good coverage and data speeds, and their service is certainly at the higher levels. The competitors are no better. And although they may have better prices now, they behave in the same way when it comes to selective pricing and special deals to save customers from leaving them.

So what is a good deal today with Celcom or Digi will end up being a ” oh my god I can’t believe you were ripping me off all these years” tomorrow when Maxis launches a better plan.

However, when i did a little poking around on the internet I was amazed at how bad things have gotten in just 2 days. The original post now has over 6000+ Comments (up from 1300 before) – ALL negative – and 3096 shares (2x more than before) and 8.2k reactions, of which 75% are angry!

 

There is now even the inevitable ‘boycott’ page under the name “Potong Maxis” (Cut Maxis) which has, as of 5pm today (6th April), garnered almost 8000 fans.

What Is Everyone Complaining About?

The complaints tend to vary based on a scale of rational at one end and pure unfiltered emotional at the other. (Ofcourse this is a broad generalisation so if you want to get into the details do check out the comments section of the original post here)

The rational complaints are over how Maxis has such high prices compared to other telcos and the fact that they practice selective pricing (i.e. only offering special discounts to subscribers in certain regions or who are about to quit (port) to the competitors. Now while these complaints are understandable from a consumer’s point of view, they do not really represent any real deceit on behalf of the brand. Every business, not just telcos, will practice selective pricing and discounts. If a customer who is valuable (read profitable) is about to quit, a good company will try and prevent him from doing so with some special offer. Its crazy to expect the company to start giving those special offers to every customer, even the poor contented ones who have no idea they could be paying less. Unfortunately in the free market economy we live in it’s up to a consumer to get value for his money. Companies are here to make a profit and if you don’t like it, find another company. Harsh but that’s capitalism.

However, the real energy for this perfect storm is provided by the emotional complaints. These are the thousands who just feel cheated.

It’s probably not that they didn’t realise that they were probably paying a bit more for Maxis than they would if they were with some other telco. It’s the fact that they feel the brand is being arrogant, deceitful and not coming clean about what its done. Basically its lying to the ‘rakyat’ (the people). This sense of injustice is almost certainly also amplified by the general sense of injustice that people in Malaysia feel towards the government and the various financial scandals that have surfaced in the last year or so. Many have resigned themselves to the fact that they may be powerless against an entrenched government who is happy to ignore their complaints. But here with a ‘deceitful’ brand they have the opportunity to fight back and show people power. “Rise up brothers and sisters – “Potong Maxis”!

What Has Maxis Done About It So Far?

Well from what I was able to discover they have not issued any other public statements or apologies.

Instead here is what they have done so far:

They have used these generic cut and paste messages to address some of the complainants. Only some people for some reason. And this is basically a link to their customer service website, that then asks you to log in and fill up a complaint form and await a reply. Now under normal circumstances this is probably good practice. You divert people into a proper customer service system that can create tickets which your agents can then systematically attend to and close. But when you have an angry mob at the gates, asking only some of them to quietly step aside and go to the small complaint booth at the small corner gate to politely restate their complaints is probably not the best idea! They would have been better off not even attempting this because it just added fuel to the fire.

Furthermore for some bizarre reason Maxis has been sending out the below SMS messages to various customers, including myself, since last week:

Now that may have been their attempt to offer great value to their customers but so far it seems to have just made things worse because of two #Fail reasons:

#Fail 1:  Some people, including myself, who have made the effort to visit their nearest Maxis store hoping for something good have instead only been met with a confused response from the staff saying “I don’t know what this offer is because there is no update in the system. Sorry.”

#Fail 2:  Then when they called the Customer Support line,  and after waiting for a long time, they are just told that the ‘special offer’ is basically an offer to get ‘more value’ by paying more money for a more expensive plan. Either a RM98 plan for 5GB and unlimited calls or a RM158 for a 10GB plan.

So while the whole internet is complaining about you ‘ripping customers off’ by selectively offering discounts and by not providing competitive prices like the competitors, you quietly offer individual customers a chance to upgrade and spend more money with you instead of less. Errr…look there’s a fire over there…go grab some kerosene to put it out!

So What Should Maxis Do? 

In a social media crisis, the number one thing to do is to assess the situation and respond. Respond publicly. Respond quickly. The ONLY response to give is one in which the brand apologizes and fully owns up to its mistake. Nothing else – don’t dilute that with excuses and justifications.

Let’s look at this in more detail courtesy of some screen shots from a great short article by Social Media Examiner on how to handle a crisis:


 

In this case, unfortunately Maxis has missed the boat in terms of speed of response. The brand is now in a very difficult situation. Damage has certainly been done to the brand and I am sure this will result in customers porting out as can be seen in this image from a proud protester:

 

However, what they can do is still make a public statement where they do the following:

 

1) Own up to their mistake (i.e. denying the fact that they provide special offer to specific customers based on circumstances).

2) Apologise for it and for the tone of their first statement.

3) Clarify and address how they aim to provide value to customers (i.e. make a strong and competitive offer available to ALL customers who request for it).

 

[Side note for Maxis Revenue Officer worried about massive losses: most won’t remember or find the time to request the upgrade once the hoo-ha dies down anyway – so your bonus is safe!]

 

By doing this they can at least remove the fuel that they have provided thanks to their original arrogant statement of flat out denial. This will help quell the flames by showing that the brand values its customers and is not too proud to admit it made a mistake.

That’s how you mend relationships – or so my ex-girlfriend told me. Maxis don’t make my mistake – say sorry before it’s too late!

 

This article was first published on LinkedIn on 06 April 2016. Check out the original post and extensive comments here.