So let’s start off by stating the obvious – no one likes their telco.

It’s just a fact of life. Telcos, just accept this. Your marketing KPIs should basically be to make sure that your customers are satisfied with the service you provide. Don’t aim for love. You have as much chance of finding love here as you do on Tinder. In this day and age that service is to provide them a pipe so that they can access the Internet. Your customers want more speed and more quota for as cheap as possible. That’s it. Nothing else. Ok maybe free calls and SMS too! And as humans they will never think that you’re great because they know that you are making massive 50% profit margins over providing what is in essence a basic commodity.

So with that simple KPI to meet, it’s amazing that the Maxis social media team could put out a post like this and successfully antagonise thousands of customers (1.3k comments!) who already think you are ripping them off.

Maxis Social Media Crisis

For context, the ‘exaggerated’ save offer on LowYat.net (a massively popular consumer forum in Malaysia) basically ranted , although understandably, that it wasn’t fair that Maxis was selectively offering certain customers in East Malaysia a special low price deal. What made things worse for the poster was that this deal was not made public but selectively offered, especially to customers that were thinking of quitting Maxis and subscribing to Celcom’s new super low tariff. So he, understandably, felt shortchanged and angry that Maxis was practicing selective pricing.

Now, having worked at a telco (Celcom) for some years, I can safely say that telcos have been practicing selective pricing for years. It’s how they make their insane 50%+ margins. They rely on the fact that a lot of subscribers forget what plan they are on or how much their rates are. So when a new plan is launched (almost always cheaper to counter the intense competition) existing subscribers are hardly ever invited to migrate to the new plan and enjoy savings.

Now while as a consumer this may seem very unfair, it is perfectly legal. And from a business point of view it makes sense. Telcos have got millions of subscribers and if they change their rates by even a few cents and decided to automatically apply those rates across the board they would lose millions of dollars. And more importantly the CEO would be fired for not protecting shareholder value!

So the point here is not that Maxis or any telco should not be allowed to practice selective or regional pricing, but rather how they handle a hot topic on social media. The entire post is a disaster – here’s why:


1) Starts Off Dismissing Customers And On The Defensive

Maxis Social Media Crisis

Just look at that opening sentence – can you taste the condescension?  Social media 101 will tell you that you NEVER start off by basically saying that your customers are wrong and that they are basically being silly about it.


2) Attempts To Explain Things From The Telcos Point Of View Instead Of Empathising

What the hell were they thinking?! No customer wants to hear how you have data on them (creepy and now we trust you even less!) and how you manipulate that data to basically squeeze the maximum value out of them. Again social media 101 – empathise!


3) Totally Misses The Complaint Of The Customer


And instead of actually addressing the customer’s issue and offering some solution they instead end by basically stating that they want to provide more value to someone else (i.e. East Malaysians where Maxis is really weak). Again perfectly rational from a telco point of view, but completely batshit unfair and infuriating for a loyal West Malaysian Maxis subscriber.

The result? Thousands of angry emojis, 1.3k comments and 1689 shares!. Talk about massive engagement!

Almost all the comments are basically about individual customers who feel that they should deserve better rates and a reward for their loyalty over the years. Here is just a sample including ofcourse evidence gathered about how the evil telco is lying about this save offer being exaggerated:


So what is the moral of this story?

Don’t pick a fight with your customers on social media. Never. Ever.

 

Not even if you feel totally justified that you should be able to selectively squeeze money out of your subscribers (sorry that’s called Revenue Maximisation and that’s a job!). Just show empathy and defuse the matter as quietly as you can. Offer solutions – even if they are not perfect. Let customers know that they can call in and find out what better plans they could enjoy. Something, anything. Just don’t say they are wrong.

Its tough being a telco. All work and no love back. Employee bonuses are good though!


PS: I am a Maxis subscriber. I ported over from Celcom a few years back and generally i think they are a very good service provider. So this article is just to highlight the do’s and don’t of social media, not to condemn Maxis as a telco. 
Having said that i did try and call Maxis Customer Service earlier and get myself a free upgrade. But unfortunately they didn’t fall for it and instead ‘offered’ me to upgrade to a ‘value’plan. Damn it!

 

This article was first published on LinkedIn on 04 April 2016 and received close to 60,000 views!

Check out the original post and extensive comments here.