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When will companies learn that ‘fake news’ backfires?

Companies continue to think they can BS and bluster their way through our human instincts and convince us of their customer service excellence—no matter what’s really happening.

A recent article by ZDnet contributor Chris Matyszczyk illustrates the point poignantly when addressing one of the most important stakeholders deserving solid customer service—employees themselves. This interesting story involves Amazon, self-proclaimed customer service guru, and its employees.

Notes Matyszczyk, “Long before the news was labeled fake and political speech was labeled lies, there existed something called natural human skepticism. Many companies didn’t believe in it. After all, they had money. Money gave them power. Power gave them the ability to tell others how things were and what to do. They thought that if they told people about their product, those people would listen and, most importantly, believe. I understand it still happens today.”

The article continues about a current-day effort by none other than Amazon: “Amazon asked its employees to tweet about how lovely it was to work in the company’s expansive warehouses…Amazon paid its employees to do the tweeting. Were humans supposed to be moved by this commercial generosity? Did it make these tweets more persuasive?…I feared humans might see through it all…And so it was that I was confronted by a recent Financial Times headline that read: ‘Amazon abandons influence campaign designed to attract staff.’”

He notes that poor reach and backfires doomed the effort, adding that employees being paid to profess workplace happiness didn’t resonate as genuine with consumers.

Matyszczyk concludes, “For a company that boasts of its obsessive focus on human consumers, it’s a touch remarkable that the marketing types didn’t wonder whether human consumers would react positively…If you’re going to use your employees to market your brand, you’d better make sure it’s something they really want to do. As opposed to just doing it to make a few extra dollars.”

For a company that “gets it” when handling customers, how did Amazon so miss the mark with its employee effort? Was it arrogance? Does this further call into question the validity of all those supposed stellar reviews for particular products? How are we as consumers supposed to respond to all of this?

Wow! What will it take for truly enlightened customer service on all levels to take hold? And when will marketing agency messaging truly reflect it?

For now, the BS and blustering continue. As someone who grew up with—and in—a traditional ad and PR agency world, I keep recalling the words of Will Rogers: “If advertisers spent the same amount of money on improving their products as they do on advertising, then they wouldn’t need to advertise them.” In the case of Amazon, one of those “products” is their employees. Improve their treatment and the resulting real-life reports will make the case in compelling fashion.

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Customer service, especially a perceived lack of it, can impact a company’s reputation—and profitability—in no time flat. In part, this is why customer service really is a company’s “everything” at this point in time. Marketing campaigns unsupported by stable or stellar customer service are proving a waste of time and money—as consumers see through marketing promises that don’t seem to match up to customer service performance. Great customer service is a company’s best marketing. When customer service goes south, so do company reputations, reviews, stock prices, employee satisfaction, and revenues.

Mark Lusky

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