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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Social Media, Empowering the Customer, O Yeah!!!

So many of us belonging to the so called Social media generation will confirm the fact that the power of social media is tremendous. There is great potential in social media, and a lot can be achieved either positively or negatively. Social media has also created a platform to provide a voice to many people for sharing their opinions, thoughts and engagement with others. This engagement also exists in the form of public relations opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses to reach out to their audience and engage in two way communication with them. Social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are extensively used in Pakistan as well by all sorts of small medium businesses, whether be it young artists, upcoming designers, entrepreneurs or new restaurant owners. Facebook in particular has been a revolutionary game changer even in a country like Pakistan where it now has millions of users.

The power of Facebook is that it provides the user with a real time online profile about the users themselves, research has suggested that majority of Facebook users put in factual information about themselves when creating their profiles, in other words it is our virtual identity more or less or our virtual presence. For millions of users it is the opportunity to share opinions, thoughts, ideas, blogs and through Facebook fan pages engage with their relevant interest groups or the businesses (Both product and service oriented) that they give custom to. For entrepreneurs and others alike, likewise it is an opportunity to engage with their audience or their customers, while at the same time doing some brand building and marketing activities. The voice it gives to customers, has created a new era of user generated content and feedback, and one that can not be ignored. Some people understand the power of user generated content it seems the hard way.

Very recently in Karachi, a well known Chinese restaurant located in the DHA area decided to impose a 10%  on customers that make an advance reservation. Unlike restaurants abroad, where you pay an advance for reservation which is later deducted from your bill, this is a 10% additional service charge you would pay in addition to your final bill.So your final bill is not technically your final bill. For example, on a bill of 5000 rupees your looking at being charged a service charge of 500 rupees which makes your final bill 5500. It would kind of put you in a dilemma if you only have the 5 grand in cash on you or on your debit card. Little did the restaurant realize that its patrons on social media would be very actively opposed to this plan and i of theirs on a short span of time they would have abandon their plans. As off today the 16th of October, the controversial service charge has even made the website of a very popular English Language blog belonging to one of the nation's most recognized English Language newspapers.

Threads on Facebook pages, status updates and other social media tools were used by the restaurant's patrons to get the establishment to over turn their decision and it worked, even though they were some supporters showing off so proudly how much they love to tip heavy amounts that can upto 900 or a 1000 rupees for each of theirs to Ginsoy. Even in the thread I started I debated the demerits of having a different set of policies for walk in and reservation customers. The management on a Facebook page made the claim that every penny earned from those 10% service charges goes to the pockets of the staff at the establishment working on minimum wage. Suppose we assume for a minute that the extra service charge ends up in the pocket of the staff, this would lead to the staff differentiating between walk in customers and those that have advanced reservations. It is after all only human nature to behave in accordance to where our self interests lie. This policy would have resulted in poor customer service extended to walk in customers by the staff who know they do not profit from Walk In's. Bad customer service examples could include a table refusal, long delays in waiting for a table, poor service after being served etc, the list is endless.

None the less, I would like to also take this opportunity to thank the restaurant for their cooperation and for listening to the voices of their loyal customers, many establishments in Pakistan very frequently and conveniently ignore the customer as the concept of customer service is usually non existent and many hospitality and service sector establishments and their owners have an attitude off 'we are doing a big favor on people by providing something in the first place'. I am certain so many of us can relate to that, for the time being Kudos to the Chinese joint for taking customer feedback seriously and acting upon it. 

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