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As reported at the end of last week, staff from DSGi group, which runs Dixons and PC World, have set up a Facebook group which includes several posts slagging off customers.

The DSGi employees' Facebook group, which has 3,000 members, is marked as unofficial, but it will still cause plenty of embarrassment to the company, and won't go down too well with any customers whoh happen to read it.

Though many of the posts and discussions are perfectly reasonable, some of the topics on the group have titles such as 'arsehole customers', 'really stupid customers', and so on. There are more examples on this post from Bitterwallet.

I'm sure Currys and PC World get their fair share of awkward customers, but these kind of comments should be aired in private, not in a public forum where customers can read them.

There are now a few comments from customers unhappy about the content on the site, such as this example:

Well Guys I am a customer, or was until i browsed this. Last year i spent over 5k with your shops but you wont be seeing another penny now. I hope many other people will view this as well and see just what you think of your customers.

The group was clearly not intended for customers, and it does try to explain that the views expressed are not connected to DSGi Group, but I'm not convinced that customers will see it like that.

The group has been going for a while, since 2007, and DSGi management were apparently aware of its existence. Perhaps before the recent publicity, it was tolerated, but now the retailer is trying to distance itself from the group and promising to investigate any 'alleged abuse of customers'. 

It's a tricky problem for DSGi to deal with, and not a unique one, as Tesco and Primark have both had similar Facebook issues. It's also a problem that other companies are likely to face in future, so what is the best way to handle it?

Will Critchlow from Distilled thinks that DSGi shouldn't panic, and instead look at dealing with the underlying issues by talking to staff about social media. He points to Sun Microsystem's sensible guidelines on employees' social media use as an example of how to handle this problem.

As similar online PR issues from the likes of Domino's and Belkin have shown, companies need to develop some best practice staff use of social media.

There is little DSGi can do to stop former staff from setting up and commenting about the company online, but it can at least ensure that there are clear guidelines and policies in place for employees' use of social media.

What do you think about the issue? Should DSGi have attempted to deal with the issue earlier? Does it have social media guidelines in place? How should it handle the problem now it has been given such publicity? Let me know below...

Graham Charlton

Published 7 September, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

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Ian Hendry

Companies cannot stop their staff using social media, in much the same way that they can't stop them talking about work when away from the office.  But DSGi should look to two things to stop this kind of thing happening again:

1) Reminding staff of the requirement for an employee to remain professional AT ALL TIMES when associating themselves with DSGi, such that action can be taken if an incident reflects badly on the employer (as these comments surely do)

2) A requirement to adhere to confidentiality agreements at all times.

Social media is JUST another communication channel in its simplest form.  Unfortunately it is one that enables you to share your views with a much bigger audience than many other forms of media; and one where the comments live on forever.

DSGi can head this issue off by ensuring that staff are aware of the obligations their employment places them under when associating themselves with the company in public.

And staff would do well to remember that there isn't such a thing as confidential or secret on social media!

Ian Hendry
CEO, WeCanDo.BIZ
http://www.wecando.biz

about 7 years ago

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Maneet Puri

This just goes on to reinstate the immense power of social media even if it is unintentional.

In this particular case, the employees would've meant no harm. Guess they were just having a light humored conversation... something they would do at a get together or over a drink or something. But just that its Facebook, the customers have every reason to beleive that the views are resonated by the company. After all the group bears the name of the company.

I'm looking forward to see where it goes from here...

about 7 years ago

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Will Critchlow

Nice write-up Graham.

I also think that they should focus a little on the true underlying issues! If there is substance to some of the criticisms of employees not caring about customers, then they might want to spend a little time considering that!

Ultimately though, I expect this will blow over, but that it should be treated as an opportunity to improve (both the business and its social media persona!).

about 7 years ago

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Sue Bailey

People *will* have a laugh at their customers' expense. Anyone who thinks this basic practise can be stopped is deluding themselves. If I were DSGi, I'd have a closed social network on the intranet where employees could get it all out of their system in private. And a social media policy, obviously. But giving them a place to vent is as important as telling them they can't vent in public.

about 7 years ago

Rob Knight

Rob Knight, Lead Technical Architect at PRWD

Not sure I agree entirely.  There's an old poker saying that if you can't spot the sucker at the table, you're the sucker, and the same broadly applies to technical problem-solving.  I'd want the person fixing my PC to be smarter and more knowledgeable than the average customer, therefore I'm actually reassured to know that PC World's staff think that their average customer is pretty dumb.

If DSGi really want to keep this stuff behind closed doors, they should, as Sue Bailey points out above, maintain a private social networking space.  But, in doing so, they'd be helping to make their brand even more bland and faceless than it is already, if that's possible.

I think there's far too much panic about employees showing a bit of honesty and humanity in public.  Independent-mindedness tends to correlate with intelligence, so I like to see independent-mindedness in the employees of companies I deal with.  If the employees are just there to be seen and not heard, or can't be trusted to do anything more than parrot corporate platitudes, I'm not sure I'd trust them with fixing a PC.  Unless there's outright slander and abuse being directed at customers, I don't think there's anything for DSGi to worry about, and I'd probably think less of them if they cracked down on this kind of thing.

about 7 years ago

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Paul Smith

Interesting set-up here at Econsultancy. The source of this story - Bitterwallet - sends  the link to Econsultancy shortly after publication and suggested it for a blog post, yet when a post on the topic appears there's no reference to the source?

Just look at all the traffic that is being driven to this post via Twitter, and not even a link to the original story? Is this an oversight or common practise for Econsultancy?

about 7 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi Paul,

I placed the post up without seeing any email from you. I have also linked to Bitterwallet in the article. I've now made that link clearer.

about 7 years ago

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Antony Mayfield

There's nothing that DSGi can do about the group being there. It does have a responsibilty to listen closely to what is said and learn from it as an organisation.

They can:

* Address issues raisedby customers and employees here: e.g. the quality of employee knowledge about their products..

* Support their staff with awareness training about social media, privacy issues and social media, as well as their responsibilities as employees.  

* Look to Best Buy's approach of encouraging helpful behaviour in social spaces by employees.

about 7 years ago

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sarah smith

If this is the same Paul Smith who blogs on HotUKDeals any chance he can give a postal address where the company can be contacted?

about 7 years ago

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Phil

I kinda agree with their comments. PC World really is "Comuter shopping for people who don't know how computers work". I bet if you said Linux or RAM to a PC World customer they would run away screaming.

about 7 years ago

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rick

Might not be legal there, but in the US an employee could and likely would be fired for comments like that.

Oh and don't feed me the "In this particular case, the employees would've meant no harm. Guess they were just having a light humored conversation... something they would do at a get together or over a drink or something." line. If your computer shop employees don't understand that FB posts are public, they should be fired for incompetence.

about 7 years ago

Vincent Amari

Vincent Amari, Online Consultancy at Business Foresights Ltd

The other side to all this that I haven't seen discussed here is what will be the effect on the employees reputation, in relation to their future employability?!

I believe that companies could avoid some of the social media issues if they help employees understand that their own online reputation may also suffer.

about 7 years ago

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ukhotdeals

over 6 years ago

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dan

Easy sollution... Customers - It's all your fault... STOP BEING ARSEHOLES!!!

over 6 years ago

Alex Moss

Alex Moss, Director at FireCask

This site was made into a secret group and wall posts were disabled for everyone except for admins. I am the only admin. I think as a result some members of staff who were still working there were given disciplinary action. I am not sure what the action was though, however, I was the person responsible for taking it out of the public domain

about 6 years ago

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