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Our social media manager Matt Owen pointed me in the direction of a reasonably heated Twitter spat between Cineworld, the cinema chain, and a movie fan who felt that its prices were too high.

The exchange, which runs and runs, is fascinating. It’s one of the first times I have really seen a brand repeatedly back itself up on Twitter in the face of escalating criticism, albeit from one person. 

Here’s a screenshot of the start of the spat:

It’s well worth checking out the whole conversation. Personally, I think the brand comes out on top, though perhaps the debate should have ended a little sooner, given the differences in opinion.

Why don’t more companies do this? 

That mantra about the customer always being right… it is abject nonsense. Customers are often wrong about all kinds of things. Brands need to consider how they should respond in the event that people complain noisily, in public, about things that – from the brand’s perspective – seem unfair or unreasonable.

Let’s remind ourselves of why consumers use social media channels for customer service: it is because traditional customer service is horribly broken

It’s so much easier for consumers to complain in public, via channels that they’re already using, than to pay premium rates for the privilege of navigating a horrible automated phone menu system in order to speak to somebody in Mumbai who can’t help you because your query is too complicated and they aren’t authorised and they’re really sorry but you’re going to have to go into your local bank branch to get the problem fixed. 

It’s not good enough. Many large companies have been asking for this for years, and I for one am delighted that they are finally being called out in public, even if some customers are being borderline (or totally) unreasonable.

Why is service so broken? 

Once a company hits a certain scale it typically perceives customer service as a cost. A cost that, if reduced, will come straight off the bottom line. Cue lots of hand rubbing by senior managers, who are – more often than not – incentivised to focus on the short term. If bonuses were heavily linked to retention rates, rather than sales and annual profits, then I don’t think we’d have this problem.

Any sane business-minded person knows that the key to long-term profitability is customer retention. That requires quality service, on top of quality products / services / pricing. The substandard service provided by many big brands is not – repeat not - the consumer’s fault. It is a business decision to provide shitty service. Dress it up any way you want, but that’s what it is. 

Service is one area that every business should consider investing in. It can be a real differentiator. Consumers demand good service, and they’ll always want to choose the path of least resistance. This is why social media has, for lots of big companies, become all about service. The organisational structure must reflect that: PR agencies and marketing departments aren’t necessarily the best folks to be overseeing your social media operation. 

What's happening, it seems, is that companies are being forced into investing in social customer service by the sheer weight of questions, concerns and complaints on the likes of Twitter and Facebook. This isn't a bad thing, far from it, though it's only happening because consumers are more than happy to complain in public, and brands want to save face. But it's not so straightforward to always have these conversations in public. 

How should brands respond to awkward public messages?

I find Cineworld’s approach refreshing. So many times you’d see a lame copy and paste apology, when in this case the brand has nothing to apologise about. It’s worth considering how you might reply, in similar circumstances. 

This is something that’s going to change from brand to brand. Imagine the amusement value of a Ryanair twitter feed, with social guidelines laid down by Michael O’Leary? Other companies might not want to upset any apple carts, regardless of the nature of the complaint. I’m no fan of Ryanair’s approach to its customers, but at least it is ballsy enough to not roll over whenever it is draws flak.

It’s a bit like blogging. Not everybody is going to agree with you, or like your article. And that’s just fine, but if you firmly believe something and then try to pacify or suck up to those with opposing views then I think you’re doing it all wrong.

In IBM’s social media guidelines there is the following instruction: "Don’t pick fights". Sound advice, but sometimes fights come your way, and you need to know how to respond. 

Here’s another one from Econsultancy: "Have a thick skin and take all criticism on the chin (but stick up for yourself where necessary)."

Thoughts? Did Cineworld go too far? What are your own guidelines for this sort of thing? Do leave a comment below (even if you disagree with me!).

Chris Lake

Published 25 April, 2013 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

Comments (69)

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Robin

I think they were probably right to defend their position to the guy, but I think their tone was completely wrong

over 3 years ago

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Gerben van Ouwendorp

I totally agree with Robin.
Wrong approach I think.

over 3 years ago

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Ted Parry

Personally I think the owner of the Cineworld social media profile came across in the wrong tone. Besides this he let the customer control the frame and lead the conversation where he wanted. Being fair I think if the company showed how the customers could've saved money through cards, coupons etc then it would've been a healthier interaction.

The Cineworld tweets actually worked to continue the argument. They should be trained on how to handle this situation better. As Dale Carnegie once said in his famous book 'How to win friends and influence people' ... there are no winners in arguments.

over 3 years ago

Alessia Cesana

Alessia Cesana, Freelance Consultant

I like the way Cineworld approached it, they gained a customer now.
I agree with you (as I was saying on Twitter already) because customers often are wrong because they don't know what it's like to run a business. I had many experiences of grateful waitresses when I didn't make a fuss about a mistake they made. I was in all rights to make a complaint even without the customer is always right bit but I still believe customers need to learn to be understanding.

Anyway, I think it's all in the branding. How to deal with social critics should be on the table of a branding strategy.

over 3 years ago

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Alexander Velky

Better than a template response for sure, but there was no need to keep pushing that "deleted tweet" thing. Someone looking after a brand's Twitter account *ought* to know more about the platform than the average member of the public, but this needn't be hailed as a victory.

Other than that, I thought the conversation was very, very long.

over 3 years ago

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Steven Murgatroyd

Completely disagree with the above comment, at no point in the exchange did they become rude or offensive. They simply stood up for themselves and refused to back down. If anything, the tone was perfect, had a hint of humour and was very engaging.

Too often big corporates post a generic response..usually apologising, when customers complain even if it isn't their fault.

over 3 years ago

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Ted Parry

Disagree if you want Steven but would you rather someone tweet to you "How can you delete other peoples posts on Twitter? £8.30 is the ticket price, uncertain what justification you're seeking"

OR "Alan have you looked into the Cineworld unlimited card. £15.90 per month and you can watch all you want" then link to the specific page.

You don't have to apologise to get a favourable response from a customer. Neither should you be steering the conversation into negative means. I mean who tries to rattle the customers by sounding patronising? "Twitter delete, where is the delete thing?" Sounding quite big headed to me.

over 3 years ago

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Steven Murgatroyd

The customer clearly just wanted to have a go at Cineworld, when the account did talk about unlimited cards and comparison prices he just repeated his comments.

If they'd have sent your suggested tweet then they wouldn't have been answering his original point, which was asking why they'd deleted his comment, and I'm certain he would have repeated it. As you can't delete other peoples tweets then they were well within their rights to stand up for themselves and ask him to clarify how they could have done that.

As they said, the ticket price is the ticket price...if he doesn't like it then don't go. Plus why do they have to justify the price to him?

The fact that other customers started to defend Cineworld spoke volumes for me

The one thing everyone seems to be missing, is that we don't know what the agreed tone is for this account. If it's agreed that the person in control can be humorous and sometimes slightly confrontational if the customer is clearly wrong then they've done absolutely nothing wrong!

They certainly won a follower and influenced me to consider Cineworld the next time I go to the cinema. Sometimes there are winners in the arguments

over 3 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

Great comments. I do think that tone of voice is one of the harder things for brands to get right on social / blogs, especially when in the middle of a confrontation. Some brands can sound too stuffy, whereas others have established a new voice altogether. Funny how a twitter feed can completely change brand perceptions.

over 3 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

It's a tricky thing to get right. Sometimes the customer is very, very wrong and brands should be allowed to stand up for themselves. But at the same time you have to be careful of how you respond so you don't come across like the jerk. I think one of the best examples of dealing with an awkward customer came from another movie house:
http://gawker.com/5809262/movie-theater-turns-customers-angry-voicemail-into-anti+texting-psa

over 3 years ago

Alistair Sutton

Alistair Sutton, None at None

I liked their tone and approach on what's often a difficult subject. They presented vaild points to the argument against an individual who refused to back down. I think the tone of voice fitted in with the brand image.

over 3 years ago

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Ben Goodwin, Email marketing manager at Personal

Seems I'll be going against the grain here but the Cineworld responses there are terrible.

The tone is rude, in my view, their arguments about ticket prices are poorly constructed and thought-out, if this is the line you're going to go with you should be making a much more articulate and comprehensive summary IMO.

It also just went on too long. The first 2 or 3 tweets I could forgive, because you're establishing what an idiot the customer is, when they prove themselves to be both stupid and relentless, it's time to ignore them.

It all reminds me of two of my favourite phrases

"Don't argue with an idiot because they'll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience" Gregg King

"Don't argue with fools, 'cos from a distance people can't tell who is who" - Jay Z (he adapted it from a quote by Mark Twain)

over 3 years ago

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Jessica Paul

I am agreed upon the approach suggested by Cineworld at the time of facing any type of negative or bad reviews over the online sites. Despite, online marketers have to give priority to the customers, it is not always necessary that customers always remain at the right side.

over 3 years ago

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Steve S.

Cineworld was WAY wrong in their approach. No one ever won an argument with a customer. Should have just issued the usual "Thank you for your feedback, we'll take this under advisement, blah, blah, blah." Had they done that, they would not now have the negative publicity they sought to avoid. Cineworld may win the battle, but they will lose the war.

over 3 years ago

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Rob

I'm a little confused as to how the Cineworld response is in any way refreshing. I read it as being rather arrogant at best, with a "we're too big too fail" attitude that is anything but refreshing. And the implication that brands should be able to "delete tweets" is proposterous, The mention of it in Cineworld's response shows a complete lack of understanding as to what the basic tenets of social media actually are.

The person pointing the criticism has an excellent point as far as I'm concerned; "where does my fee for your service actually go, and what long-term value does it add to me, your customer?" It was worth a response beyond "we're a successful company and that's all that matters". It was an opportunity for them to be industry advocates, and to educate their audience. Instead, they just look like they aren't interested in having discussions with their audience on whom they depend.

There are complaints made from social audiences that are unreasonable and self-serving. But, this isn't one of them.

over 3 years ago

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Ewan

Cineworld's tone was wrong. Why on earth would you stretch something like this out? If there is a hint of trouble, one punchy but polite tweet (for example: "Multi-buy options are available, e.g. #cineworldunlimited. Will DM you to seek clarification re delete."

You're being courteous, offering a solution (and a sales message to boot!) and showing him and others that you take his point seriously, while taking it off-line.

over 3 years ago

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James Belias, Manager of Marketing and Special Events at Alumbra

Cineworld came across as arrogant. Whilst they may have won that (small) battle, you can not lose sight of the fact that the rest of your followers may be reading (and now all of the marketing world too). Is it worth being so antagonistic just to make a point and win an argument?
Probably not.

over 3 years ago

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Lisa Riemers

I love the response to this from Cineworld.

The tone is confident, points to external sources to back it up (granted, it is The Express but is still third party). Given their target audience, the tone is on the risky side of spot on. By picking up the inaccuracies in the original tweet, it also put the customer on the back foot, albeit in a slightly antagonistic way.

It shows the Cineworld team really "get" social interactions and have the autonomy to do something about it [disclosure, I also like them as they RT a picture I posted a while back linking to their signage].

I do agree with the comments above about the conversation going on too long - an offer perhaps to come in for a chat about pricing strategy if he wants (as long as backed up by management) would be an ideal end, a few tweets earlier.

From my experience Cineworld (in London at least) is one of the cheapest to visit - I doubt you'd get a similar response from Odeon.

over 3 years ago

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Robin P

If I'd been on the receiving end of those Cineworld tweets, I'd be hacked off, but the big difference on social media is that other people can see the exchange. The change in perception that onlookers feel might make this approach a good one for certain companies. It is refreshing to see a brand stick up for itself and be more human, even if the human element this time is a little arrogant.

over 3 years ago

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David Paice, eCommerce Director at Merlin Entertainments

This has been a fascinating insight into a social media dialogue between a brand and a customer with great learnings for our business which is currently trying to define policies in this area.

I guess whether Cineworld was 'wrong' or 'right' in their approach will depend on how this episode has affected brand awareness or revenue within that cinema's locality or in the region. It's hard to make that can based on a series of tweets alone.

Customer services must be measured not just in terms of its ability to solve individual's questions but also in aggregate for its effect on the company's brand or NPS and ultimately, revenue.

over 3 years ago

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Steve Revill

Dale Carnegie once wrote that you can't win an argument, one of his principles being "The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it".

I agree that brands should be prepared to stand up for themselves but this should have been taken offline far, far, far [!] earlier, instead of exposing Cineworld's 42,000+ twitter followers (+ the 57 of the original tweeter) to the increasingly playground-esque tit-for-tat exchange.

over 3 years ago

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Bobby M

Personally I feel this article and point of view contradicts itself and misses the real point. You say the brand won, and that customer sevice generally is broken.

However the issue here stems from a member of the public asking one direct question and not once, in a very lengthy dialogue, having that question addressed.

Surely that itself is the worst sort of customer sevice?

This is the real issue here - and the tone and length of debate just makes it worse in my opinion.

over 3 years ago

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Joe Bush

The tone is shockingly poor. I think people forget twitter is about people talking to people. Even behind the big brand name is a person.

ExactTarget did some research and it showed fewer than 1% of customers use Twitter as their first stop in problem resolution with many seeking traditional customer service channels first.

More companies could look at improving these existing channels. Live chat is the obvious answer to me here (it would be though, it is my business)

over 3 years ago

Steve Harvey-Franklin

Steve Harvey-Franklin, Director at AttercopiaSmall Business

I think the premise that you are blogging is a good one, no one like bland copy paste statements "your call is valuable to us" (but not enough to pick up the phone). "we appreciate and value your feedback but you're wrong"

I'm not sure the example is great though?

Had I been "complaining" or interacting with Cineworld, I would have found their tone arrogant and dismissive. They let the conversation spiral out of control by continually trying to "poo poo" THEIR customer.

It was a simple question asking to justify the value, what an opportunity to tell the customer and their followers and the world what their value proposition is in a graceful non arrogant way.

over 3 years ago

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Paul Thewlis

I agree with the previous respondents. Tonally this is all wrong. The only sane voice is @nick__smart weighing in at the end to explain the Cineworld stance in logical terms.

Single price admission isn't and hasn't been Cineworld's strategy for some time. They have the highest and increasing attendances on the back of their Unlimited card which makes watching movies with them among the cheapest in the UK. Kudos to them. It's a good scheme and they run it well.

While I don't mind the 'putting the customer back in his box' stance one little bit, they could have used it for good and upsold him to the member scheme and explained their model as being the destination for loyal cinema goers a little better.

As it transpires, the "social media manager" or whomever is tasked with responding via Twitter clearly doesn't understand the strategy at hand where they could have been dismissive, while actually converting a customers views. All in all the tone and fairly aggressive posts (Twitter delete? :]) is pretty poor.

Whose to say that the complainant isn't right. We live in volatile times on the UKs high streets (and retail parks) and having worked in the cinema industry I haven't met anyone quite as sure of themselves as this Cineworld employee. These are just the types of digital arrogance which will come back and bite everyone if the tide ever turns. A journalists dream about how they were out of date, old fashioned etc...

Great insight by econsultancy!

over 3 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Bobby - It's not really service that the person wanted... he just seemed to be complaining about pricing. The price is what it is. I'm not sure what Cineworld was meant to say. It thinks its pricing is fair, the consumer doesn't. Maybe it should have ended there, but there was no need for it to apologise for charging what it charges.

over 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

I think that Cineworld failed to answer the initial question, even though the 'customer' became increasingly incoherent. They should attempted an answer to that question (market rates, rents etc), suggested the monthly pass as an alternative, and left it there.

As Steve Revill says, continuing the debate got them nowhere, as the customer was never going to be convinced, and merely ensured that more people saw this exchange.

over 3 years ago

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Ben Goodwin, Email marketing manager at Personal

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I agree with the customer a little.

Cineworld is clearly a business in a very strong position and has been incredibly successful but I'd wager they're pretty near the crest of the wave at the moment. It can't be long until services like Netflix evolve a little more to become a serious competitor and then it'll be goodnight to cinema experiences as we know them now and Cineworld will be playing catch-up

over 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

I'd like to see them justify £3.50 for a bag of minstrels...

over 3 years ago

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Tom

Firstly, I doubt that this exchange will win or lose them any customers. Cinema chains are pretty homogenous in terms of facilities, price etc so i think a person's choice is going to come down to location.
Secondly, cinemas are remarkably low margin businesses. Their prices are pretty much dictated by the amount charged by the films studios - so the complaint would have been better directed to 20th century fox. (However I don’t think that response from cineworld would have gone down well).

over 3 years ago

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Ben Goodwin, Email marketing manager at Personal

This is an important point from Chris Lake

"but there was no need for it to apologise for charging what it charges."

Fundamental rule of customer service. NEVER directly apologise for something that is company policy.

over 3 years ago

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Shell

Interesting article. I always make my clients aware that in situations like this, where you have a customer venting, the very worst thing to do is ignore them.

The second worst thing to do is to get angry yourself and respond emotionally. With even the most awkward customers, on social, it is critical that businesses retain their professional composure - this illustrates the importance of customer service training in social media managers; don't take it personally and don't respond back out of anger or annoyance.

Help by offering a resolution process or if that can't be done, all it takes is some understanding - show some empathy and awkward customers can very often be placated.

There will always be some trolls out there, and no matter what you do they will continue to be awkward and make trouble for the sake of it, but in my experience this is rare, and the cast majority of social media complaints or rants are justifiable and as such valid.

over 3 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Joe - Yes, the tone is the thing that some people don't seem to like. There is a fine line, and maybe Cineworld stepped over it a little.

Other research from last year suggests that 15% of 16-24 year-olds immediately turn to social media channels for customer service. I'm sure that we'll see that number grow considerably in the years to come (http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/8626-15-of-those-aged-16-24-turn-to-social-media-first-for-customer-service).

@Shell - Well said. Don't feed the trolls, but no simpering either!

over 3 years ago

Kevin Taylor

Kevin Taylor, CEO at GravytrainSmall Business Multi-user

Great debate but have to say that Cineworld could have done a better job!

over 3 years ago

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Joe Bush

@Chris - agree, the data was about 12 months old so your figures are more accurate especially for that age bracket.

Fortunately there are some great examples of companies doing things right.

O2 and their "street" advice. http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4584249/O2-twitter-exchange-goes-viral.html

Smart Car and their bird excrement infographic...
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2162701/Twitter-user-jokes-bird-cr-pped-Smart-Car-totalled--firm-proves-wrong-maths-wins-legions-fans-efforts.html

over 3 years ago

Jurga Sefton

Jurga Sefton, SEO manager at Fubra Ltd.

Reading the thread I kept thinking that the person managing Cineworld's Twitter account should have had some sort of disclaimer 'Views are my own'. The repeated references to Twitter messages being deleted at the beginning of the exchange sounded like a bit of bullying!

over 3 years ago

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Jim

over 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Jim That is a great example though in that case the customer had a genuine grievance (and actually was a customer) that could be resolved.

Cineworld were never going to change the price of tickets based on one complaint.

over 3 years ago

Bradley Roberts

Bradley Roberts, CEO & Founder at Bad Machine Ltd.Small Business

This from Chris Lake's comments is a my concern..

"What's happening, it seems, is that companies are being forced into investing in social customer service"

There are plenty of service lead companies out there that WILL fail due to circumstances outside of their control and although this is a different case study, will provoke the same type of attitude and response on their feeds like that of Alan Bishop.

Couple this with an interesting show from Aleks Krotoski (@aleksk) on BBC Radio 4, Monday 22 April, in the #digihuman series about Trolls who are provocative and work the internet for pleasure and you've got to be dam sure you've got a solid strategy in place for the customer channel and crisis management.

Does Alan fit this persona? After all there was what I perceived to be an accusation of Cineworld deleting his tweet?

BTW @Graham Charlton couldn't agree more...;)

over 3 years ago

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Bobby M

@Chris - if you look at where it all started, the person wanted an answer to a question -. justification for a price rise - not an apology.

In response he got LOTS of side-sells and backchat, but nothing addressing what he wanted to know... it was an opportunity to address a question that lots of people may have had, in a public forum.

An opportunity widely missed in my opinion.

over 3 years ago

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Jemima Joy

I agree that the generic 'we're sorry' copy and paste response to complaints/queries is tired and the outcome can be acheived in a different way, however, i have to disagree with Chris Lake on this.

I think the way that Cineworld responded was simply just rude.

Yes they managed to promote their other products but it could have been wording in such a better way, without being condescending or rude.

over 3 years ago

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Anonymous

I think the tone Cineworld adopted comes across as arrogant and in doing so they have protracted the argument and made the thread appear above the fold for longer.
They would have been much better off pointing out why they feel they represent better value for money or pointing out offers and discounts that customers can benefit from.

over 3 years ago

John Kimbell

John Kimbell, Managing Partner at Navigate DigitalSmall Business

Having listened to a guy called Martin Bartle at the Sheerluxe B2B conference last week, his philosophy around customer service - is that the best answer is always "yes" and I tend to agree. It is much harder to get new customers in the door that it is to keep your current ones happy - irrespective of what your business is.

over 3 years ago

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Jim

@Graham Charlton Cineworld had the opportunity to take the debate offline and to present themselves as open to customer engagement. They didn't.

They challenged the customer and resorted to some mild bullying instead. Very odd and in no way does Cineworld come off better. If this doesn't fuel the debate about cinema pricing, I don't know what will.

over 3 years ago

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James Curtis, Online Marketing Manager at The Wandsworth Group

I thought the approach was brilliant. It showed there was a real person behind the brand's account; which I think is fundamental to all interactions; showed humour without malice and above all didn't just give a stock response.

There was also some great attempts at market research 'who has got it right if we're getting it wrong?'; and a keen appreciation that Cineworld aren't the only cinema chain around.

Interesting other posters (customers too) supported Cineworld's approach and pointed out how their services are actually pretty good value; so onlookers to this hillarious exchange received the benefit of social proof of their additional services, such as the Unlimited card, which until yesterday I'd never heard of.

over 3 years ago

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Brandon

As somebody that has to respond to customers, and has to deal with people like this on a daily basis, it's refreshing to finally see somebody stand up to them.

So many people think they can scare companies with the words 'trading standards' or because the complaint is public. All he was complaining for, was because he didn't want to pay the cost they charged for a cinema ticket. They hadn't wrong him in any way, he's just tight.

The responses got a little childish at times, and that should have been reeled in. It's much better to win an argument with facts than to resort to their level.

Fact is, so many customers complain these days because they know that in a 'customer is always right' climate, they'll probably get a freebie out of the company.

over 3 years ago

Stuart Waterman

Stuart Waterman, Online Community Manager at AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians)

I agree that the notion of a brand using Twitter in a tone other than obsequious forelock-tugging is interesting. However, I think there are ways of pointing out that a customer has made an incorrect statement other than getting into a tedious, childish back and forth.

If we're talking about how customer service folk address customers, let's think about how this would have played out if these two people met away from Twitter. If a customer service worker used this tone with me on the phone or in person, I would be furious - over and above how dismayed I might be about their ticket prices. I would develop a visceral, personal dislike of that individual and I would get my Basildon Bond letter-writing kit out. I would get my Victor Meldrew on.

I don't think it's a black & white, right/wrong thing. Yes, the customer was itching for a fight, but that doesn't mean you have to give him one. The Cineworld person pushed the boundaries a bit, which is not inherently a bad thing - but I think they went too far in the tone and language used.

over 3 years ago

Mike Essex

Mike Essex, Marketing & Comms Manager at Petrofac

Did no one tell Cineworld you never feed the trolls EVER! By engaging the debate they've created all sorts of separate arguments around:

Piracy vs cinema prices.

Price fixing (e.g. other brands have high prices so we do too).

Bullying (in their response).

The big headedness of their brand (e.g. HMV / JJB thought they were the best but they fell).

2-3 tweets could have nipped it in the bud, established their stance and ended it. After that point the conversation is over and the customer should be given a chance to continue offline if they wish.

over 3 years ago

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Matt

I love how Cineworld have approached this. I hate that so many brands don't have 'the bottle' to approach anything remotely risky, let alone actually defend themselves - normally it's just avoid and apologise.

I've worked with brands too scared to put up a blog in case this sort of thing happened and it's all a bit silly.

Cineworld's approach is how you'd defend yourself in a normal conversation and that's what Social Media is meant to be isn't it? Just conversations with people and customers? Well played!

over 3 years ago

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Kathryn Hellewell

I agree that companies should not always have to bow to the consumer, however, I think in this incident both parties made themselves look childish. Having been a digital marketing manager for one of the big 3 cinema chains I can confirm that, rightly or wrongly they do not give two hoots about their customers, it is ALL about the cash. Until customers vote with their feet, that will be how it continues. In their defence, lots of people do not realise that the margin on the majority of tickets sold is low as distributors get a very high share, one reason why food and drink prices are ridiculous.

over 3 years ago

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Tim Burrows

I think that it's great when brands fight back. It is far too easy for people to jump to social platforms and slam a company about bad customer service, poor products or less than ideal interactions without any thought to the reason or the possible solutions before gripping about it.

But what about when the criticsm isn't justified, or is just the opinion of one person. Why not take it on and challenge the status quo of "the customer is always right". SImply, the customer is not always right. The customer always has to be treated with respect and given their opportunity, but they are not always right and should sometimes be told so.

over 3 years ago

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Mark

I think the tone Cineworld adopted comes across as arrogant and in doing so they have protracted the argument and made the thread appear above the fold for longer.

They would have been much better off pointing out why they feel they represent better value for money or pointing out offers and discounts that customers can benefit from.

over 3 years ago

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Andrea

I agree with everyone that says the tone is wrong. Cineworld basically talked down to a customer in a very public arena when all they had to do was explain why they charge that much (cost of digital projection, quality experience, etc.) and that there's no way to delete another person's tweet. Because of their response I'm willing to bet they've lost this customer and maybe even a few others who read this. These responses are what I might expect from a teenager, not a social brand.

over 3 years ago

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Rachael Atkins

How on earth is this guy a troll?

He was only asking a simple question, which was for cineworld to justify the price increase.

However, instead of responding reasonably they responded immaturely, and there is still no answer to the question.

Cineworld dug their own grave by winding up the customer whilst avoiding the original question. Which is exactly why this has gone so public.

over 3 years ago

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Michael

This is a terrible example of how to handle a disgruntled customer.

Rule #1 of customer service, online or off, is to acknowledge the concern, whether you consider it legitimate or not. The Cineworld tweets were condescending and patronizing.

I agree with the premise that a company should be allowed to defend itself and explain its position: that's smart business. But the manner in which it's handled matters, too.

Remember the story of the Starbucks employee who scrawled "B*tch" on a customer's cup? He may have been right, she may in fact have been a rude customer. But that is not how you handle it, and Starbucks ended up with a PR nightmare on its hands.

over 3 years ago

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Charlotte

Totally the wrong tone here. You don't have to agree with everything a customer says but it's not that hard to politely explain your viewpoint. Cineworld look rude and arrogant. It's not refreshing, it just makes it look like whoever was responding on Twitter was having a bad day, rather than properly representing the brand they work for.

Would you speak to someone like this face to face? If not, don't do it on Twitter.

over 3 years ago

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Sarantis Katsikis

I also have to disagree with the author's point of view about this twitter debate. Cineworld's handling is at least poor if not offensive. Moreover, they could have grasped the opportunity to justify costs based on solid arguments and not on sheer arrogance/pointless loop of superficial arguments.

Is the customer right? I am not sure because no real arguments have been exchanged.

Did the brand win? No, I think it was damaged and lost a great opportunity to show openness and transparency.

In general, definitely customers are not always right, but we also have to interpret the meaning of their inquiry behind the chosen words. What the customer wanted was a justification of the ticket's price; he wants someone to tell him that he is not being ''robbed'' and that the price he is paying correlates directly with the level of service he is getting.

Summarizing:

1. Try to understand what the customer actually asks from you. Look beyond the words
2. Without a doubt, a company should not be passive under such comments. Stick up to your brand with solid arguments and do not use generic replies or arrogance.
3. If you made your point based on steps 1 and 2, end the debate as soon as possible in a polite manner and even agree to disagree.

over 3 years ago

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Ben Buckler

Do you think that Cineworld responded that way on purpose to create more publicity?

After all, we're all talking about Cineworld now.
Or
do you think they just hired a young social media person with no experience?
Or
do the Cineworld social media employee's get paid per tweet? If I was making $1 a tweet, I'd be drawing out conversations at every opportunity. :)

about 3 years ago

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Gary Pearson, Digital Channel Metrics Performance Manager at HSBC

I find Cineworld to be very antagonistic towards the customer and it reflects badly on them.

The customer not always be 100% right but THERE IS value in every piece of feedback you receive.

And, anyway - they didn't answer the question. How can they justify such high prices?

about 3 years ago

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Ben Goodwin, Email marketing manager at Personal

@ Ben Buckler - I think it's almost certainly some youngster without experience doing the tweeting. The whole conversation read like it was being conducted by the work experience boy.

Cineworld have form for this too. In the olden days of Facebook where you had discussions they had a rogue employee from a random cinema who'd pick up on anything customers were saying and tell them why they were wrong, thinking she was sticking up for the company when really she was making them look bad

about 3 years ago

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Georgie Gayler, Online and Social Media Editor at MOI Global

I don't think it would have been too hard for Cineworld to actually answer the guys question. Might not have been possible in a tweet, but links to full information about where ticket prices came from?
He was obviously annoyed because for whatever reason his tweet disappeared, but Cineworld instantly jumped on the defence bandwagon instead of the informative one.

I often wonder the justification for such horrendously expensive cinema tickets, so he's not wrong to ask the question.

My opinion of Cineworld has gone down after this actually, because they don't seem to care enough about their brand to have someone professionally representing it in times of trouble/conflict. And whats worse, they carried on arguing basically - in public. Not professional, and not how it should be done.

brands like o2 have it nailed - they have personality, but still professionalism and efficiency.

about 3 years ago

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Tom

Cinema tickets are so expensive because studios and distributors charge a fortune to show their films. They have also dictated that many cinemas upgrade to digital projectors and improve the quality of the sound systems and screen - such things are not cheap.

Cinemas are a very, very low margin business. Despite the high prices, they make very little profit.

I'd imagine that a tweet from an official account of a large cinema chain blaming studios for high prices would open a huge can of worms and would have repercussions, so i’m not surprised that they didn’t go down that route.

about 3 years ago

Andrew Stuart

Andrew Stuart, Marketing Officer at International Football School

I guess this must be based on how the Cine World brand sees itself re how they responded to the tweets. Good for them to defend the tweets, there was no argument to win. I hope we haven't been duped and this was set up #cynical. I love the fact that they defended rather than justified, someone will always complain and will always be unreasonable, they were given a voice...

about 3 years ago

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Stuart Forrest, Digital Strategy Consultant at Independent

I think that the tone was wrong and that they let the conversation carry on to a point where the customer could be the only one scoring points, but I think that brands should be robust when dealing with awkward comments from customers particularly when, as in this case, it isn't justified. Others are watching (silently), they will support you and, crucially, will see that you aren't afraid to be robust with idiots. That's important if you want to keep social media useful as a channel, rather than just a time thief.

The brand I run contains a forum for automotive enthusiasts - it generates 10,000 posts every day, and therefore requires a reasonable amount of moderation.

We tend to be fairly robust both in defending moderator decisions, and also defending product development or pricing decisions. That we know we will have to justify them publicly tends to act as an effective check and balance BEFORE we make them public. We inevitably play out how the conversation will go as part of the decision making process, and that's certainly a healthy and effective way of avoiding very bad decisions.

Once you've made the decision though, stick to it. Engage with consumers (up to a point) and be very clear about why you've made the decision you've made, but do stick with it*.

*Obviously unless it becomes very clear very quickly that all your pre-announcement thinking was wide of the mark, you've dropped a ball and your users hate you for it. In which case, don't be afraid to stick it in reverse!

about 3 years ago

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Maher Dosoqi

Marketers receives such negative comments everyday, I believe the way the brand has responded was totally unprofessional.

If you notice, the social media manager has responded several times with "I", this is totally wrong approach.

Customer is always right. With such brand attitude, the perception about the brand will definitely go down with time, especially if the people who represents the brand are encouraged to react in this unprofessional manner.

Instead of receiving the complaint and addressing it in the right way, they started to mocking the customer up!

If I was the brand's owner, I would have fired that guy on the spot.

about 3 years ago

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Stuart Forrest, Digital Strategy Consultant at Independent

The customer isn't always right. Nowadays the customer can have an inflated sense of their own entitlement to compensation, and a not always playful desire to publicly score points.

The brand in this instance didn't respond well, but when the customer calls out the brand in such a public forum, if they're wrong then they need to be told that.

about 3 years ago

Andrew Stuart

Andrew Stuart, Marketing Officer at International Football School

# Maher Dosoqi: When the "Marketer" used the "I" perhaps they (the brand) or he was taking ownership (personalising) the responses to the customer. Via the Tweets the customer as previously mentioned was given a "voice" rightly or wrongly he was unrelenting in his pursuit or being right. I agree the conversation / engagement should have ended sooner. But still believe that the brand position (cool vibe) must have been why they took that stance rather than a rogue employee (I hope). All makes interesting reading...

about 3 years ago

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Roisin

I think the company was definitely right to defend itself but maybe the tone was a little arrogant or just a bit too smug you know?

I've had a couple of experiences where people will literally just comment obscene language with no real purpose... where is the line when you should walk away from the fight? Or do you think you should always engage with the customer?

about 3 years ago

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Irene

Personally, I find the tone of the social media executive quite rude. It is absolutely true that customer service is constantly changing but we can not forget that "customers are always right". After all, they are who pay the full prize of the ticket.
Additionally, I would like to ask those companies who always answer with something like: "Can you email us at..." why are they doing that?
I believe that if they would publish their answer, it will help more than one customer at a time. Any thoughts about this?

about 3 years ago

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