By now it’s not news that there have been a lot of citizens sharing their thoughts and concerns about the national healthcare plan being discussed in local town halls (if you haven’t seen the videos, check some of them out on YouTube).
My friend Ken Yeung had an excellent post, What Happens When You Think your Customers Will Kowtow to You? (had to use the post name because I love the word kowtow), last week about how the AARP representative totally dismissed any comments or discussion that their members wanted to share in light of the position that AARP was taking in regards to national healthcare and sharing with them.
In short, the AARP representative told the members “we want to hear from you” and when they started speaking she said: ”Excuse me, but I really appreciate it if everyone could keep their comments quiet until there is time for the public…” By the end of the video, she was so mad that she couldn’t deliver her message that she walked out on the members. [Check out the video on Ken's post, it's quite interesting to watch.]
I don’t find any of the passion or discussions (some may call them disruptions) out of the ordinary at all. Why should I, right? We tell organizations everyday that they need to listen to their constituents and that they can’t push their messages, and that they are no longer in control of certain situations or their community.
But what did surprise me were the social media folks on Twitter talking about how these town hall discussions were out of line. Really?
I’m sure that Dell, Motrin, Dominos, Tropicana, Walmart, United and MANY more organizations felt that the discussions that their customers were having about them were totally disrupting to their business day. Right?
And yet, social media proponents analyzed their every action (or inaction) to death, shared their opinions on Twitter, their blogs and in conversation. These same companies are often used as examples of “what not to do (or to do right…after the fact). We tell companies to get with the program because this is the way it is today because ALL customers have a voice.
If you are going to be advising clients, organizations or management on social media, please be very careful to not pick and choose when you think customer conversations are acceptable or not…especially if they are based on your own political affiliation.
I understand that some people are very passionate about their politics, but I ask you to remember one thing: the government gets their money from taxpayers. That means, just like organizations, they need to be prepared for conversations, disruptions, and negativity because ALL customers have a voice. Right?
(It doesn’t matter if it’s on- or offline because eventually it could end up online anyway.)
If you embrace social media…don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth. You are either for open conversation and dialog in any form that it happens in or you aren’t. Which is it?
[Image: Flickr, Boxelf]