Social media has become a medium for consumers to connect with businesses, to make queries and most significant of all to have their complaints not only heard, but replied, retweeted and sometimes even resolved.
It’s a sad state that public humiliation has had to become the route for complaints, however it does seem to work. Most recently we saw this when Sarah Hayward brought to the attention of Twitter an issue at Wahaca, in which a waiter was asked to cover part of a food bill after his customers bailed without paying. The consequent argument she had with Co-Founder, Thomasina Miers, was awkward to say the least, but it did raise some interesting questions around whether businesses should have the right to respond privately or not.
Within the exchange, Miers wrote that “it is a crazy world where one is hung before even being asked a question”, in reference to the fact that Hayward had failed to even fill out their queries form located on the website. However, had she done as such, Wahaca would have been faced with less urgency, less publicity and less of an incentive to alter their practice of punishing employees for customers behaviours (which they have since done).
The fact is that Hayward enforced transparency onto the food chain, which, whilst it felt abrasive to the owners and several members of loyal staff, is slowly becoming the future, whether they like it or not.
Companies are more and more frequently getting called out for bad behaviors, whether it’s the way they treat their employees like Sports Direct and Amazon, or their spending habits like Kids Company and BHS, which is forcing better practices and more morality within business.
Old school businesses may argue that this level of scrutiny can be harmful to profit margins, however companies have always been led by what their customers want, and it’s clear that what customers want now is transparency and accountability. Companies that are embracing that are flourishing and it’s a leading driver of why employee engagement schemes are becoming so popular. People don’t just want to see the product; they want to see that the product was made ethically and that those making it are happy.
Largely these initiatives are being taken up by companies targeting young environmentally aware consumers, companies like Veja whose eco-friendly, egalitarian process is just as important as the design of their trainers. Veja do transparency incredibly well, in fact it’s key to their website, which tells customers where their trainers are made, how much the materials cost and where their problems lie. A whole page is dedicated to ‘The limits of Veja’, in which they explain that their laces are not organic cotton and that they’re still not achieving ‘100% recycling’ of old sneakers. Coming at their problems in this way means that their target audience forgives their shortcomings as simply stepping blocks on the road to perfection. By announcing the problems themselves, they’re able to have the defining voice, rather than a scandal in the Daily Mail, or like Wahaca, on Twitter.
This level of transparency only works because of Veja’s dedication to fair trade and ecological choices. For those companies who are currently working out of sweat shops, such disclosure would cause uproar, highlighting facts that until now few know. However, with more whistleblowers taking to social media, it’s time companies clean up their act, as no matter how quiet they’re keeping, out here people are getting loud.