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A week ago I read an article by tech journalist Ben Kelly on a sequence of dreadful customer service he experienced at the hands of Autopage Cellular after being robbed in his home.  The article really upset me.  I’ve never dealt with Autopage Cellular but I have experienced the sheer frustration that Ben describes in trying to get something done by a seemingly faceless corporate that won’t talk to you.  And we’ve all shared similar stories around a braai or at dinner with friends.

The bigger the corporate the worse the engagement seems to be at times.  How is this is possible in the social media age?

I thought I’d take a quick look at how Autopage is working to engage its customers.  Unfortunately the short answer is that they are not.  They have a twitter account @altechautopage.  Take a look at it.  They’ve tweeted 46 times spread over 4 different days between September last year and 20th Jan (no tweets since then).  All tweets are advertising a phone or contract.  In short, no conversation but old school shotgun advertising which has no place on the social web. They did submit a response to Ben Kelly’s article – standard corporate stuff that did nothing to mitigate the obvious problems.

And sadly that’s the sum total of their social engagement – no facebook page, no blog. I made an attempt to contact them through their website but their contact form didn’t seem to work – at any rate I’ve had no feedback from them since filling in the contact form yesterday. A search on twitter for “autopage” shows some very unhappy customers and I sent out multiple tweets on the matter, yet they are oblivious to the conversation taking place without them and a light year from responding to it.

Close to a billion consumers worldwide are today engaged through social media and we now demand personal engagement with the brands and businesses who want our money and loyalty.  The digital artillery exists that we can and should cease being apathetic about horrible customer service and make businesses feel our frustration and pain.  Bad service should go viral wherever it exists and companies that treat us like individuals and talk to us should get all the support we can throw at them.

So pull out your tweets, your status updates, your blogs and your Foursquare tips and do not allow disengaged corporate South Africa to get away with ignoring us.  Let us drag them screaming into the conversation.

What are your views on how to get corporates talking to us? Give me your thoughts in the comments.