Twitterati at it again in India? How does one explain the wildly popular #ccdsucks brand-bashing all through Friday (February 5, 2010)?
A tweet-up was planned at Cafe Coffee Day, Ispahani Center, Chennai. Even after ordering for about Rs. 1,000+, the manager at this particular center allegedly asked them for a cover charge. Considering there is no concept of cover charge in Cafe Coffee Day anywhere in India, the tweeters were angry and left the place. They started a hashtag #ccdsucks to drum up support on twitter and to create awareness.
- Yesterday alone, almost 650+ tweets were posted with the #ccdsucks hashtag.
- The opinion was overwhelmingly negative for the first few hours. It accentuated further after a blog post by Desibawarchi went alive, explaining the story.
- Voices of reason started pouring faster around noon, even as people noticed that the official twitter ID of CafeCoffeeDay had acknowledged and apologized for the issue as early as 10 am (around) in the morning!
- The mob mentality was also in full force with tweets saying that a apology isn’t enough
- As with any mob, jokes were floating around too – the most retweeted ones were by FlyYouFools
- There was considerable chatter about rival brands too – perhaps to attack Cafe Coffee Day indirectly. Barista was the most popular rival mentioned, while Costa found some mention too.
- Interestingly, many people started talking about other perceived negatives of Cafe Coffee Day, including how bad their coffee is and how bad the service was, at some other random occasion.
How would it look like, in the real world?
- Tweet-ups are annoyed with the service of the CCD center and the manager’s attitude. They make placards saying, ‘CCDsucks’ and hold it as they sit outside Cafe Coffee Day’s headquarters.
- In the morning, passersby see a group sitting with placards – some ask, ‘Hey, what happened?’…some just join in, with a placard on their own and some just stare and move on.
- Some in the gathered crowd shout slogans and raise the placard at the end, as a sign. Some shout slogans about other alleged-negative traits of Cafe Coffee Day too.
- Some are bored and shout jokes about the situation.
- A few Cafe Coffee Day employees come out of the office and try to address specific shouts – it is, understandably, drowned in the overall din of the place.
…continued at the end of this post!
1. The incident occurred in the evening and the bashing started right then. Cafe Coffee Day took note first thing in the morning and acknowledged the issue. Not only that, they apologized too. The issue could have been resolved there, but the mob had taken a life of its own by then that there was no one head/ lead to officially close it.
2. There were allegations that CafeCoffeeDay had shown its intention to resolve it only on phone and not on twitter. I’m not entirely sure what the problem there is, but offering to solve an issue one-to-one with one/more of the people who were in the tweet-up sounds like a good enough deal. Did the group have a head/ leader in charge? If so, it’d be perfectly justified for Cafe Coffee Day to speak to him/ her and resolve the issue.
3. Cafe Coffee Day was dragged to twitter with the #ccdsucks hashtag. The intention was plain and simple – spread the word so that the brand is forced to apologize publicly, over and above one-to-one communication. Here, the group of tweeters had a very valid cause for their anger – cover charge does not exist in Cafe Coffee Day. So, its no wonder the hashtag spread fast and for good reason.
4. Consider an imaginary scenario where you and your friend (just two) are in Cafe Coffee Day and they overcharge you alone, for what you’ve ordered. Assume you ask them and they say that the price printed in the menu is outdated and that new prices have just been introduced. Wrong? Of course! How would you try to resolve it? If the objective was to (a) get your money back and (b) make them apologize for an obviously silly act, my reaction would be to whine too, but to Cafe Coffee Day directly. It shows that my first intention is to resolve the issue, not just indulge in (rightful) slander. If they fail to acknowledge the issue or behave badly while I complain, I have every right to take it to a larger audience (if I perceive the consumer court option as long drawn) – not to seek justice, but to force them to acknowledge both the overcharging and the bad behavior. If they apologize and pay my money back…incidental benefit.
5. There were suggestions that Cafe Coffee Day should sponsor free tweetups or offer other benefits to make up for all the bad publicity. Cafe Coffee Day is a chain, with franchisees running it. If a particular franchisee manager is at fault, I do not expect a tweet-up group to segregate him/ franchisee from the entire Cafe Coffee Day brand. The master brand is what will be more visible and at the receiving end. But, a simple, sane talk may have helped in ascertaining what the group wants from Cafe Coffee Day…either in talking to the manager at fault, or someone from the brand or even a purpose for the hashtag protest. The protest was understandably impulsive.
6. The biggest issue here is of course the lack of a leader in the mob protest on twitter. That is usually the hallmark of any unorganized mob, however valid the reason is, as it happened in this case. And Cafe Coffee Day was understandably confused as to who they should be dealing with, since people were jumping in with criticism, advice, jokes from all directions. In such a case, what they tried seems fair – they sought contact number/ numbers who were at the tweet-up so that they could initiate a dialog and then refer to that on twitter, on how they tried to resolve the issue. Sounds fair, but was anybody listening? Some even tweeted their contact numbers – did Cafe Coffee Day note and called them? Their twitter stream doesn’t indicate anything to that effect.
7. So what could Cafe Coffee Day have done yesterday? They were trying to address individuals within the mob – not necessary at all, since no one is sure who was leading the mob or if there was a leader at all. A simple set of tweets that do not address anybody in particular, that point to (a) we agree that there is no concept of cover charge and our manager was at fault, (b) we apologize for the behavior of the concerned manager (c) going forward we’ll train our managers better on how to deal with large groups and tweet-ups and a (d) ‘kthnxbai’ to add humor would have sealed it. Would it have stopped the mob reaction? May be not, but it at least conveys Cafe Coffee Day’s stand beyond doubt and that is bound to be tagged along with the hashtag very, very soon. Given how straight and simple the stand was, it sure could turned the sentiment from extremely negative to neutral or even mildly positive.
This action would have looked like this in the real life equivalent, explained above!
- …Cafe Coffee Day makes 3 posters, in large print, explaining their stand and paste it prominently outside their office. It does not address any one in particular but merely conveys their stand with empathy.
- One of the protesters (with the placard, of course!) notices the newly-arrived poster and points it to someone.
- Many notice, many don’t. Those who notice, take a closer look and move on. Those who don’t suddenly notice that the crowd is thinning and explore the reason. They see the posters too, finally.
This is a very interesting case particularly because the mob had an amazingly valid reason to be upset. Cafe Coffee Day, on their part, had all the right intention to resolve it, but the methods they adopted were not suitable for a mob that was growing that fast yesterday.