Nectar’s Computer-generated Paracrisis Response: Is it better than no Response?

Nectar is a loyalty reward program in the UK.  People earn points by shopping at various locations such as grocery and department stores.  There is nothing inherently controversial in loyalty programs, most people belong to several.  Nectar hit a paracrisis (I think the term social media crisis is rather useless because its conceptualization is so poor) when it announced it had added The Daily Mail to the program.  The Daily Mail has a questionable reputation as a newspaper most recently running what many believe were questionable anti-refugee material.  The point is that a controversial company was added to the Nectar program and many customers and other stakeholders were upset.  Because Nectar made the announcement of the addition on Facebook, the crisis did transpire most in social media. There were already over 5,000 comments as of August 17th.

 

The concern here is not with the The Daily Mail but with how Nectar handled the crisis.  As you can see in the visual above, Nectar chose to repeat the same statement anytime there was a concern expressed about The Daily Mail.

 

“The primary factor in our decision making for any new partnership is our current customer base. From our data and research, we know that there is a large crossover between our customers and Mail readers. We appreciate your feedback.”

 

Critics of the response, including media training company mediafirst, argued that people want a human voice not a computer-generated response.  Moreover, the response did NOT provide a link for more information on the company’s web site.  Such links are helpful in supplying additional information to interested and active stakeholders.

 

Firms that seek to engage stakeholders through social media create certain expectations including responding when there are concerns.  The computer-generated response might be done due to limited staff and resources but can make the situation worse.  As mediafirst noted, Nectar could have at least created different versions of their set response.  Social media can create additional crisis risks, especially if the social media messages are deemed in appropriate or ineffective.

 

Questions to Consider

 

  1. Why would this qualify as a paracrisis?

 

  1. What factors could push this to becoming an actual reputational crisis? What factors could prevent the escalation of the paracrisis?

 

  1. How can a firm balance the demands of responsiveness with the limited resources that might be assigned to social media? Is no response better than a computer-generated response? Why or why not?
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