Social media is a “minefield” and is forcing food manufacturers and retailers to radically change their business systems and the way they manage consumer complaints, according to the boss of a leading food chain traceability and auditing software company.
Companies need to make use of Twitter and Facebook not only to monitor what is going well, but also to track and manage complaints as consumers increasingly make use of social media rather than traditional complaint management channels to air their complaints, said Jonathan Evans, md of Muddy Boots.
“Being able to analyse and bring that data together in a way that I can use to drive the changes to my quality systems is how we see the role of social media,” said Evans. “I think it’s quite an explosive, challenging area for organisations to manage and I think it will change the traditional approach to the business systems that they deploy to be able to manage them.”
‘Explosive, challenging area’
Emma Stockley, Muddy Boots’ marketing manager, added: “Lots of retailers and brand owners have set up their own Twitter and Facebook profiles for complaints and there is someone working on it 24 hours a day. Their specific job function is to respond to these complaints coming in.”
Stockley noted that journalists were increasingly using social media, such as Twitter, as a source of news stories and it was imperative that companies did the same so that they were prepared to handle enquiries from them.
“You need to be able to access data really, really quickly to be able to respond to whatever you are being asked,” she said. “That is something we are really noticing now on Twitter and it is something people can’t really ignore any more.”
Speed of response
Evans said this presented a challenge to companies in the sector, which would also need to establish systems capable of meeting retail customer as well as consumer expectations about the speed of response to complaints and enquiries about product quality.
While retailers would not want access to information about the sources and quality of, say ingredients, every day, when there was a problem, they would expect that information to be readily at hand, he said.
“That’s going to be the challenge for a lot of businesses. It’s not always going to be just in a crisis,” said Evans. “People just want that information on demand at any time.”
He added that in the future, some consumers would expect to have ready access to more information about the origins and provenance of the foods they purchased and this was another area where the latest IT systems could play an important role.
The latest computer-based traceability systems will be described at Food Manufacture’s Food safety conference : What have we learnt from recent crises, which takes place at the National Motorcycle Museum in Solihull on October 17.