UPDATE 9.11pm 30 SEPTEMBER: No new revelations… Except that the topic hasn’t fizzled at all on Twitter or on online news sites.
UPDATE 11.40AM 30 SEPTEMBER: @loupardi and I think #GASP is getting more and more suspicious. Or are we too invested? The Gasp Facebook page is back… and promising the “full story” plus expected delays in orders due to a surge in demand http://ow.ly/6J3Za
Is this a case of why you should shop online and not deal with the likes of Matt and Chris?
Gasp goes viral. Or should I say #GASPFAIL.
This PR disaster not only highlights the poor customer service and arrogance of Gasp employee, Chris (referred to in Gasp email as “retail superstar”), but the power of social media… and the voice of the customer.
Earlier this morning, I received Keara O’Neill’s viral email sharing her in-store experience and online exchange with Australian clothing retailer, Gasp.
Within moments of receiving it I, like others, questioned on Twitter and to personal networks whether it was legitimate. Responses almost immediately made it appear to be so.
We quickly checked Gasp’s Facebook fan page. Comments were already filtering in from the disgruntled public. Within the hour, Gasp removed the comments. In the next hour, they shut down comments to the public. Finally, they removed the page completely. Throughout this time Gasp made no response to the ‘allegations’.
Comments continued to be posted on Twitter at an accelerated pace and the topic soon trended in Australia.
My posting of the email had over 1500 hits within the hour and has at time of writing this, just reached over 6000. These numbers are not unique to my blog. Others have reported similar, and even greater number of visits. #GASP is now trending worldwide on Twitter.
Throughout the day, no response was posted by Gasp, until the Herald Sun posted an article this afternoon which stated that Matt Chidgey, Gasp Operations Manager, had confirmed the email was legitimate.
Chidgey then proceeded to make matters worse when interviewed by Channel 7’s Today Tonight at the Chapel Street store in Melbourne, then live on Channel 10‘s popular 7pm Project.
Chidgey stated that the girls were acting like bullies in the store and deserved their subsequent treatment by employee, Chris. “The girls that came in, came in with a negative attitude. Purely to make fun of the dresses,” stated Chidgey on the 7pm Project.
No apologies were given by Chidgey on either show. Instead he focused on the exclusivity of the brand and the negativity of Keara and her friends.
From a reputation perspective, this story is a disaster for Gasp. Not only did they not immediately respond to the story whilst the social media outcry was at its peak, they waited to respond on national television that they did not see a problem with their behaviour.
Australian celebrities and spokesman have responded in kind.
Ruby Rose tweeted: “This can’t be real hahahaha gasp sells the most cheap tacky clothing in Australia. AND Involving @katyperry #GASP…”
Todd Sampson, CEO of Leo Burnett and Gruen panelist, offered Gasp a free ad on the 7pm Project: “Gasp. Clothing for knobs.”
Even the @ColesOnline Twitter account got on the Twitter bandwagon: “If #GASP is so #exclusive I wonder if they accept money… surely money is too common for them. Maybe you need to pay with unicorn tears.” This tweet has been retweeted over 100 times.
This story highlights that any business, retail or other, who ignores social media is at risk of losing control over their brand.
Whilst Gasp claims that their brand is exclusive. It is now a brand not too many Australians (let alone the celebrities they mention in their email) would want to be associated with. Not only because of their intolerant response, but because of their lack of ability to listen to the barrage of mayhem it evoked on social media channels.
Listen to the customer. Keara has taken the time to draft her complaint in an email. An antagonising response is bound to be shared.
Listen to social media. Opportunities were given throughout the day to respond proactively. Instead they were ignored.
Learn from your customer.
Engage in the conversation. Positively. And proactively.
Perhaps some words from Bill Gates could offer Gasp some sound advice, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
It will be interesting to see how this unfolds. It may fizzle as quickly as it came about. Or it may just be the hot topic for Gruen Planet (PR spin-off of Gruen Transfer) next week. Perhaps ‘The Pitch’ could be how Gasp should now respond to regain control of their brand.