The Unforgivable Sins of Bad Content

In the same way that a bad experience with a company’s customer service rep can make or break a company in today’s Yelp-reviewed, Twitter-fed culture  so can bad content.

Content is one of the best vehicles for customer service — every blog post, every interactive video, and every curated article can cement or shatter a brand’s reputation.

Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of, referred to quality customer service as “the future of profitability for brands,” at last week’s 2013 CES Brand Matters conference in Las Vegas.

Here are the top five reasons bad content equals bad customer service:

1. It’s Pointless

Like a cashier that’s slumped behind the counter texting, there’s no reason meaningless content should exist.

If it’s not helpful, and it doesn’t have any clear purpose, it shouldn’t be there.

Josh Silverman, president of consumer services for US American Express, pointed out that companies have a “responsibility to … [give consumers] a message they’ll want to hear.”

One notable fail? NBCTV’s Instagram account. They’ve been called the “paparazzi” of Instagram (not the fun kind).

2. It’s Untrustworthy

Sometimes, a server will actually try to help you choose between the roast chicken and pasta primavera  other times, they’ll insist you try the lobster.

As Joseph Tripodi, EVP and CMO of The Coca Cola Co., said, “Consumers are smart; they know when they’re being oversold.”

When it comes to connecting with consumers, focus on building trust above sales. According to Benioff, “If trust is not [your company’s] number one value, in this economy, it’s over.”

3. It Doesn’t Anticipate Needs

As a waitress, I was told to “anticipate” what people wanted before they even knew they needed it. A “warm up” for a cup of coffee? An extra napkin for a messy sandwich? There before the customer asked.

In the same way, good content reflects how a brand watches and listens to what users want. The makeup-sample box brand Birchbox does this right. Their popular blog, The Haute Box, gives beauty-obsessed readers tips and recommendations  even nonsubscribers can find something to love.

4. It’s Boring

When it comes to content, says Tripodi, “Unless [an agency] is pulling us to the edge of the abyss, we don’t need you.”

Even if you hit the target audience, if it’s boring you to tears, your consumers won’t tune in.

“At the end of the day, it’s about the emotional connection,” said Keith Weed, CMO of Unilever.

A good example of a truly lame blog? Check out this one, from American Airlines. Nothing like your partner’s hotel renovation to keep readers riveted.

5. It’s Offensive

We’ve all spoken with customer service reps that make it all too clear that your feelings don’t matter. It seems obvious, but some content still crosses the line between innovative or radical and rude.

Content shouldn’t intrude if it’s irrelevant, ill-informed  or worst of all  offensive. From off-putting tweets  to misogynist Youtube videos, it’s surprisingly common.

Image by Flickr

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