One of the reasons brands choose to avoid social media is because it is a double-edged sword. Times are changing, forward thinking brands are not only present on social media, but also engaging on the network and at difficult times using the same medium to manage their reputation. Amul India, a trusted household name for its food products is doing the same right now – managing its online reputation on Facebook after an unhappy customer posted pictures of one of Amul’s milk brand gone bad.
The customer – Neha Tomar’s story
Neha Tomar from the capital city took to Facebook when she found out that the Amul Gold Milk she had purchased on 10th October, 2014 isn’t suitable to consume. Neha wrote, “It is some dangerous substance that came out. I thank to god that my family did not consumed this milk. I wonder what would have happened if we would have consumed this. I request everyone to stop taking Amul milk, as we need to take strict actions to stop Amul from making this deadly milk.”
The Facebook post along with four photographs got shared close to 70K times and has been liked by close to 10K users on the social network. Looking at the numbers it is safe to say that the post had gone viral.
Meanwhile Neha on the same day also initiated a petition on Change.org requesting our PM Narendra Modi to stop Amul India making such products which are not suitable for consumption. The petition addressed to India’s Health Minister has received 443 supporters on the forum. The same was also shared on Facebook which again received more than 62 shares and 139 likes.
Along with these activities, the Amul India Facebook page was also being spammed by other worried consumers; they raised questions on the brand they have trusted over generations.
The brand – Amul India’s story
Amul India, which has a million plus fans on Facebook and is quite popular online for its likeable content, has updated its fans today with an elaborate response on the matter. The message posted by the brand raises some pertinent issues and how users on social media are taking undue opportunity of the medium.
According to Amul, Neha in the first place was using milk which had already passed the “use by date”. In other words she bought an expired product.
However, Amul says that, “It may be noted that Ms Neha posted her grievance on her Facebook page on 9th October, a day prior to her informing us about the same. Our officials asked the customer that if she has faced the problem on 10th Oct, how is it possible for you to post the same on 9th on Facebook? We now see that the timing of her post has been changed to 10th.”
Amul kept in touch with the customer, visited her house and provided technical reasons for the incident. “We informed her that we checked all the batches of the same Amul Milk and found that there is no problem in any batches including the one which consumer had purchased.”
Besides, Amul has posted a video on YouTube to clarify the stretchy mass issue that was created while the customer was making cheese from the sour milk. “Any natural milk (branded/unbranded) which is acidified (sour) in the chilled condition and then heated shall result in curd mass which shows stretching property similar to that of mozzarella cheese.”
Amul assured its fans on Facebook that there has been absolutely no problem with the fresh milk being supplied in the last six decades. However, it has accused Neha for deliberately trying to malign the brand online. “Based on the misrepresentation of facts by the said consumer, we infer that the expired milk used by the complainant was deliberately abused to malign the brand.”
The company has also claimed that she has been misusing her office to publicize this story on Amul. “We hope that she has informed her office regarding the same as we shall hold her office too responsible for her actions.” The Facebook post by Amul has garnered 687 shares and 1.6K likes.
Is the customer maligning Amul’s reputation online?
Before we look into the facts laid out on Facebook, let me appreciate how Amul India has dealt the entire episode. At a time when most brands ignore or are behind the customer to delete the post, Amul has investigated the entire issue with great maturity.
The first evident question that comes to mind is that why did Neha post about the grievance on 9th October when she faced the problem on 10th. We are yet to hear from Neha on the same and what she has to say about the screenshot provided by Amul India on Facebook.
The other issue that Amul has raised is on Neha misusing her office to publicize the story. While Amul has not elaborated anything here but it is interesting to note that Neha is a Senior Legal Officer at Public Health Foundation of India.
The last post Neha made on the issue was yesterday where she highlighted that Amul executives have taken the matter seriously and are looking into it. “A team of Q & A and production will be coming to meet me regarding the issue. I am hoping to hear good answers from them. I am glad that they have shown interest in their consumer complaint.”
But there isn’t any update from Neha on Amul’s latest post blaming her of maligning its reputation.
While people may debate about the tone and the stance that the brand has taken on Facebook but one can’t take a brand for a ride on social media. The product that Neha was using had expired and thereafter what she did is understandable in the hyper social media times. But the claims made by Amul on the date and misusing her office to publicize the story is really not acceptable. It is also interesting to note that the update that she has posted on Facebook on the feedback is not correct says the brand – “She even told that our officers that she will update the same post on 13th evening. But till time of posting this, it has not been updated with correct information. This clearly reflects that she has malafide intentions. Also, the facts have been carefully concealed by her to generate and sustain the hype.”
There have been cases when brands have taken a customer for a ride and the customer has fought back using social media. This is vice versa.
It would be interesting to know what Neha has to say on the allegations made by Amul, next on her Facebook wall? Will Amul sue her on the grounds of intentionally maligning the brand online?