Argos price blunder shows the true value of social media efficiency

We all know not to believe everything we read on Twitter; if there’s one thing the ubiquitous social network does exceedingly well, it’s spread untruths like wildfire. Who needs facts when the fiction is so much more tweet-worthy? It doesn’t take long for that frivolous rumour you started about Justin Bieber’s lovechild to make the trending topics, be reported in the national press and soon taken as gospel. Speculation out-trumps fact on Twitter, and without even stopping to double check on Wikipedia.

As a result, most of us take what we find on our Twitter streams with a huge bucketful of salt, so imagine the delight of thousands of Twitter users last Saturday when their ingrained skepticism was promptly blown out of the water by Argos. They saw a tweet proclaiming a £450 Nokia smartphone handset currently being flogged by Argos for a mere £120. No wonder those creepy blue aliens like to shop there. But still – utter rubbish surely? Who’s going to be dumb enough to fall for that one? But sure enough, those that clicked through to the actual Argos page would’ve been surprised to find the unbelievable truth staring them right in the face: A Nokia Lumia for £119.99. Cue a spike in Nokia sales the like of which the Finnish giant hasn’t seen since the glory days of Snake.

Only, the too-good-to-be-true deal was exactly that. An error by Argos had mistakenly put the wrong price on the site for a limited time on Saturday. Unfortunately such errors are capitalised on with savage efficiency in the Twitter age, and no sooner had the mistake been noticed by HotDealsUK and popular Russian mobile phone blogger Eldar Murtazin, that news of it spread quickly.

Amazingly, even when people tweeted Argos’ main customer service account @ArgosHelpers to confirm the deal, they were told that it appeared to be correct. Why wasn’t this being checked and double-checked throughout Argos’ various departments and taken care of quickly? It doesn’t say much for the inter-company communication channels they’re operating, and this lack of coordination was put publicly on display.

Argos finally noticed and rectified the price. Naturally, they have no obligation to sell the phone at the knockdown cost thanks to the small print of their site, which allows for such errors in pricing. Most consumers would probably begrudgingly accept it, never really expecting such a discount in the first place, but still, angry customers these days know how to vent their anger, and Argos got an earful.

It’s fairly apparent if you have a look, that Argos generally receives a fair share of abuse on social media; late deliveries, bad in-store customer service, etc. are all accounted for. Yet look at their Facebook wall or Twitter stream; their online customer service team tend to deal with things well, handle their customers with speed and sympathy, and unfortunately just seem to be constantly cleaning up the mess of the wider company. It’s certainly not the first social media fail they’ve encountered.

But still, they should learn a few things from this mistake. They could’ve picked up on something being amiss immediately had they been properly monitoring, as there was clearly a spike in their mention son twitter during that Saturday.

Argos is mentioned on average about 1000 times per day on Twitter. On Saturday, these mentions tripled with over 3172 in 24 hours, and at a fairly steep curve in frequency, something was clearly going on.

The great thing about real time social media monitoring is that these sorts of errors can be spotted more or less immediately, but if brands aren’t dedicating enough time and resources to keeping an eye on their social mentions, then when problems like this occur, the Twitter masses take over, and the problem escalates rapidly.

A further mistake they made was not having a real time update and apology on their social media sites, they dealt with it instead by direct @messages to disgruntled customers who got in touch, rather than a update explaining their mistake and apologising. It suggests a further lack of communication going on throughout their business.

The two main things to take away from this Argos mishap, is the importance of real time monitoring as well as the need to have an integrated and efficient communication network throughout your own company.

Being a properly ‘social business’ begins at home – with clear communication and a united strategy across all departments, informed by real-time insight and information from across the social web. For Argos, this would’ve meant they flagged the issue immediately, got it checked, confirmed, rectified and resolved before that Twitter rumour machine had barely even woken up.


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