Many companies of today still run on a 20th-century business mindset that is premised on the concept of control, and yet the new social customer demands openness. This is what crossed my mind when I saw on the news a report on how “The Dutch Tax & Customs Administration faked demo of its new collection method.” This is a classic example of how NOT to be a social business, but at the same time, a good argument for adopting a socbiz model. The article is in Dutch so let me explain the story a bit to non-Dutch readers.
The Dutch Tax & Customs Administration demonstrated to a news crew their new method for running after those who failed to file and pay taxes. They showed how an employee called up a Ms. Janssen and reported that she was eager to pay up. The reporter dialed the number again and it turned out that the call was made to another employee of the Tax office. The Ministry of Finance admitted and regretted that no real phone calls were made during the shoot.
Why did they decide to handle it this way? Were they afraid to lose control of the ‘brand proposition’ and concerend that things would not go the way they would have liked the public to see? I wonder how they arrived at this option. Did their PR agency or corporate communications department advise them to do it this way?
I’m sure that the Dutch Tax & Customs Administration had valid concerns, but I wonder why they needed to resort to deception when transparency and authentic communications are valid and way better options? I am not privy to their organisational and cultural dynamics so I’m not sure whether this is an isolated incident or an offshoot of policy and ‘closed culture’. If this is indeed their usual way of doing business, then I sincerely hope this #fail sets them to rethink their PR / communications /social approach and eventually discover the benefits of designing for loss of control.