Coles' 'Fake Milk' Snafu Highlights The Dangers Of Social Media Incompetence

"Better social media management" isn't at the top of many companies' to-do lists. After all, who has time to faff about with Twitter and Facebook when you have an actual business to run? If you're dealing with customers on a daily basis though, it's definitely not something you want to neglect or ignore. One missed word can swiftly led to a public relations nightmare, as Coles just learned to its chagrin...

Photo: Rob Török, Twitter

"Is it true that Coles $1/litre milk is at times made from reconstituted milk powder?"

The above question was recently posted on Coles' Facebook page. With Australia's supermarket giants currently under fire for their alleged mistreatment of local dairy farmers, you'd think anything to do with milk would be carefully vetted by Coles' PR team. Instead, here's what they responded with (emphasis ours):

"Hi Aaron, thanks for getting in touch. We can confirm that Coles Brand Fresh Milk is made from reconstituted milk powder. Murray Goldburn has stated that their latest problems are due to the fall in world dairy prices and changes in the value of the Australian dollar, not their contract to supply us with Coles Brand milk -- our milk only accounts for about 6 per cent of Murray Goldburn's production. We can assure you that we're committed to supporting a vibrant dairy farming sector and we'll work with our farmers and dairy processors to ensure the long term health of the industry and we'll certainly share your feedback with our team."

The above Facebook reply plainly confirms that Coles uses reconstituted milk powder in its "fresh" milk. Scandal!

In reality, some clumsy social media minion accidentally left out a vital word. The sentence was supposed to read: "We can confirm that Coles Brand Fresh Milk is not made from reconstituted milk powder." Someone done goofed up.

The comment and reply were promptly deleted from Facebook with Coles posting a followup message:

"we're sorry for the confusion. This was a typo and we can confirm that Coles brand milk is fresh and not made from reconstituted milk powder".

By then, the error had already been shared across social media and picked up by multiple media outlets, causing considerable embarrassment for the company. If only they'd taken a second to look over that critical sentence, eh?

But that's not the only thing wrong with Coles' Facebook reply. The rest is worded with the careful, clinical precision of a pre-prepared statement.

It seems likely that Coles' Facebook administrator answered the initial query quickly (too quickly, as it turns out), and then tacked on the company's official "pro-milk" spiel. We're willing to bet that every email, tweet and Facebook message Coles receives about milk prices gets the same response.

While it's obviously difficult to respond organically to every single customer -- particularly if you're as large as Coles -- it's best not to half-arse these things when a controversial topic arises. A belated, personal response is usually preferable to a fast, semi-automated one; especially when you stuff the latter up.


Do you regularly use social media to promote your business? How do you deal with customer queries and complaints? Tell us about it in the comments.

[Via SMH]

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Comments

    The original post had two questions. The second question was "In the opinion of Coles does $1 / litre milk put downward pressure on farm gate prices paid to dairy farmers in any state of Australia?"

    I think all corporate social media platforms need a "Are you sure you want to post this" followed by "Are you really, really sure?".

    No mention of the social media posts making the rounds, about how only store brand milk is being stocked, and they wont restock the premium brands until all the store brands are sold out?

      unless it's changed i can tell you that is completely false. Coles make more on the premium brands so it's in their best interest to keep them stocked. Any day you were working in the dairy department always meant constantly re-filling milk. It's true that the milks come on separate pallets ie coles milk is on one and 3rd party (pauls and others) came on separate pallets.
      In the morning you would drag both out and stock the shelves and usually throughout the day you'd only have to drag the coles one out as the others don't sell through as fast. It's easy to do (i did it many times) that you miss some of the 3rd parties mainly because i cbf digging through the pauls pallet to find the one crate i needed for that one hole in the shelf. So honestly it's more laziness or accident (didn't see the empty product, some only have 1 or 2 facings). All that asside there was definitely more pressure from your manager to keep ALL the milk filled rather than holding back stock. And honestly most of the the people that buy the more expensive milk buy it for a reason and will actively ask staff if there is any left.

      Last edited 24/05/16 7:06 pm

        thats exactly what the social media posts say you would say

          i fucking hate coles. I was there for nearly 10 years. I didn't leave on a good note... I'm not one to stick up for them I was just telling you how it was. Maybe it has changed since i left and it totally wouldn't surprised me if they did do something like this.

            Nope, we stock just as much name brand milk as we do store brand. Source: it's four AM and I'm awake and on my way to stock milk for several hours.

    Meanwhile, Milk farmers are dropping like flies. The big two are wringing them dry and seem to think this is good practice for the benefit of their customers and stockholders. This does not bode well for anyone, customers, stockholders or the farmers.

      If only there was a good solution to screw MG (et al), but support the farmers.

    I'm amazed that Coles doesn't use AGV/robots to restock shelves.

    Most companies seem to have ning nongs on their social media accounts who post endlessly on the footy, horoscopes and just do chit chat rather than engage with customers about their services.

    Just come back from Coles in Caboolture.Asked the assistant about Pauls.Norco etc milk.Only keep our own brand now plus A2 and Zynil and Trim.Don't keep anything else anymore.So off to Woollies and bought ALL our groceries plus Sunshine Coast milk.No more shopping at Coles anymore.We're switching to ALDI and Woollies.Both within 1klm of each other.It's only 2 mins further and the elderly folk we shop for are more than happy.20 ladies total.

    Last edited 27/05/16 12:05 pm

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