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If you have ever been really angered by rude customer service, you’ll understand why Heikki Vaananen was still cross more than a decade later.

As a 15-year-old growing up in 1990s small town Finland, he would go to his local computer shop to buy floppy disks. Unfortunately, the man behind the counter was always horrible to him.

„He was always rude and dismissive,” says Heikki, now 39. „It was bullying really, he’d deliberately ignore me, not serve me. Of course it made me very angry, but when you are young you don’t know how to deal with it. I never forgot about it though.”


So remembering his teenage experience at that computer store, he decided that he wanted to set up a company that helps firms to monitor – and then improve – the level of customer service they provide.

More specifically, his idea was to build physical feedback terminals, where customers could answer questions about their experience. This could be a question about whether the staff were friendly enough, if a cafe’s food was good enough or if they were happy with how quickly they were served.


„I thought it was a great idea,” says Ville Levaniemi, HappyOrNot’s other founder. „But I was sure that someone must be already been doing something similar. But I had a good search online, and amazingly they weren’t. So we started planning the concept in 2008, and in 2009 we launched the business.”

Today, HappyOrNot is used by more than 4,000 organisations across 134 countries, including London’s Heathrow Airport, the San Francisco 49ers American football team, UK retailer Boots, US chain Shoe Station, and French supermarket giant Carrefour.

Ville had worked with Heikki at Universomo, and they used the money they raised from the sale of that business to get HappyOrNot up and running. They used a Finnish manufacturer to build their terminals.

Their first big customer was one of Finland’s big-three supermarket groups, which was initially looking to check on the freshness of fruit and vegetables in its stores.


Soon HappyOrNot was looking for overseas customers, starting with neighbouring Sweden. But as Ville admits, some businesses were just not interested.

„We have been laughed at.” says Ville, who is 40. „Laughed out of offices multiple times. Some companies, especially to begin with it, didn’t take us seriously. They didn’t see the value of what we do. But what is particularly pleasing is the number of firms who initially said no, but then a few years down the line came back and say they want to use us.”


Today more than 25,000 HappyOrNot terminals are in place around the world, and the company says they have now been used more than one billion times. Customers pay an annual subscription for the service, and the company says its annual turnover is more than 10 million euros ($11.4m; £9m).The firm’s headquarters is still located in the Finnish city of Tampere, but today it also has offices in Amsterdam and West Palm Beach, Florida.

But what is to stop a store manager or other employee repeatedly hitting the very happy button on a HappyOrNot terminal to give a false reading?

„We very quickly notice any irregularities,” says Ville. „We pick it up, so it is just not worth doing.”

Joanna Causon, chief executive of the Institute of Customer Service, says it is pleasing to see more firms try to maintain a high level of customer service.5

„Disaffected employees will in fact turn customers away. Only 11% of consumers would consider buying from a company again after a bad experience with an employee and almost half would actively warn others against the organisation.”

While Heikki, who has the chief executive title, is based at the main office in Tampere, Ville, who is executive vice president, is now mainly based in Amsterdam.

But whatever happened to the old computer shop in Heikki’s hometown? „It ended up closing down,” he says.

„I wasn’t the only one not prepared to put up with the bad service.”

a, „They found that even in the best-performing stores customers were not happy with the fruit and vegetables at certain times of the day,” says Ville.

„So using the data we were able to give the company, it was, for example, able to make sure that there were fresh bananas to buy in the evening.”


„Customers are willing to pay more for better service and, in an uncertain economic climate, it is more important than ever that organisations get it right the first time,” she says.

c, Fast forward 13 years to 2008, and Heikki was a successful 28-year-old entrepreneur and computer programmer.

His Finnish video games business Universomo worked for some of the biggest names in the industry, everyone from Sega, to Disney, Warner, and Lucas Arts. But Heikki had recently sold up to an American buyer, and he was looking for a new business idea

d, In 2012 HappyOrNot got a major break when Heathrow Airport got in touch. It remains one of the company’s biggest clients to this day.

„Heathrow called us, which was amazing,” says Ville. „It was our first really international customer.”

e, The questions would appear on a screen. The customer would then simply have to press one of four „smiley” faces, from very happy, to happy, a little unhappy, or very unhappy. HappyOrNot would then collate and email the data to the company.



Whether it comes from hackers, 1,……….. customers, or is simply a 2………. against something you post, negative social media content can destroy trust in your brand in a matter of minutes.

„Social media is the most immediate threat to your company’s reputation,” says Pete Knott, digital consultant at reputation management consultancy Lansons.

„If not taken seriously it can and will directly impact your company financially and culturally.”

Fake news remains one of the biggest challenges – despite machine learning 3………. by networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

In May, for example, shares in the UK’s Metro Bank plunged 11% before it could shake off inaccurate social media rumours that it was facing financial difficulties.

And according to Ilia Kolochenko of Geneva-based internet security company Immuniweb, the consequences could potentially be much worse.

‘Dropping a bomb’

„Hackers can cause huge damage if they can find a way to post fake news on social media,” he says.

„Imagine if they managed to hack into the BBC accounts and post a story about Iran dropping a nuclear bomb.

„The effects could be 4………. – especially if other news networks picked up the story.”

Social media posts don’t have to be inaccurate to damage your brand, though. Sometimes, the truth hurts too.

In 2016, battery manufacturer Samsung SDI’s market value plummeted by more than half a billion dollars when Tesla boss Elon Musk tweeted that the company was working with Panasonic on its next electric car.

If not properly thought out, your own posts can also cause problems, as US bank Chase found out earlier this year when it was accused of „poor shaming„. It published a post suggesting customers with low bank balances save money by avoiding taking cabs and buying coffees.

Stealing your good name

Other threats include fraudsters taking your brand name in vain.

„Creative 5………. often exploit big companies’ names to run social media scams,” Mr Kolochenko says.

„For example, they might set up an ‘Amazon India Support’ account on Twitter and ask customers who contact them about missing parcels to pay a customs fee.”

And even posts by unknown customers can do a lot of damage if other users pick them up.

„Consumers have recognised that social media is a very fast way to get a response from customer services,” says Claire Twohill, social media director at global PR agency FleishmanHillard.

„That’s why social media attacks are often a direct result of a problem with the supply chain, or a change to a popular product.

„But whatever the reason, you need to react fast.”

‘Planning is crucial’

Masha Maksimava, a vice president at Belorussian social monitoring company Awario, says: „The key to online reputation management is handling negative feedback quickly to prevent it turning into crisis.”

So it pays to be properly prepared.

„Planning is crucial,” says Lopa Ghosh, an associate partner at global professional services provider EY.

Equally important, however, is not to 6,………….

„You don’t need to 7………… every negative tweet,” Ms Twohill says.

„Sometimes it’s better to do nothing to avoid creating a crisis for no reason.”

Either way, finding the right tone is key.

Get it spot on, and you might even be able to turn events to your favour.

Employee activity

„Social networks are a great place to rebuild reputation,” Mr Knott says.

„So try to think about how you can use your response to a crisis to demonstrate your company’s values and show its human side.”

Employee activity is one of the biggest social media 8..………

Cyber criminals, for example, often use information 9..……… from employees’ social accounts to infiltrate an organisation.

Richard Horne, a cyber security partner at accountants PwC, says: „People expose a lot about themselves on social media.

„So attackers could look at someone’s profile, see they love skiing and email them a malware link to a cheap chalet deal in Switzerland.

„It’s a very common way of 10…………… companies’ systems.”

Passwords and posts

The challenge, therefore, is to manage how your employees use social media, without 11..……… on their rights.

„You can’t monitor your employees’ social media accounts – that’s getting into very ethically 12…………. waters,” says Ms Ghosh.

„Instead, you have to educate them about passwords and what sort of thing they post.”

It’s also important to be clear about how they should respond – if at all – if the company becomes embroiled in a crisis.

Presentational grey line

Emma Harvey, founder of London-based reputation management specialist Seven Consultancy, says: „If an incident occurs, ensure that employees understand the protocol, and are not 13..………… themselves by trying to defend the company online.”

Take advantage of social monitoring tech

Monitoring, or listening, tools that use Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) provided by social networks to collect and analyse data can help you to build reputation and manage crises on social media.

„Setting up a social listening tool can be challenging, especially if your brand name is a common word such as Apple,” Ms Maksimava says.

„So the main three things to look for are 14.……….. analysis, so you can handle negative mentions first; real-time results, so you can step in immediately; and flexibility, so you can exclude irrelevant mentions even if your keywords are ambiguous.”

Just be careful to avoid 15.………. people’s privacy.

„There are definite benefits to using social listening tools, but it must be done in the right way,” Mr Knott says.

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News that Ford plans to close its Bridgend plant next year, with the loss of 1,700 jobs, is just the latest in a series of blows for the UK car industry.

In February, Honda said it would close its Swindon plant by 2021, with the loss of about 3,500 roles, while Jaguar Land Rover and Nissan are also cutting production and jobs.

It comes as carmakers around the globe struggle with a range of challenges, while consumers are buying fewer cars.

So what’s holding manufacturers back?

1. Falling demand

After years of strong growth, global car sales were broadly flat in 2018, largely because of a slump in demand in the world’s biggest market, China.

It has hurt carmakers who had been doing brisk business in China, says Dave Leggett, editor of the car industry website just-auto.

„Trade tensions between Washington and Beijing have hit confidence in China generally. The economy was slowing down anyway, but that accentuated it,” he says.

Jaguar Land Rover has blamed its poor performance recently on falling Chinese demand, while Ford has pulled plans to sell a Chinese-made Ford Focus in the US because of the impact of trade tariffs.

The Chinese slump comes as demand in two other giant car markets, Western Europe and the US, has also slowed amid waning consumer confidence.

„It is creating more competition, which makes it tougher for everyone,” Mr Leggett says.

2. Emissions woes

In Europe, emissions issues are also causing headaches for car firms.

Air quality concerns and taxation changes have led to a big drop-off in diesel sales, contributing to a 7% fall in new car registrations in the UK in 2018.

More challenging, perhaps, is the introduction of tough new CO2 emission standards, designed to tackle global warming, that make it much more expensive to build cars.

From 2021, manufacturers will face big fines in the EU if their fleets break agreed emissions limits, and these targets will get progressively tougher.

„Carmakers have to add on average €1,000 of content to cars to make them comply with the new rules,” says Arndt Ellinghorst, an automotive industry analyst at Evercore ISI.

„It means consumers will be less inclined to buy, which only adds to the general slowdown in consumer confidence.”


3. The electric challenge

To get their emissions levels down, carmakers are also going to need to sell a lot more electric vehicles, but there are big obstacles in the way.

„A lot of carmakers are not ready to deliver electric vehicles at the right quantities,” says Mr Leggett. „They need to change their operations and gear the cars much more to a mass market, but that requires investment.”

The other side of the problem is that the market isn’t quite ready for electric cars.

Global sales of battery electric cars surged 73% in 2018 to 1.3 million units, but that was still just a fraction of the 86 million cars sold overall.

According to Dr Jonathan Owens, supply chain and logistics expert at the University of Salford Business School, one issue is the lack of charging infrastructure on roads in Europe and the US, although he says China is making great strides in this area.

Another is about the limited range of some mid to lower-market electric cars.

„Ford has had an electric Ford Focus since 2011, but the range is hopeless compared to competitors at less than 100 miles,” Dr Owens says.

„And the VW golf can only drive for about 120 miles.”

4. A shift away from ownership?

Other worries are weighing on carmakers’ minds, too – one being the emergence of new technologies that could radically change our relationship to car ownership.

If driverless cars go mainstream over the next 15 years, Mr Leggett says, then many of us might opt to share or rent rather than own our own vehicles.

That could slash the cost of travel per mile, making ownership seem much less appealing.

Traditional car companies are having to fight to stay relevant as technology giants such as ride-hailing firm Uber and Google’s driverless car business Waymo dive into this market.

However, the research and development (R&D) costs a lot and so many are teaming up to spread the risk.

Recent examples include Ford and Volkswagen’s agreement to „investigate” ways of working on electric and autonomous vehicles together, while Honda invested $2.75bn (£2.1bn) in rival General Motors’ driverless unit with a view to launching a fleet of unmanned taxis.

5. Brexit

In the UK, car firms have been warning repeatedly of the dangers of a no-deal Brexit since the EU referendum in 2016.

And investment in the UK car industry has fallen in the last two years, slumping 46.5% in 2017 alone.

The problem, analysts say, is that British car plants rely heavily on components imported from the EU, while most of the finished cars they produce are exported to the European mainland.

„If we are going to have uncertainty in the form of tariffs, then that will cause bottlenecks and delays which will make UK plants less economic,” says Dr Owens.

However, Mr Leggett stresses Brexit is only one of many factors troubling the UK industry.

„Firms are seeing lower exports to China, and sluggish sales in Europe. The UK economy isn’t that buoyant at the moment too.”


Based on the article fill in the gaps with a suitable word!

Carmakers are planning to ………..plants, which is primarily due to a…………in the demand from China. The trade war between the US and China is also…………..the industry hard. Emission is another broblem that has …………..to the fall in sales. In the EU there are stricter emission standards that carmakers struggle to……………with. The industry also has to …………a lot to produce electric vehicles for the mass market. Electric cars………………only for a small proportion of the overall sales. Another issue is the lack of…………………

Driverless cars can change the situation dramatically as people will tend to……………or……………..a car rather than own one. Furthermore it has the beneficial effect that it is less……………. For the car industry, however R&D will…………….the cost consequently they have the tendency to………………….. Brexit is posing a further risk to British car companies as the………………are imported from the EU and the target market for the ………………….is also the mainland.

Match the word pairs!

struggle                              will get tougher

slump                                  mainstream

tackle                                 sales

targets                               with challenges

be less inclined                 great strides

fraction of                         in demand

make                                  to spread the risk

go                                        global warming

team up                             to buy

sluggish                              overall sales