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BBC / Cbeebies in social customer services WIN

Henry Elliss
Henry Elliss
Managing Director
11 January 2012

As a blogger, my three most frequent post topics (on the Tamar blog as well as my own) are Social Media, Marketing Win/FAILs and parenting – and last night I was pleased to discover the BBC children’s channel, Cbeebies had carried-off a stroke of genius which ticked all three boxes.

For those of you that aren’t parents (or students with very little to do), I should probably give you a little bit of background to the situation, to get us all up to speed. So here’s the background:

Cbeebies as a channel runs for 6.30am to 7pm every day, with a wide variety of quality programming on offer – but which sticks to a daily schedule which rarely changes. This is partly (I’d imagine) for logistical reasons, but also because routine is great for children – occasional changes to the schedule are usually met with fierce debate online, with occasional role-backs happening after particularly bad feedback.

A few weeks ago, Cbeebies announced that they would be changing the content of the “Bedtime Hour” – the 6pm to 7pm, “calm them down before bed” slot which is one of their most popular sections. In an effort to squeeze in the 10min “Driver Dan’s Story Train”, the BBC decided to reduce the equally-popular “Waybuloo” from 20min to 10. In order to do this, they obviously had to remove half of the content – and decided to add in a narrator to compensate, and explain away some of the inconsistency. They chose a voice that many parents will be familiar with – “Come Dine with Me” narrator Dave Lamb.

Well, this is where the proverbial hit the fan. To say parents weren’t pleased is an understatement. Here’s a screenshot of the “Bring back the old Waybuloo” page, which was set up within 10 minutes of the episode finishing:

This is where the impressive part happens. As you can probably see from the most recent message on the group above (as well as the feedback they received on their own Facebook page – see screenshot below for a “Before” and “After” comparison) Cbeebies reacted. And they did it VERY quickly – with only one “short format” show under their belt, the schedule was switched back.

As a few of the parents in the “after” thread pointed out, the BBC evidently decided the strength-of-feeling was just too much to ignore, or even to give a one-week grace period to. As a parent myself, I saw the episode (albeit on iPlayer later that day) and can certainly see their point – the narration itself was odd, but having Dave “Come Dine with Me” Lamb doing it was even weirder – it even took on a slightly creepy tone at times. But as much as I was unhappy with the change, I was VERY happy with Cbeebies for responding so quickly – as were most of the people complaining.

It’s not often that you see a brand – let alone a (traditionally slow-moving) TV channel – reacting to feedback this quickly, and I applaud the BBC for doing so.

It remains to be seen whether this responsive attitude will be carried-through with future changes though – by reacting so well this time, they may well have set up a rod for their own back in parents’ eyes if they don’t respond so favourably next time a complaint is made…

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