Marketing and Communications ideas – popped!

Twitter’s Customer Service Revolution

Let’s start today’s entry with a little story, shall we?

Last week I received a new debit card in the mail. A perfectly routine and normal thing that everyone experiences once in a while. Mine, however, had a small error in the printing. Not a big deal, but it was my name, and when shopping online, I would have to enter my name wrong in order for the data to match that which had been erroneously printed on my card. A minor inconvenience, and I somewhat naively assumed the solution would be just as minor.

First thing I did was call the toll-free customer service number on my card. I explained the issue to the agent. He, naturally, assumed that an error of this sort was not possible. I managed to persuade him that it was indeed a problem, and that it needed to be fixed. He told me that he couldn’t help me, and that I would have to go into a branch.

To the branch I went, and explained the situation again. Again, disbelief was expressed that this particular error could occur in the first place. The staff finally got it, and patiently explained that there was nothing they could do about it, and that I would have to call the toll-free customer service number. “But wait”, said I. “I’ve just done that, and they sent me here”. “Sorry”, said the teller, “all I can do is call that number myself”. She kindly offered me the use of a phone in the branch to contact the customer service line once again. I sat in the branch and waited 15 minutes on hold before giving up and going about my day. I resolved to call the next morning when wait times would be shorter.

The next morning, I had the much better idea to tweet my troubles.

@(bank) new debit card arrived, my name is wrong. 1-800 says branch can help, but branch says it’s 1-800. Help?

A response was almost immediate, inviting me to DM some details. A brief conversation in DM followed, while I explained the situation. The Twitter CSR told me that yes indeed, the branch was the solution. I explained, while rolling my eyes, that I had been to the branch and they couldn’t help me. “Which branch and who did you speak with?” was the encouraging reply.

Then a remarkable thing happened. My cell phone rang. It was the manager from the branch I had been to the night before. I had not provided any account info to the Twitter CSR, but they had tracked me down. Off I went to the branch, where I was greeted personally by the Branch Manager. With a few quick keystrokes, my name was restored to what it really is, and a new debit card was dispatched from head office.

Sitting quietly in the corner was the teller from the previous night, looking very sheepish indeed.

The whole episode struck me as particularly remarkable. It would appear that my bank has the most empowered and and engaged customer service agents monitoring social media. Why?

It’s public.

That’s the silver bullet of customer service via social media. Everything you say about a business is on the public record for all to see. Companies and brands want to make sure their online reputation is the best it can possibly be. Smart businesses engage quickly, resolve issues promptly, and make sure they are seen doing just that.

Now some tips for business, and some for consumers as well:

For business:

  • Be available via social media, and monitor your channels. People are talking about your brand whether you are there or not
  • Realize that you cannot control what people say about your brand
  • Monitor related search terms so you can proactively respond to issues involving you that haven’t been brought to your attention
  • Respond promptly to complaints
  • Once contact is established, take the conversation private, via DM, email, or telephone
  • Solve the issue as quickly as you can
  • When there is a resolution, follow up with the complainant.
  • For huge bonus social media street-cred, follow up again a few days later, publicly. “Hi @123, just checking in to see if everything is still OK!”

I read a blog post this morning where a major hotel chain (Novotel) appears to be actively discouraging customers to complain on social media. It was a pretty shocking read, almost to the point of scolding the author who had complained to the front desk, to no avail, and then tweeted about the problem. The chain did not respond for days, and then admonished the author for not letting the front desk know. This kind of customer service is incredibly damaging to a brand. See tip #1 above. The conversation is taking place with or without you. Best to be a part of it.

Social Media Tips For Consumers:

  • Find the correct Twitter account to complain to – Some brands have several
  • State your problem clearly, without editorializing
  • Ranting, raving, insulting, swearing, or generally being abusive will work against you. You won’t get what you want this way. You are likely to be ignored
  • If a brand invites you to discuss in DM, do it
  • If there is no resolution, don’t be afraid to restate the trouble publicly
  • Communicate from an established account. (More on this later)
  • It’s always nice to thank the CSR publicly upon a successful resolution

One more thing for consumers: If you start a tweet with @brand, only the people who follow you and @brand will see that tweet. If you start a tweet with “Hey @brand” or even a dot, “.@brand”, everyone who follows you will see your tweet. The more people who see your tweet, the more impact it has.

Twitter certainly appears to have quickly supplanted mail, e-mail, phone, postcards and telegrams as the most effective customer service channel. The public nature of twitter encourages business to much quicker action than a private phone call ever would.

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