Social Media and Customer Service

Bottom line: do it right, or not at all

Companies are jumping onto the social media bandwagon, looking for greater visibility and more leads. What they will find is that social media is an amplifier of their corporate values, particularly when it comes to customer service. If they’ve made a strong and genuine commitment to their customers, this will shine through and benefit them. If they haven’t, they can expect an equal but opposite effect.

A Tale of Two Twitters

Tale the First – the positive boost

Some time ago, I was having trouble with my Delta account. Simply put, they couldn’t get my frequent flyer number onto my ticket for a big, complex flight. I spent nearly a half an hour with agents and managers on the phone, naively believing that it was better to have voice contact. It wasn’t acrimonious, but it was frustrating, and eventually I gave up. Then I remembered that Delta had a customer service account on twitter: @DeltaCares

I tweeted my challenge in one message. Almost immediately, I received a direct message tweet, and I shared my particulars in an email. Less than five minutes later, the problem – formerly branded “impossible to solve” – was resolved, and I was invited to confirm the fact. If true, they asked, would I tweet my satisfaction? Of course I was, and I did. I now rely exclusively on this twitter account for any challenges with Delta – and you can be certain I’ve shared this story quite frequently. And yes, I travel a lot. No, make that A LOT.

Tale the Second – not so much

Recently, I tried to reclaim a deposit from a car dealer. I went through an agonizing series of broken promises, at each turn being assured that, yes, “the check is in the mail.” Finally, after the third exchange – which yes, did have some acrimony! – I looked to social media and discovered they had both twitter and Facebook accounts. Their twitter page didn’t make it seem like they paid much attention, but Facebook was pretty active. So I began my campaign, with posts – polite but direct – on both their page and mine. And I of course tweeted, and copied that to my LinkedIn stream. All in all, good for close to 1,500 readers, plus the organic second-order effects.

Responses starting coming in right away, and within a half hour I had a call from their “Internet manager,” who genuinely tried to solve my problem. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the foresight to check to see that the email she promised me actually arrived, so a couple hours later, it looked like it was “the check is in the (e)mail” all over again.

Ultimately, the last promised date turned out to be accurate, and I received my check. But in the meantime, my story spread, other disgruntled customers started chiming in, and what could have been a happy ending for the vendor turned into a much larger – and quite negative – burst of visibility than if I had kept to the phone.

Lessons Learned?

  1. Customer service continues, for better or worse, even after you’ve lost the sale.
  2. Don’t go into social media unless you’re ready to show your true colors in the public square.
  3. Transparent congratulatory posts by your employees and friends are just that – transparent. They only further amplify your flaws.
  4. (And the oldest one of all): It takes a long time to get a customer, and only an instant to lose them. And, now, their social network.

The careful reader will note that I give mention to the success – Delta – and don’t mention the failure by name. Go read my facebook feed if you want the blow-by-blows:

Please, treasure the public. They are your treasure.