Business Performance Innovation

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Customer Service via Twitter


What’s worse – not providing customer service or providing poor customer service?

That’s a question I’ve pondered recently as a consumer, whilst experimenting with utilising Twitter as a means of contacting brands when I’ve needed assistance. It’s been an interesting and varied experience, something we as marketers should consider for our own businesses.

You don’t need me to tell you times are changing. With the prolific adoption of social media, companies that are not monitoring brand mentions are missing a huge opportunity to serve their customers or to build / repair their reputations.

The conversations about your brand are happening in the social space whether you like it or not. Making like an ostrich and sticking your head in the sand is not going to make it go away.

But why would you want it to? The benefits of monitoring the social sphere are plentiful. For instance:

  • answering customer questions to aid use or encourage sale
  • addressing / resolving customer complaints to improve satisfaction
  • directing non-customers to useful services or info (both your own and others), as a longer term, value-based relationship builder
  • crowdsourcing new product development ideas or improvements to existing products

The list could go on, including being a revenue generating source, if appropriate to your business (though I’d avoid the direct, hard sell approach).

It’s early days as a service medium however, and consequently customers are encountering a mixed bag of experiences. Here are 3 of my own:

The Good – LOVEFiLM

I love film and love the approach of this company. They clearly ‘get’ how to use this medium for relationship and brand building. Not only do they share film news, run competitions and converse in an engaging, cheerful manner, they provide bloody good customer service.

For example, having watched ‘Numb3rs – Season 1’ (sue me, it’s a guilty pleasure), I wanted to move on to Season 2 but it wasn’t listed on the site (though Season 3 was). A quick exchange of tweets with @LOVEFiLM and they’d dispatched an enquiry to their catalogue team with a promise to come back to me with an update. Crucially they did, less than 24 hours later I received a follow up tweet to say the DVD had been sourced and would be available shortly.

One happy customer.

The Bad – Halifax bank

The polar opposite of LOVEFiLM is the Halifax bank. They don’t even have a Twitter account. So when they changed their bank charges at the end of 2009 – a move that appeared to leave a large proportion of their current account customers worse off – the howls of protest online fell on deaf ears.

Now, could they have lessened the negativity by participating in the conversation? Maybe, maybe not. But wouldn’t that have been preferable to adding to the frustration by ignoring their customers?

(I switched to a much friendlier bank, by the way)

The Ugly – BT

BT has a customer service account – @BTCare – though many would agree with my assertion that the name is a fabulous oxymoron.

They clearly try to provide a good service, having invested time, money and resource into their solution. For this they must be commended. However, they may want to review its application.

When I tweeted about the trouble I was having with my internet connection, they were quick to respond with a tweet within a couple of hours – even though it was the weekend. Their apology and offer of help was appreciated. Ignoring my reply was not.

When I did finally get a response a couple of days later (following more tweets), it was evident I was being dealt with by someone who had no record of our earlier conversation (or didn’t look it up). Then when I had to switch the conversation over to the telephone I had to start my conversation all over again.

I found the whole process incredibly frustrating. When you can’t get something to work and someone comes to your rescue offering a solution, only to disappear, then reappear with some kind of amnesia and no solution, your hopes are cruelly dashed.

It doesn’t help that they seem to have a lot of problems with their service. A thankless task for their customer service people, if I ever did see one.

Make my day

So, back to my original question – which is worse? Not providing any service like the Halifax or having a poor experience such as the one with BT?

In a vacuum I’d probably say no service, but in reality I was more annoyed with BT. Of course, I’d love it if all companies I dealt with were like LOVEFiLM. Sadly, they’re not, but its something we as marketers should aspire to with our own businesses.

What are your best experiences with businesses using Twitter? What about the worse? Please add your comments below, I’d love to know your thoughts.

If you aren’t monitoring your brand in social media and would be interested in finding out more, I’d recommend speaking with the good folks over at 6Consulting, the UK partner of Radian6.

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