Twitter: The Best Customer Service Tool

Years ago, before the rise of social media tools like Twitter, I had poor experiences at two different Arby’s restaurants.  I sent Arby’s head office an e-mail to voice my concerns.  I never received a reply. In all honesty, Arby’s executives probably realized the complaint ends with them and maybe a few of my friends.  My level of influence as an unhappy customer was very limited.

Then comes along Social Media.

At first, companies probably cringed at the thought of consumers connecting with each other and negative experiences going viral.  You’ve probably heard of the well-known ‘United Breaks Guitar video made in response to United Airlines poor customer service.  We learn from this that you cannot ignore social media.

Last week I went into the Best Buy store in Lethbridge to buy a new computer.  I knew exactly what I wanted and planned for an ‘in and out’ experience.  I was looking for a low-end computer that the kids could use for games, e-mailing and such.  I had never purchased extended warranty plans, and wasn’t planning to this time either.

I felt pressured to purchase the Geek Squad services and then the extended warranty plan.  The entire time I just wanted to take my new computer to the register and pay for it.  It felt that like I had to say no 3-4 times to the Best Buy Associate. I had to eventually walk away from the associate.

I left the store feeling disappointed with my experience. I immediately turned to Twitter to express my frustration.

I sent a few different tweets. One directly to the Best Buy Canada account and one just venting my frustration.

After some time, I received a response expressing apologies for the experience and asking me to send them an e-mail with full details.  I did that and within one day received two e-mails; one from a Best Buy Canada executive and one from a store manager from the Lethbridge store.  I felt like my voice was heard and was happy to have received these e-mails.

The days of complaints falling on deaf ears are gone, and has been for some time.

What does this mean for businesses?

You need to be on Twitter! Twitter has become a hot spot for complaints and the potential impact is great. You need to be listening for mentions of your brand or product and be prepared to follow through.  Sometimes the response will require a more detailed conversation, similar to my experience with Best Buy.  But at a minimum, you need to acknowledge the original complaint on Twitter.  This indicates to everyone that you are there and ready to respond.  This is exactly what Best Buy did.

You may have anxiety about the negative comments that people will share about your company like I did.  Instead, embrace it. Look at Twitter as an opportunity to tap into the mind of your consumer.  For years, companies have tried to get insight into their consumer’s mind through market research, comment cards, etc.  The only difference is that Twitter allows for the world to see the complaint.  But it also allows for the world to see your response.

What does this mean for consumers?

It means quite simply this: you have a voice.  Don’t think that your single voice is silent. Twitter (and all social media) is a magnifier.  It magnifies your voice and reach.  You can make a difference on a business product, process, policy, etc.

There is one word of caution: be authentic. Just as brands are required to be authentic with consumers, you need to be authentic with brands. Don’t be looking for freebies or handouts.  Your purpose in venting should be noble.  Educating and warning others and possibly making a positive change on the business.

What experiences do you have with Twitter as a customer service tool?  Please share.

  • Joel Dixon

    Mike, 

    Great post and it’s right on target!  I was actually saying the same thing while talking to some attendees at the recent PSEWEB conference.  So often conversations about Twitter and other social media tools revolve around “listening”, “participating in the conversation”, “putting out quality content”.  All of these are important, but companies especially need to see these tools are opportunity to showcase their customer service. Twitter allows for companies to receive feedback (positive and negative) about their product or service from those who otherwise might not have expressed anything.  It also ensures that a company DOES have the opportunity to respond to a particular customer need.  Whether they do or not is still a separate issue. 

    And in regards to negative feedback posted to twitter/social media, I really subscribe to something mentioned by Scott Stratton (@unmarketing) at recent keynote session:  Negative feedback actually can IMPROVE a company’s brand by providing the opportunity to show how responsive/awesome it’s customer service really is (as your Best Buy example shows).  

    Of course, in the case of my company simply contacting our Client Advocate or Support team will always get an immediate response :).

    Cheers,
    Joel Dixon – @joelddixonwww.hannonhill.com