As Social Media continues to mature as a marketing practice and evolve, it is becoming more and more of a customer service tool. I think that using Twitter and Facebook for customer service will eventuallly become more popular than using the phone or email, particuarly in certain demographics.
Quick real-life example: my friend Chris‘ parents recently bought new appliances from The Brick. They had problems with them, and repeated phone calls to the store got them nothing but stalling. They weren’t getting any satisfaction. Chris got on the Tweeter and sent this:
Here’s another recent example (warning: it’s a bit harsh) that came to me courtesy of Kemp Edmonds:
Uh. Yeah. Karin, who runs the @ICBC twitter feed, did a great job of handling this one with humour and professionalism.
My favorite thing about this particular interchange is that Ali wasn’t trying to direct her complaint to ICBC. She didn’t @mention them in her tweet. This happens a lot: either people don’t know that the business is on twitter, or they don’t know how to find them on Twitter, or they want to complain, but they feel self-conscious about doing it right to the business’ face (we are, after all, Canadian).
Karin is doing it right: she is probably running Hootsuite or some similar program on her computer, and in it, she’s running a continuous search for the term “ICBC.” That’s how she was able to see and respond to Ali’s tweet.
I ran a bit of a test last week. I’ve been having problems with my Linksys Wireless Router dropping the signal. I phoned their Technical Support line after I’d tried a bunch of things myself, but was told that my router was too old for me to have access to free customer service, and I’d have to pay to have them troubleshoot with me on the phone. They let me know that they did have an on-line database I could search through for free, however. But I was frustrated. All I wanted was 10 minutes of their time (I’m pretty sure I’d never called the support line before, except maybe to get the router set up) to see if we could get it going again. I hung up and tweeted this (note the second tweet was first):
I didn’t tweet directly @officiallinksys. And I admit, it was partially a test. I was really upset and angry, I was venting. But my venting was also an opportunity for Linksys to turn the situation around and create a happy customer out of a dissatisfied one. But nothing.
Out of options, I decided to buy a new router, and a couple days later tweeted:
I got lots of responses, but was pretty clear that my new router was NOT going to be a Linksys. Somehow, my dilemma got passed along through the channels and I eventually got this:
And then, later, this:
I checked the link that Linksys had sent me, and it basically advised me to call customer support. Which was the entire problem, because all I wanted from the beginning was for someone to troubleshoot for me on the phone, but I was denied. Linksys sent me one more tweet asking to DM my phone number so they could help out, but by that time, I had already purchased a new modem. The window of opportunity for customer service was closed.
You can argue that I didn’t give them enough slack. Feel free to in the comments below. But it feels to me, that if one company (ie: ICBC) is doing Twitter Customer Service so right, why isn’t Linksys? I get that they are a much bigger company, and are probably bombarded all the time with complaints via Twitter. But what is their company’s customer service philosophy? Clearly a company that cuts off phone tech support after a year of owning the product does not have the most ideal customer service policy. There are other values that are more important to them than customer service. And I think that’s wrong. I think they aren’t looking at the big picture. Do you want a customer for a year or two, or do you want a customer for life? Not just a customer for life, but had I received outstanding customer service from Linksys, I’d be tweeting and blogging and Facebooking about it to my thousands of friends and followers. How much is that worth?
I would be really fascinated to hear your take on this. Do you think I was wrong? Should I have cut them a bigger break? Or when one company sets the benchmark, do all companies need to follow suit in order to be deemed successful? Please respond in the comments below.