I recently had an interaction with a local company that left me shaking my head.
I purchased a product. Loved it. Returned the next day to purchase more. The second product was wildly different than the first, even though it shouldn’t have been. Weird. Suddenly I was in the position of having spent money and not having a clear understanding of which product version was the company standard. If it was the first version, I would give them another chance and purchase again. If it was the second version, I probably wouldn’t purchase again. Wanting to clear things up and alert the company to potential quality issues — I sent them a tweet.
And then I waited. And waited some more.
This company took over 4 hours to respond to my tweet. If you’ve never waited for a response from a company when you were experiencing slight disappointment, let me tell you — it feels like forever. When you consider that the company was publishing tweets all afternoon, without responding to mine — it felt like I was being ignored. My slight disappointment rapidly turned into frustration bordering on anger.
If you’ve never waited for a response from a company when you were experiencing slight disappointment, let me tell you — it feels like forever.
True to character, I got really sarcastic.
Fast forward a few hours, and the company finally responded. I was overjoyed to see their name buzz across my phone screen. Until I opened up Twitter and saw that they didn’t apologize for giving me a product that didn’t meet my expectations. They didn’t offer to replace it. They downplayed my concern and didn’t answer my question. They didn’t think this quality issue I’d alerted them to was a big deal. And sure, no lives were lost because I had a less than stellar experience, but the fact that the person hired to provide customer support was brushing me off under a mask of emojis instead of taking responsibility was infuriating.
After the third or fourth tweet, I gave up.
Fast forward a day later.
A voicemail from the owner of the company turned up. I had two thoughts. First, “How the heck did she get my phone number?” And two, “That’s slightly creepy, but maybe she’s eager to get things sorted out. This will be great.” Boy, was I wrong. The owner spent forty-five minutes berating me for giving them feedback. No apology. No refund. No replacement product.
This isn’t how you do social media or customer service.
Sure, I’m biased. This is what I do for a living. I think every business should have a social media strategy and a dedicated individual or team of individuals to be truly successful, but I know that isn’t in the budget for a lot of small businesses.
So for those businesses (and the one in the sweet little anecdote above) this is what I recommend:
1) Recognize that your social accounts are customer service channels.
If you’ve asked clients to follow, they’re going to talk to you. It doesn’t matter if you prefer alternate forms of communication — your clients will use the ones that are convenient for them if you’ve made it available.
It can be worthwhile to take the conversation offline if a client has concerns, but where the conversation continues should be up to the client — offering an email address or phone number and letting them choose which they prefer is always a good way to do it. (Calling a customer you have no pre-existing relationship with without first dm’ing or emailing is quite aggressive).
2) Respond immediately.
Social is a swift and unforgiving beast. Trying to bend the unspoken rules that millions of social media users adhere to will not work. If you or your team cannot respond within an hour – social probably isn’t for you.
A lot of companies have taken to posting the hours that their social account is being monitored. This is a great way to let clients know when they can expect an immediate response and when they might be left waiting a little bit longer. Take care not to just leave the after hours people SOL though, these clients can be directed to an email or voicemail.
3) Empathize with your client.
Don’t avoid, belittle or act aggressively — apologize and provide a solution. Replace their product. Refund their money. Find a way to make it right. Doing that will cost you a little bit more, but it forces your team to provide the best service and products the first time around.
Feedback is hard, and you probably won’t enjoy it the first couple of times, but it’s necessary. Start to look at these interactions as opportunities to create brand ambassadors. If you treat clients with kindness and respect, and you solve their problems — they’ll love you even more than they did before.
Social media isn’t the free and easy business cure all that a lot of “experts” make it out to be. It can be time consuming and it can be frustrating, on both sides of the screen – but with a little planning, it can be an effective way of communicating with your clients that leaves everyone smiling.
Great read and such good info. The last picture was a little creepy though.
Joe Biden isn’t scary.
Thanks for sharing the story Sarah. Social media has the opportunity to be a excellent way of offering customer service. I would invite you to read my blog on a much different experience I had with a company that gets it.
Thanks for commenting. That’s a rad story! I wish more companies used Twitter like that. Kudos to the YVR airport.
Sarah, I completely relate to this story. I think it is important to have a customer service ‘manifesto’ for online companies to abide by in these situations. Thanks for the insight.
Also, thanks for exposing me to the expressiveness of Joe Biden 🙂
Love this! And Joe. Nicely done.