A tale of three tweets

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I’m very fortunate to have been asked, a fair few times, to speak to other marketers about how to make social media work for brands … tough in my case as financial services can be a) a tad dull if I’m honest and b) generate strong views.  

My first piece of sage advice is always to listen to what your members or customers are saying and then, and only then, chose to respond or not. My explicit advice is to do so knowingly.  It takes less than a second to retweet and each ‘Twitterer’ has an average of 208 followers. You can do the impact mathematics quite easily ! 

I will lay my cards clearly on the table – I love twitter personally, but intellectually I know it is a danger zone for brands – just ask Waitrose or Ryanair about those impact stats – I know it from personal experience now as well ( that’s a cue to read on by the way…)

This post is about three tweets, that’s all, just three little tweets.  Approximately 500 million tweets are sent each day and the record appears to stand at 143,199 per second (2013 stats – source twitter)  

So this is a tiny fraction of the traffic – but all affected me personally so they are very important – well to me at least and I hope they prove interesting to you.

They all relate to customer service, and I could easily have called this post “The good the bad and the ugly'” by the way … Just to set expectations !

But let’s step backwards first: I have found myself defaulting to using twitter for customer service matters. The simple reason – brands are listening and they understand the impact mathematics all too well … (They must have been listening to me !). I bet you do the same – leave me a comment or two and give me your views if you have a moment to spare.

The Ugly
A well known supermarket messed up a pre-Christmas online food order of a, top drawer slap up dinner, delivery for my stepson who was unable to be with us on the day and so would be alone. Clearly to my Partner and I this was hugely important. They messed up the delivery time and then would not deliver until after Christmas. I won’t go into the details but needless to say the phone experience was not great at all and despite them clearly being in the wrong they did not resolve the matter to our satisfaction – despite their paying us compensation. So we tweeted our disappointment. 

The retailer did all the right things initially via twitter – took us off line into direct messages … but crucially did not do anything of substance including not following up what they said they would do. 

The outcome – we have told all of our friends and stopped using that retailer – ok, that is unlikely to hurt their profits in isolation … But it will not help if they keep doing it ! 

The Bad
Actually this started out as a good ! But tailed off badly !  I have moved house and dutifully told my energy provider. First of all I told them their website was not working as I was unable to register and so I could not give my meter readings over the Web.  I tried the app – same issue. I used the email form on line and I was promised a reply in two days … not great … but crucially I have still had no email reply other than that auto message in mid November 2013 ! That is just plain poor.

So I rang up and gave the reading. Then I managed to get the web working and repeated the task as requested by the phone handler. 

Then I got a bill and a nasty reminder threatening credit reference action – I was well in credit and on the phone they had told me to cancel my direct debit. I called again, 4 times, my last call took 50 minutes to get through and I was quickly put on hold – and finally they cut me off. My irritation led me to tweet. 

Great response initially, as before I was taken off line and handled very well by a named representative. Friendly and apologetic. I was impressed. However – I am no longer ! The first tweet was 29 November 2013 – I still await my refund 2 months later !

The result – I have told all my friends again  and will never use that energy supplier again. I am in regular contact with the tweet handler … daily in fact!

The Good
This was easily the slickest and best experience … probably in no small part by being the most human and friendly.  GREATER ANGLIA TRAINS please take a bow ! 

It started with a bit of a moan by me – on the early train from Diss to London and no coffee car … but what happened next was delightful – I was taken off line again and what a difference – I actually had a conversation with a human using no more than 140 characters. Clearly all they could do was apologise, but they checked my train time and service and got back to me with why … and another apology. They were now following me of course, so when I tweeted that evening what a nice journey I was having on the way home – including a free coffee in first class – you can imagine my surprise when they entered into a very good natured chat with me. No selling, no serious stuff, but the tweeter clearly had read my earlier messages. It was another conversation and an enjoyable one at that.

So what have I done? you guessed it  … told all my friends ! 

There is a few simple lessons to learn here for me :

– Twitter like most social media should be a conversation – being nice is a much under rated trait in my view and it generates a great word of mouth result. Check out my favourite film Roadhouse for inspiration !
– if you are going to respond to service issues – listen and then take the customer off line to reduce that impact math equation
– but just like any other channel you must do what you say you are going to do – it’s all lost if you don’t ! 

Simple lessons to remember, personally I see twitter as a way finding tool primarily in business, but as people use it more and more for complaints then these simple givens will become more important than ever.  Just ask me when I’m not in the office !!

Paul 
24 January 2014

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