How Nike and Adidas use Twitter for Customer Care: Comparative Analysis

In my last two posts, I provided an overview of the customer experience via social media (Twitter, specifically) across a variety of industries.  First, thank you for all of your emails letting me know you appreciated this theme, and your requests that I continue.  It’s my pleasure to do so.  I’m thrilled that so many have found it as interesting as I do.

Okay, so let’s jump right in:  In the Spirit of the NBA Playoffs, this time we’ll be looking at the Twitter experiences of Nike and Adidas, with Zappos.com as the benchthmark for excellence.

Zappos Refresher

Here’s a refresher of the love-in that is Zappos:

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/#!/SISmith89/status/63601651612794881]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/Zappos_Service/status/63604535469424640″]

The connection between Zappos’s customers and the Zappos brand is the customer-experience-equivilent to a symphony orchestra.  Perfect harmony.

Nike Customer Care via Twitter

As an overview, Nike has a variety of Twitter handles, each one dedicated to the specific sub-brand (@nikegolf, @nikefootball, etc.).  These Twitter handles appear to be primarily dedicated to PR.  However, the Twitter handle @nikestore is where the customer care interaction is.  As you read through the following exchange, I’m curious to know how you like it.  It’s not Zappos, but does it need to be?

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/#!/Cshearer15/status/63092572498825216]

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/#!/nikestore/status/63271091325517825]

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/#!/Cshearer15/status/63291286320463872]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nikestore/status/63293441358041088″]

The exchange ends there.  To me, it seemed a little frosty, but it’s functional.  It certainly doesn’t warrent any spontaneous back-and-forth though.

In the following exchange, someone seems to have a challenge paying online:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/Zwerver/status/63131312168517632″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nikestore/status/63274674179674112″]

Asking the customer to contact a different customer care channel to get an issue resolved (having to call, wait, explain, etc.) is never a best practice.  Taking insight from Comcast and Expedia, a better approach might have been to have the customer DM their info and a Nike agent then would call them right away, rather than telling him to go take his problem elsewhere.  That “elsewhere” could very well be the competition.

That quite major issue aside, the responses are functional, despite the lack of love between the Tweets.  But is all that love necessary for Nike?  Nike is a brand that makes shoes (better known among ballers as some serious heat), while Zappos is a store whose only distinguishing product is their customer experience.  That’s a meaningful difference between the two.    The “voice” of Nike on Twitter is like talking to your cool older brother.   He doesn’t try to impress, because he doesn’t need to.  He’s Nike.

Having said that, is “grumpy” a brand voice?  Is there room to be less functional, and more personal?  And would doing so enhance the Twitter experience and overall brand engagement?

Adidas Customer Care via Twitter

Adidas is a great brand that makes great shoes.  What’s fascinating about the below examples, is that while they illustrate a breakdown, the problems could be easily solved by planning and training.   So while they’ll appear serious, the solution is straightforward.  In the below, a customer had reached out to ask about inventory.  Here’s the Adidas reply:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/adidasUS/status/63264902046949377″]

I’m going to suggest that making purchase-ready customers contact them twice is not the best way for Adidas to sell shoes.  As always, perhaps a better approach would have been to have the customer DM their contact information, and then call them.

The below exchange is a little more wince-worthy:

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/#!/jeff_pickles/status/62694726142410752]

Here’s the response:

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/#!/adidasUS/status/62711922801381376]

First, I would have liked to have seen an apology.  As well, the number provided is a different phone number than the one in the first example.  That’s sort of perplexing, but okay.  Finally, anyone know what SLD stands for?  At first I thought it was a 3rd party manufacturer. 

Always interested in walking in the customer’s shoes, I called the number to see what Jeff might have experienced (and to find out what the heck SLD stood for.   Turns out SLD stands for Sports Licensing Division).  The number is a corporate office, so I waited on the line “for the operator.”  After a moment a woman answered, and in response to my inquiry about how to exchange my jersey, she had me hold for a moment while she transferred me to what seemed like a call center.  After a brief wait, and after explaining the reason for my call (again.  Time #3 for those who are playing at home), I was told me to go to the store where I originally bought it.  In Twitter speak, this would be #EpicFail.  If I was Jeff, I’d have been be pissed.

Yes, there’s more.  In my journey in the maze of Adidas customer care, I came across a tweet that listed a customer care phone number.  I called it.  It was for a division called AdiConcierge.  But check out the Tweet:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/adidasUS/status/28137596307644417″]

Why use one customer care channel just to send customers to a different customer care channel?

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/#!/adidasUS/status/33237311097413632]

Looks like someone at Adidas thought the same thing.

But then again if someone asks about it…

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/PeterWeinrauch/status/35311518564220928″]

They might get a different answer:

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/#!/adidasUS/status/35363373898149888]

Wait!  But when I go to the website, I’m told to email customer.relations@adidas.com.  There’s no reference to AdiConcierge@adidas.com.   Confusing to say the least.   I can imagine it’s also very confusing for the Adidas customer care team as well.

While I would suggest that these mistakes are serious, the solution is straightforward.  A little strategy, planning, training, and follow up would ensure tweeted customer care messages are consistent, and enhance customer engagement.

Getting back to the benchmark, neither Addidas nor Nike provide us with the names of who we’re tweeting with.  That’s a big deal, because it ensures that tweets will be impersonal and primarily transactional.  As a result, there isn’t the ongoing back and forth that happens in the Zappos Twitter experience.   Does that reflect the level of brand engagement overall?  While I don’t have data to back it up, I would suggest that it does.

Summary

Nike is a brand that’s markedly different from Zappos.  I would suggest that Nike’s customer care “voice” is consistent with the brand.  They give accurate information, and are pretty cool about it.  On the other hand, they seem to lack the spontaneous shout-outs that are omnipresent in Zappos.  Perhaps this is because tweets tend to be less personal.  Opportunities include being a little nicer, as well as following the Comcast and Expedia models of taking care of the customer when and how the customer needs to be taken care of, rather than sending them someplace else.

A note here:  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how beautifully Nike’s Twitter presence is augmented by an ultra cool web 2.0 website, complete with twitterfeeds posted for certain Nike sub-brands.  Check it out if you haven’t already.

Adidas is also functional rather than personal (again, nameless Adidas agents on Twitter), and to be fair, there are some shout outs, and positive exchanges – although these are often one sided (from Adidas into the twittersphere, with very few replies).  The examples in this article, though, are lessons in how brands benefit from ensuring their customer care approach is fully mapped out before taking on additional channels such as a new email address, or Twitter.

Next installment will be other high-end, high visibility apparel lines, such as H&M, Zara, Esprit, and Gap.

Thank you for reading.  Please feel free to email me with questions or comments by connecting with me here.  Finally, if you would like to talk about how your brand can deliver an amazing customer experience via social media as well as contact center, contact me here, and let’s chat.

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  • Monica Rivera

    Thanks for the wonderful posts on using social media for customer service.
    I’m developing the customer service concept for a small software company. Can you recommend any twitter accounts to check out that provide business to business customer service?

    • Anonymous

      Thank you so much Monica! B2B customer care varies greatly across verticals. What industry are you thinking of? Feel free to email me and I can point to you some good examples. Thanks again!

  • Monica Rivera

    Thanks for the wonderful posts on using social media for customer service.
    I’m developing the customer service concept for a small software company. Can you recommend any twitter accounts to check out that provide business to business customer service?

    • patperdue

      Thank you so much Monica! B2B customer care varies greatly across verticals. What industry are you thinking of? Feel free to email me and I can point to you some good examples. Thanks again!

  • http://twitter.com/OMAlkmaar Online Marketing

    A really nice post Pat and good to read while you used the pictures from Twitter. I was working on a simmilar post myself but now I am thinking of translating your post and post it on my Blog for the Dutch. As you know one of the biggest countries on Social Media. I think they will appreciate it. offcourse I will mention you as the source. Is that OK by you?

    Kind regards,
    OMA (Hans van Schip)
    http://www.twitter.com/OMAlkmaar

    PS OMA (Online Marketing Alkmaar) means grandma in Dutch so theirfore the picture

    • Anonymous

      Hi Hans! That would be great! I would be honored! Thank you again!

  • http://twitter.com/OMAlkmaar Online Marketing

    A really nice post Pat and good to read while you used the pictures from Twitter. I was working on a simmilar post myself but now I am thinking of translating your post and post it on my Blog for the Dutch. As you know one of the biggest countries on Social Media. I think they will appreciate it. offcourse I will mention you as the source. Is that OK by you?

    Kind regards,
    OMA (Hans van Schip)
    http://www.twitter.com/OMAlkmaar

    PS OMA (Online Marketing Alkmaar) means grandma in Dutch so theirfore the picture

    • patperdue

      Hi Hans! That would be great! I would be honored! Thank you again!

  • http://twitter.com/Darlo_TC Tom Chapman

    Thats a really interesting post – I have to say I find Nike’s reply more rude than cool – giving someone obviously contacting them from the Netherlands a US phone number – no indication of time zone or how much that call will cost. I known they are huge but posting a tweet like that does nothing but lose you a sale.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Tom. That’s a really good point and demonstrates a US-Centric approach. Social media, and Twitter, is global. Excellent comment. Thank you again.

  • http://twitter.com/Darlo_TC Tom Chapman

    Thats a really interesting post – I have to say I find Nike’s reply more rude than cool – giving someone obviously contacting them from the Netherlands a US phone number – no indication of time zone or how much that call will cost. I known they are huge but posting a tweet like that does nothing but lose you a sale.

    • patperdue

      Thanks Tom. That’s a really good point and demonstrates a US-Centric approach. Social media, and Twitter, is global. Excellent comment. Thank you again.

  • kickslikeshizz

    um so do we call adiconcierge or email or find the customer service to find the shoes i want? 😛 WHICH ONE U THINK IS BEST? plus im not from states so overseas calls r gonna blast up my bills.

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