Social Media and Customer Engagement – A Tale of Two Experiences (Part II)

In Part 1 of Social Media and Customer Engagement – A Tale of Two Experiences, I reviewed Zappos.com, as well as Delta Airlines.   Best practices from those examples included very quick responses to Twitter mentions, as well as lots of positive, friendly banter between the social media care team and individual customers (banter which consistently reflected the “voice” that the brands wanted to convey.  Zappo.com, and to a lesser (but certainly applicable) extent, Delta Airlines, are known for at the very least striving for excellent customer experiences, and we all know that Zappos.com never misses that mark.

So – to take you back to our scenario in Part 1 of this study – you’re a customer of Company X and you need to reach out to them for whatever reason, but instead of going to the trouble to look up their number, dialing it, waiting (and waiting), navigating their IVR, and finally getting an agent to whom you have to explain your situation, you decide to opt for the fast lane and tweet your issue.  Or perhaps you’ve already tried the calling the call center and had no luck:

Expedia.com

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/#!/sergiomach/status/57635602916573184]

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/#!/Expedia/status/57783976185696256] 

The above is fascinating because it illustrates how a poor experience in one customer service department spills over into a cost for another customer service department.  With Expedia, it’s a bit of a theme:

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/#!/LauraPrzybek/status/57788020245544960]

This is a marker

And here’s the response from Expedia.  Seems like this is their standard approach:

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/#!/Expedia/status/57789159565299712]

Lessons from Expedia

Expedia’s social media care team is very engaged in enhancing their customer experience, that is obvious.  However, not to mince words, the tweets suggest that their efforts are undermined by their call center.  As a result, rather than creating a social media buzz a la Zappos or Delta Airlines, the Expedia social media team leaves us only with very public damage control.  Think of how much more effective their social media department could be if more of their energies could be spent engaging customers about the benefits of travel with Expedia, rather than having to save customer relationships that are at risk of collapse.

Comcast

Again, rather than publicly celebrating a mutually rewarding relationship, the social media care team at Comcast find themselves in the center of a very public customer experience storm.  In below exchange, we see how Susan reacts to being told how long she has to wait for a service tech to visit her house, which is followed by the Comcast reply:

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/susannindc/status/60113877660205056]

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/ComcastWill/status/60125798107062272]

It’s the same challenge as Expedia.  I was hard pressed to find positive, engagement-building messages for Comcast, but I did find a couple of examples like this:

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/Jfavabean/status/54173136190582784]

And the reply, 3 days later (ouch):

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/ComcastSherri/status/55275782146228224]

Not a great legacy to leave for the the eternal Internet.  The trail goes quiet after that single response.  Ominously, that was the last tweet from the ComcastSherri account.

ComcastWill

Now – because he’s a hero, this last exchange is a beautiful illustration of a save by ComcastWill.

While researching, I was able to learn a little about what ComcastWill’s day was like on April 14th.  ComcastWill’s first Tweet was at 12:10 in the afternoon, and by his final tweet at 11:30 that evening, ComcastWill had tweeted 115 times, solved dozens of issues, and saved dozens of customer relationships in the process.  In his photo, he should be on a horse, because he’s a one person cavalry.  The below exchange begins with Kara expressing frustration at Comcast connectivity issues:

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/KaraFerguson/status/58668528370319360]

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/ComcastWill/status/58672066777452544]

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/KaraFerguson/status/58675836072640513]

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/ComcastWill/status/58677533880754176]

Since there’s some elapsed time until the below, one can assume that there were some DMs prior to this tweet from Kara to ComcastWill:

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/KaraFerguson/status/58681352765177856]

[blackbirdpie url=http://twitter.com/ComcastWill/status/58681859361611776]

That exchange is interesting for a couple of reasons.  It’s a great example of how a customer issue can be identified, investigated, and resolved over social media.  And while Comcast and Expedia both appear to find themselves in the middle of a customer / brand cross-fire, one notable difference between the two is the absence of complaints about the Comcast call center.  Customers appear to reach out to the Comcast social media cares team before they call, which is a definite advantage over the Expedia experience.

Best Practices and Take-aways

  • Sign-ons/offs:  Neither Comcast, nor Expedia, introduced themselves as “signing on,” or “signed off.”  They just sort of appear and disappear without setting expectations of when they might be back online.  This is in contrast to Zappos, who are very clear about when they’re on and off-line.  Setting schedule expectations is important because if an issue is carried over to the next day, a customer will likely search their social media care agent’s last tweet to know when he or she will be back online.
  • The tone of the apology:  As amazing as ComcastWill clearly is, I didn’t love the fact that he didn’t aplogize to Kara for the connectivity issue.  As well, he closed the issue by making it sound like he had done Kara a favor by helping her (using the phrase “not a problem” is a pet peeve of mine in customer service).  In truth, it was Kara who had done ComcastWill a favor by not firing him, and the rest of Comcast, by taking her business elsewhere. 

Summary

Clearly, Social Media customer care has a well established place in the enhancement, or simply maintenance, of customer / brand relationships.  As well, brands take varying approaches to their social media customer care strategy.   Some brands, such as Comcast, take a strictly problem-solving approach, and tend not to engage in “chatty” banter with customers.  Expedia sends promotional tweets, and replies to the rare positive shout-out, but the vast majority of genuine interactions appear to be the result of people having first called the call center, have had a negative experience, and then have reached out to the social media care team.  In both of those examples, social media communication is used to improve customer service issues that are created in other areas of the business.  Delta Airlines and Zappos, with fewer customer service issues to contend with, can take the time to both solve problems, as well as enhance the brand/ customer relationship through friendly chat to individual customers.

Does your brand use SM to engage customers, or to simply solve problems created in different departments?

If the latter, let’s connect, and talk about how we can ensure your brand delivers great experiences in all channels

As always, thank you for reading.  Comments welcome of course.

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