A recent article suggested that social media would help kill bad customer service. The article highlighted disgruntled customer @HVSVN who spent over $1000 on Twitter promoted posted so that his complaint about lost luggage was widely viewed.
Thanks for ruining my EU business trip #britishairways. I shouldnt have flown @BritishAirways @British_Airways. Never flying with you again
— ░▒▓█ (@HVSVN) September 2, 2013
The business class passenger spent over $1,000 on promoted tweets like the one above. He also tweeted his reach and bragged (gloated?) about the damage he had done to British Air’s reputation and brand with a relatively small investment (for him).
The article linked above claimed that companies will have to offer better service and better response to complaints in order to avoid campaigns like the one from @HVSVN.
Companies have learned to monitor customer complaints online and to prioritize complainers with high influence as measured by Klout, PeerIndex or Kred scores. Now organizations should be alert for irate or irascible customers with the means to promote their complaints!
Breakdowns in service occur. Good organizations make them occur less often and respond appropriately. How does someone with a high following, influence, or the money to promote tweets decide when it is justifiable to launch a campaign against a brand or organization. Is one incident enough? Is it OK to complain about a minor problem in pursuit of vengeance or compensation?
Tweeting about Bad Service
I was staying at a hotel a couple of weekends ago when a transformer exploded and the lights went out. There was no elevator service; even worse the lights in the stairwell were out so I had to climb up to my room by light from my smartphone. I needed to checkout in a few minutes and faced the prospect of carrying luggage down four flights of steps on a pitch black stairwell.
Normally at this point, as a Twitter addict, I would simply tweet a humorous/whiny message about my dilemma. Accidents and s— happens. However several members of the hotel staff told me that “when this happens it can be hours till the lights come back on,” acting as if it was a common occurrence. This is a pet peeve of mine – customer service giving the impression that a service failure is standard.
Irritated by the attitude – and the implied message – from the hotel staff I included the name and location of the hotel in my tweet.
I am blessed with many Twitter followers and have a relatively high Klout score, so I was not surprised with an immediate response from the hotel chain on Twitter. I was a little embarrassed when the hotel manager called me at home the next day and gave me extra frequent user points. I don’t want to be one of THOSE PEOPLE that try to take advantage of WOM on social media…
But if the staff were better trained I would not have blamed the chain for the outage.
The Power to Destroy
Mark Schaefer wrote an excellent article on using your influence to complain which he titled Social Media, Our voice, and the Power to destroy.
He was in the hospital with a loved one who was in a filthy and unhealthy room. He took a picture of the room, but decided not to Tweet it, because it would cause the hospital harm and likely cost someone his/her job.
In my opinion Mark was overly cautious about using his Klout in this situation – some service breakdowns are inexcusable and some people should lose their jobs. But I find his restraint and consideration of consequences noble compared to the attitude of the complainer in the British Air situation.
How do you decide whether to publicly complain on social media???
I’m a big fan of complaining on social media. I’ve been having trouble with one of my guitars, a particularly troublesome Ibanez, and after months of trying to get an email response from their customer service department, to no avail, I finally cracked today. I don’t know if my Klout had anything to do with it, but within 30 minutes of an angry Facebook post where I tagged their page, I had a response.
I’m certainly not going to go as far as to pay to promote my complaints, but there is no excuse for bad customer service anymore. Social media helps give power back to the consumer, and it would be foolish not to use it.
I try to complain when it is truly for the greater good. It is a hard line to walk because we are emotional creatures, but I ask myself ‘why is it I am making this complaint public’ We all need to be called on the carpet for our selfishness at times. Feedback makes us better people and the world a better place if we approach it with pure intentions. Nice post, as always.
Thanks Sander for your insight! Useful as expected!!
I had issues with telecom providers that would have made for great raw material of sarcastic blog posts. Justifiable so – I was a very patient, but yet very annoyed customer. However, I tend to give service providers one more chance to do better (or more than one chances). Actually that said providers have really improved.
Probably this is because I have worked in IT myself for a long time – and I know how things can go badly wrong due to an unfortunate cascade of accidents… and that often the wrong persons get “punished” (underpaid support staff…).
It would be interesting to know if customers rather complain about companies in an industry sector they are not familiar with.
What an INTERESTING research idea Elke! Have you ever considered a career in academia?
Thanks for your comment! – Gary
I have worked in academia but left after having completed my PhD (in physics) and a stint in a national lab – to work as a freelancer.