Social media may put the “service” back in customer service.
I don’t envy the huge success of large companies like Pizza Hut and Alaska Airlines. In the new global economy, which includes powerful technological tools–social media tools like Facebook and Twitter–they are vulnerable. There is no room for sloppy or half-hearted attempts at customer service. If your customer is unhappy, you will feel it almost immediately and in a very measurable and costly way.
I have about 12,000 Twitter followers on one of my Twitter accounts. If I get crummy service, as I have once or twice from the two companies I mentioned above, I will let someone know about it in a very public way–I guarantee it.
I’ve discovered, as have many others on Twitter and Facebook, that you have a lot more leverage if you let your followers on Twitter and Facebook know about your dissatisfaction. First, someone from the customer service departments of the organization you’re complaining about is likely to see your message, particularly if you use some of the more common tools such as hashtags in your message to your followers. As an added bonus, you can feel good because you’re protecting your friends from getting the same crummy service that you got!
As an example, our boy Colin ordered pizza from Pizza Hut last week. The pizza arrived with cheese on it, despite the fact that it had been ordered without cheese. Colin got no satisfaction from complaining to the manager of the Federal Way Pizza Hut where he ordered. But after publishing a carefully worded complaint on Twitter, it was a matter of minutes before he heard from Pizza Hut’s customer service, with an offer of a “do over” from the national chain. This amounted to a written apology and gift certificate that more than offset the cost of the defective pizza.
This morning I flew from Seattle to California on Alaska Airlines, as I have pretty much every week for over a year. I’ve noticed for some time that not only the cleanliness of Alaska’s planes, but the quality of service from Alaska staff has been, well, sliding!
Today, after one snotty flight attendant rubbed me the wrong way, I did my own QA on Flight 318 from Seattle to San Francisco. The plain was dirty, my reading light was burned out and the poor customer service from that one flight attendant amounted to the “perfect storm”. I tweeted my dissatisfaction to my 12, 000 or so Twitter followers, and included Alaska’s hashtag and Twitter address in the message. Before I landed at SFO, I had an apology from Alaska and a $50 certificate, to make up (someone) for my inconvenience.
Is this the best way to get better customer service? In the short run, probably not. On my own, even using these powerful channels, I’m not sure that there’s anything I can do to get a better pizza or a cleaner, friendlier plane ride. In the long run, though, I believe the cumulative effect of my Twitter and Facebook communications, as well as the actions of thousands of others using these tools, may eventually cause Alaska, and Pizza Hut, and the Marriott, to review their quality improvement processes, as well as their customer services practices. And that in the end, turns out to be good for everyone.