B2C Social Engagement: Scaring companies into decent customer services?

I’m going to tell you a little story about an experience I had with a popular holiday provider earlier in the week. Now before you settle down, looking forward to a social slanging-match so associated with those type of providers, I’ll reiterate that didn’t happen.

What happened was that by leveraging social media I bypassed the dreaded call centre, stopped a second customer service overlord ahem, ‘representative’ hanging up on me because they couldn’t answer my question and got, dum, dum duuuum… to speak to a real person. Who. Was. helpful.

To give you a little context, wide-eyed and excitable I booked a short Christmas break and failed to receive confirmation. Simmering with panic, we let it lie until 36 hours had passed, before doing the old-fashioned thing and ringing customer services. After passing through a gruelling number channelling sequence, the golden dial tone appeared. But the line was muffled and the assistants were unhelpful, leading to me turning to a medium I was sure would work. Twitter, glorious Twitter.

Proud of my comprehensive tweet of ‘money taken, no confirmation’, (very proud that I managed to politely answer the call centre question of “what is your booking number” – that’s the point, I don’t have one), within seconds I received an answer on Twitter.

I was given a social email address and promptly poured my heart out to Mr Social. Immediately I received an email back from a member of their VIP team telling me they were looking into the issue. Within 10 minutes my gripe was sorted.

“There’s certainly effectiveness in publicly appealing to brands”

Essentially, my tweet gave me the golden key to a team of helpful staff, a rare breed that we’re exempt from trying to talk to via the website contacts. The contact details on the website led customers to two numbers, both equally frustrating, both miles away, both making for the perfect excuse that lines ‘can be bad’.

There was an elusive email address too (spoiling us) but as this took a little hunting for, I got the impression that the call centre was certainly their preferred route even if it massively increased customer stress levels.

Maybe a few people are calling because they think it would be lovely to upgrade to the ‘Champagne and chocolates’ package, but my guess is most are calling because something’s gone wrong, meaning that a good service would generally be appreciated at this point.

‘VIP’ customer service it seems, was strictly off limits, unless you so happened to turn to their social presence as a last resort, at which point it was all hands to the pump, you valued public customer, you.

Customer services as a whole can be frustrating, stressful and outsourced so London’s head office has nothing to do with it, but the minute the dirty laundry is aired in public, your own private assistant gets right on the case.

I wouldn’t ever condone harassing brands on social media if you aren’t happy with products and services, aggressive consumers say more about themselves than the company that’s wronged them. But there’s certainly effectiveness in publicly appealing to brands.

At this point I would probably be inclined to tell you that the sour taste their phone lines left has put me off the company forever, but as my cash still isn’t back in my account I’ll reserve that comment. I can safely say I won’t be leaving things to the Last Minute again though…

Image credit: Jakub Krechowicz on sxc.hu

Victoria Browne
  • Written by on 13th December 2013 at 11:44
  • “Victoria Browne is a copywriter & social campaigns manager at Fluid Creativity.”
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