Last month, I read Paul Carr’s thoughts on social media reps, or more accurately how he declared their (rather short-lived) era over. As a fellow miserable cynic*, I enjoy Carr’s rants and moans on all things tech and social, puncturing inflated egos and seeing through the overhyped bullshit the internet likes to go crazy over. However, this is one issue that I’m not sure I’ll be jumping on the angry band-wagon over.
I’m a big fan of brands using social media as an extra arm to their customer service. It’s usually a faster, easier and more accessible way to get in touch with the people behind the company. There’s no waiting around on the phone and no giving away my email or personal details. I can simply have brief 140 character rant on Twitter (or an extended rant if its Facebook) and go about my day, awaiting feedback from the company reps. Not that it always has to be a rant. It can be any question, query or thought I have, the process is always made easier when there a social media account to get in touch with.
Paul does have a point though. If done badly (there are no shortage of examples) then using social channels to connect with customers can be an disastrous. If Bambi taught us ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all‘ (massive apologies for actually quoting a Disney movie), then a look at what the last few years of brands trying on their social hats has taught us, ‘social media done badly is worse than no social media done at all’.
But when done well, the result can be a rewarding experience for both customer and company, usually in a very public environment allowing current and potential customers to witness the achievement. When one of our clients, first direct, worked from our Leeds office, I had the chance to watch good social media customer service in action. There was no customer on hold and there wasn’t any passing from department to department. As soon as the query appeared on Twitter, the team worked quickly to speak directly to the right people and get a fast and correct response to the customer.
I’ve also been the lucky customer on the receiving end of good customer service on Twitter. I’ve always been a loyal fan of Palmer’s products. They’re priced right, they smell great and they do a fantastic job – everything you want from a body product. There are few products I buy religiously, but their body butter is certainly one of them. Recently I decided to throw caution into the wind and try a few other products in their range (a daring day for me is switching lip-balm brands). However, after being disappointed with a new product that broke apart quickly after use, I vented my frustrations on Twitter, not really expecting any sort of reply as has happened with brands I’ve had a good moan at in the past.
So I was surprised and impressed to see how quickly the Palmer’s team responded and offered to replace the offending lip-balm and asked for my email address to get postage details. All the reps I spoke to (well, emailed) we’re friendly and obviously passionate about the brand, which always comes across as genuine and gives you confidence in the company. Low and behold a week later a little package arrived with my lip-balm replacement… and 15 more products.
I was completely shocked at how much Palmer’s sent me and decided a quick Tweet with added Twitpic wasn’t really enough to show just how impressed I was. Critics of this kind of tactic will say that Palmer’s are just sending out lots of products to keep customers happy and that there isn’t much thought behind it. That may be true in many cases, but it does have its positives:
- The product that started the whole saga was the first time I’d tried something new in this range and didn’t end well, therefore creating a negative experience for me as a customer and making it unlikely I would ever buy a different product from Palmer’s. These extra products now mean I’ll be buying more not less; they have completely changed my view of their brand.
- I’ve now tried a range of products from the line. Some I enjoyed but won’t buy again. Others I’m utterly addicted to. Before I was a <£5 a month customer to Palmer’s. Now, I’ll spend a lot more on the products they have me hooked on.
- There was too much stuff for one person, as many of my
greedy, jealouslovely friends and family members pointed out . So I’ve handed a few of the surplus products out, and they loved them too. I’ve created a few extra loyalists for the company, all thanks to their generosity.
- They’ve got me talking about their brand, a lot. Not just this blog post or anything I say on Twitter, but offline through traditional word of mouth. I’m heavily recommending them to anyone asking about skincare, or discussing customer service, or strangers in bus stops, etc.
- I was sent no less then five lip-balms. Guess what? They all work perfectly.
*I’m actually a wonderful, happy person in real life, I swear