Using Twitter to Turn a Crisis into a Save

In this article, Simon Meek shows how a firm can turn a really grumpy, publicly moaning customer into a happy, more loyal one, using nothing but the power of Twitter.

Using Twitter to Turn a Crisis into a Save

Many firms are very scared of social media, fearing that they will be rubbished in front of the whole world. The truth is, you can expect a certain amount of criticism when you open yourself up on social media, but you have to regard it as an opportunity to interact with and better get to know your customers. Done right, it can enhance brand loyalty like no other medium.

The story begins (with a washing machine)

Last week our admittedly aged washer/dryer broke down, but we have Homecare cover (insurance) with British Gas (a UK energy provider), so I booked a same-day 12-6pm time slot for them to come and fix it. I was pleased. It's nice to get a same-day slot when there are a couple of filthy children knocking about the house in dire need of having their clothes washed. But a few hours later, British Gas texted me to say they'd changed it to an evening slot - completely changing my appointment without asking, which I thought was pretty unacceptable.

I'm not unaware that jobs can go wrong and deadlines slip, so it's not that they were rescheduling that caused me to be so irate, just the corporate assumption that just texting me to impose a new slot would be OK. That's rude, assumes it's convenient for us, and places their priorities over ours.

The offending text
The offending SMS in all its incredibly annoying glory.

This being the 21st century, I didn't bother to call them, I just took to Twitter for a general moan in the hope that shaming them publicly might provoke a response without waiting in a call queue for half an hour. As a rule I find that the Twitter support of big companies is pretty good these days, presumably because the company doesn't understand Twitter, so leaves the Twitter team well alone.

My initial moan
I kick off proceedings with a good moan.

Pay attention and play nice

After a few minutes, a response comes through.

I get a reply
The Twitter team at British Gas get back to me.

Let's examine this. Firstly, they're obviously monitoring Twitter (remember I didn't really know this when I sent the initial tweet), which tells me they're interested and engaged. Quickly, they apologise, and correctly request we move to private DM. They're already taking ownership of the problem I've raised. There's no defensiveness or evasiveness. I already feel like they know a mistake has been made.

We move to DM
We move to Direct Messages.

Get the customer on side, and then deliver

Now we're in a conversation, I confirm my address as requested. As an aside, these screen grabs are are from my mail application. DMs come through quicker via email than they do via the official Twitter app on my desktop. I'm not having to do this all the time. Instead I'm fiddling around with work at the same time, monitoring the DMs as they come in, not fuming in a call queue.

They get someone to call me
Here's the point where they have to deliver.

Here the Twitter support have done what they needed to do. They've caught the issue, and passed it over to customer services. This is really the point where the whole thing could go badly wrong. I was fully expecting never to hear from customer services at all. The interconnectedness of the departments is everything here, and I didn't trust the process yet, as you can see from my next tweet, where I'm still quite aggrieved.

I'm still cross
They really get it
They're doing well, but I'm still a bit cross. Again, they empathise with me.

And again, a great response. They say they understand my point, which shows empathy, and they reiterate the proposed plan of action.

The final save

And indeed they did ring, and within about 20 minutes. The customer services guy (Hi Richard!) who called was very nice, apologised and promised to find out why it happened. He'd already rung the engineer to find out what time he'd arrive, which was pretty smooth.

This is now a save. They took ownership, sorted it out fast. I'm basically mollified, and will stop rubbishing them on Twitter. I thank them for helping, and am left with a good feeling towards the firm (or at least towards Twitter support and customer services). They respond graciously.

I say thanks
I say thanks
I thank them for their help, and they respond graciously.

To sum up...

So in conclusion, what have we learned here?

  1. Empathy and understanding are everything. Don't be defensive, whatever the provocation. Customers need to know you understand their issue.
  2. Take ownership of the problem. This both stops the customer feeling they have to fight anymore, and tells them you're taking it seriously.
  3. Deliver. It's not enough to spout fluffy words of understanding, important though that is. If you say someone will call, you'd better make that happen, and the person that calls should be familiar with the issue they're supposedly calling about.
  4. Even the snottiest customer can be turned. I was pretty livid, but the Twitter support team did everything right. How could I continue to be cross after that? Admittedly, this effect will diminish in more complex, ongoing cases, but for this kind of shorter interaction, you should aim to just fix stuff for customers quickly.
  5. Twitter offers a more pleasant way of interacting for the customer than the dreadful endless-menu call queue.

Finally, I'd add that these points don't just relate to Twitter. Any social media response should aim for the same thing, and the ideas hold true for email and personal interactions too.

So don't be scared of social. You just need to know how to handle it - in a human, responsible and pleasant manner.

Follow Elated

Related articles

Responses to this article

3 responses (oldest first):

01-Jul-13 08:54
thank u for the information

[Edited by ESHWOR KC on 01-Jul-13 08:55]
13-Aug-14 02:49
14-Aug-14 09:03

Post a response

Want to add a comment, or ask a question about this article? Post a response.

To post responses you need to be a member. Not a member yet? Signing up is free, easy and only takes a minute. Sign up now.

Top of Page