Big businesses using social media to improve customer experience

14 05 2009

As a consultant working in the field of service management I am always looking for examples to use with customers.

Last week I had a really great personal experience of how a big business can use social media to improve customer experience.  After a frustrating period of service problems with my home broadband connection I posted the following post on Twitter in conversation with my friends: “Good Morning All! I ask myself “will today be another frustrating Battle with Virgin Media day”?    

Imagine my surprise when @VirginMedia tweeted back to me shortly later to ask if there was any way they could help with my problems.  I was impressed that they are not just listening but also pro-actively getting in touch. After an exchange of emails to explain my problems I was called by someone of influence who listened to my issues and set someone to work on solving them. This was an unusual and suprisingly refreshing experience I have to say.

The next train of events resulted in the VirginMedia representative not just resolving my issues, but also understanding where some of their internal processes and systems could be improved to prevent similar things happening for other customers.  I have to report that their service recovery was brilliant. It reminded me that the true measure of a good service company is how well they recover when the inevitable service issue arises.  When the problems were eventually closed I tweeted again a short message to say how pleased I was: “those nice folks @virginmedia proactively tweeted me to find out and sort all my problems and made me a very happy customer again…”  It was only a few minutes later that I got a message back thanking me for my positive endorsement.

I think this is a great example of a company using Twitter to listen to the opinions of customers.  In doing so they not only put my problems right but also turned me into a strong advocate for their services.  The several hundred people who listen to me, and in turn to their friends,  now know that I rate the VirginMedia service highly and that is important in today’s word-of-mouth marketing world.

I think more companies should take heed and embrace Twitter and other social media platforms to engage with customers for mutual benefit.  Why not try it and see the results for yourself. Get in touch if you would like to discuss how you can integrate Social Media into your service operation.

James Rock  www.cultivar.co.uk  or find me on Twitter: @james_rock

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8 responses

14 05 2009
Alex Brown

Thanks for the feedback James, and as always let us know if we can help any further.

Have a great weekend.

Alex

Alex Brown
Internet Products, Virgin Media

15 05 2009
Ben Rose

I think you quite a rare example. Many Twitter users simply get told to contact customer services, dialling 151 from their Virgin phone. This puts them through to a call centre who do nothing but provide lipservice and misinformation. I’ve had an issue for 3 days now, I filled out the form on the Virgin website reporting my slow connection and have had no feedback. The online status page shows no current issues. The helpline I was told to dial to follow up progress of my problem reports that there are no issues in my area. speedtest.net thinks my link is located in Canada and repeatedly fails, along with any other speedtest I have found. All together, I have a bad taste in my mouth and nobody appears to care. It doesn’t take many searches on Twitter to find I am not alone.

15 05 2009
cultivar

Ben, I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t get the same experience that I did. Try leaving a message for Alex Brown above – he was the Virgin guy who helped me via Twitter…

best of luck – James

15 05 2009
Alex Brown

Ben

As per the tweets we’re happy to look into your issues further if you want to drop us an e-mail or to direct message us via Twitter.

We do generally ask people to contact technical support first where possible as they are there 24/7 and have access to tools such as account level details that the Twitter team doesn’t.

Many thanks

Alex

Alex Brown
Internet Products, Virgin Media

28 05 2009
Jay Ehret

I’m not pointing the finger particularly at Virgin here, but Twitter has become a stop-gap measure for real customer service. Companies use Twitter to give the appearance of customer service to cover for the lack of a real customer service solution. Let’s face it, you got recovery service because you were on Twitter. Going through normal customer service channels, you might still be battling with Virgin.

31 05 2009
cultivar

Hi Jay – you are right in what you say here. However, I think you fail to comment that it is the IMMEDIACY of Twitter that helps companies to respond when things do go wrong – unfortunately big company processes, including customer service, just aren’t responsive – particularly those self-service web response pages that take about 48 hours to reach anyone. But I have also found Virgin Media’s phone line service to be the best I have experienced too.

31 05 2009
Jay Ehret

James,
I love the immediacy of Twitter. That’s why it has such strong potential as customer service tool. But only if it’s part of a total company commitment to service. Adding Twitter as a service channel is a great idea. However, if phone and website channels are unresponsive, it’s likely that Twitter service would become unresponsive in the long term.

31 05 2009
cultivar

Jay,

I absolutely agree with you.

I hope that companies who listen via Twitter begin to realise that there is real value to customers in providing true customer service – and what’s more, people will pay for it. The cheapest is not always right.

See my earlier blog about Jamie Oliver and battery hens – supermarket customers voted for better quality at a higher price – not that I want to encourage Virgin to put up their prices of course!

keep spreading the word…

James

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