Listen To Your Mother: Advice For Offering Customer Service

Listen To Your Mother: Advice For Offering Customer Service

It’s been a while since I drew on my mother’s complaints wisdom for a blog but in light of recent developments in the social media world and the debate over whether Google+ will kill/steal market share from Twitter and/or Facebook, it seems like a good time to revisit at least one of those social networks.

For those of you who haven’t kept up with my mother’s advice, I assure you she is precisely the customer you want to keep. She’s retired, has discovered the joy of web surfing and online shopping and has some time (and money) to burn. If there’s a trend, and there’s something in it for her, she’s onto it. If you irritate her, she will drop your company like a hot potato, right after she berates you to everyone she knows. And if you’re not on Twitter, she’s already half-mad at you.

So how can my mother’s Twitter experience shape the success of your company? Take a lesson from a recent customer service incident…

Mother Says: “Twitter Gets Better Results Than Calling Customer Service.”

True story. A couple of months ago I was having some aggravation with my cable company. I’m not saying it was Comcast, because I don’t want to get in trouble, but if it was Comcast, let’s just say that I was ready to NOT be a Comcast customer anymore. Not that I’m saying it was Comcast.

At any rate, this nameless cable company was giving me the runaround on the phone and I couldn’t get my issue resolved. After a series of fruitless and contradictory calls to various customer service reps of varying language capabilities, I took my frustration to Twitter and complained about nameless cable company’s lack of customer service and the very real possibility that they were about to give birth to another satellite TV customer. Within eight seconds I had a reply from nameless cable company with apologies all around and my issue was miraculously and nearly instantly resolved.

That’s great for me because I sit in front of my computer all day and work in the internet world where I’d rather tweet than call anyway.

But my mother, as happy as she is to shop and chat online, isn’t necessarily a tweet-o-phile and has never kept anything under 140 syllables, let alone 140 characters, in her life.

But that didn’t stop her, the moment she was having trouble with her own nameless cable company, from calling me and asking me how to complain about mention it on Twitter. The conversation went a little something like this:

I got another bill today for [insert service here] that I cancelled six months ago! And then I called and got nowhere and then your father called and got nowhere and words words words, people are so incompetent words words, can’t believe these people words and your father wants to write a letter words words words more words lots more words and (get ready for the punchline) didn’t you say you got a response when you complained on Twitter?

To this point I hadn’t even known my mother knew the word “Twitter” let alone remembered the one time I touted my Twitter triumph to her. And yet she did. Frustrated by lack of customer service, she took it to Twitter.

If You Make Her Mad, She Will Find You

One way or another, a disgruntled customer can make your life miserable.

In the online world, you’re just one bad review away from losing your next customer. Whether it’s a complaint published to Twitter, a scathing comment on your Facebook wall, or a review on your website denouncing your customer service, it’s all available for the next potential customer to find and tuck away for reference.

Unhappy customers tweet, blog, and post their way to catharsis. The good news is that likewise, a happy customer will let everyone know that you’re the company to do business with. There’s no escaping the social nature of human beings, and the immediate and ubiquitous forum the web provides for us to be as social as we darn well please.

The power of Twitter lies in the opportunity it affords you to offer something that other social networks do not: instant customer service. Companies have built entire departments around managing help requests and complaints on Twitter and even small businesses monitor the conversation for mentions of their brand. As a business owner, you’d be wise to do the same.

This is especially important for small businesses. Big nameless cable companies have the luxury of being big and nameless, with little competition to speak of. And more than likely, they can afford to lose a few disgruntled customers.

But a small business can be hurt much more seriously by this type of bad press. Everyone makes mistakes, and nobody provides stellar service all the time (much as we all may want to!) so it’s important to keep an eye and ear out for crabby customers and then immediately make it right.

Even when there’s no complaint involved, you can use Twitter to offer an outlet to customers or prospects who have questions or simply need assistance. Listen for conversations that people have about your industry and jump in when you find an opening to ask a question, offer assistance, learn something useful, share helpful advice or otherwise just make yourself known.

Lesson Learned: Show Up Where Your Customers Are

Trust me, customers are going to complain anyway. Wouldn’t you rather be there when they do, to mitigate their unhappiness, make it right, and not only win them back but show the rest of the world, very publicly, that you’re ready and willing to handle whatever happens?

I’m not suggesting that Twitter is the only way to do this, but it is one powerful tool at your disposal. It’s an open forum where you can check out what’s going on in the conversations of real people about your real products and services. And it’s a forum where people will vent their complaints and frustrations whether you’re there or not, so wouldn’t it be better to pay attention?

Now that my mother has gotten a little taste of Twitter success (did I mention the issue that hadn’t been resolved for six months was miraculously resolved within five minutes?) she’s been back to test the waters on other customer service matters. She throws out a complaint here or a question there and waits. The smart companies get back to her quickly. The rest, well, let’s just say she doesn’t get back to them either.

Are you using Twitter as a customer service tool? If not, what’s stopping you?