When Hasan Syed got no satisfaction from British Airways after it lost his luggage, he bought a Twitter ad to complain. He spent around $1,000 to promote his tweet—a paid Twitter ad—saying, “Don’t fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous.”
Emily Turner of Deeson Advertising calls this complainvertising —and it’s something that should scare any business. Customers have been complaining about brands forever, but self-service advertising can spread those complaints far beyond an individual’s social network.
More than 76,000 people saw the promoted tweet, and, by mid-September, Syed had also been featured on Gawker, CNN and BBC Radio, gaining the attention of millions more.
“The more a customer feels it’s a hopeless situation, the more he’s willing to escalate it,” says Jan Rezab, CEO of Socialbakers, a provider of social media analytics tools.
Perhaps even scarier is the speed at which this situation went bad for BA. Syed posted his first tweet to British Airways at 4:30 p.m. on September 2nd; 50 minutes later, he grumbled via Twitter that he couldn’t understand why it was taking the airline “so long” to respond. By 8:01 p.m. that same day, others were piling on, criticizing BA for its lack of response. A customer service rep from the airline responded to him around 1:00 a.m., which is 9 a.m. GMT. Its social media team works 9 to 5, UK time.
By that time—a little more than eight hours after the first complaint tweet—the damage had been done. Millions of people across the globe have now heard that British Airways has lousy customer service.
Says Rezab, “Social customer care is evolving, and users are expecting more and more. When a user writes a brand on Facebook or Twitter, they really do expect a reply. Not responding to a tweet in an hour is like having someone wait on the customer care line for that long.”
According to Rezab, Twitter seems on its way to replacing the traditional customer-care call center. After all, would you rather navigate a slow and confusing automated phone system and then get put on hold for the next representative, or broadcast your issue in 140 characters?
Socialbakers publishes a quarterly report on the most “Socially Devoted” brands, that is, those that successfully incorporate social media into their marketing. In its most recent Socially Devoted report, British Airways rival KLM came out on top. KLM has 3.9 million fans, but, more importantly, its average response rate to customer questions is a mere 45 minutes, and its response rate is 97.21 percent.
KLM has integrated Facebook and Twitter into its customer-care operation, offering the same 24-hour service that used to be provided by phone—in 10 languages. Rezab says KLM is staffing it social media team with people who are more empathic and really want to solve people’s problems.
It’s a tough job that’s going to get tougher because the volume of complaints and questions directed to companies via Twitter is growing exponentially, according to Socialbakers. And, the more the company responds, the more the volume of questions increases. KLM receives some 20,000 questions via social media each quarter. That’s 10 questions per hour.
Speedy response is only a part of what makes a company’s social media effective, according to Socialbakers. Rezab says other best practices are:
- Listen more than talk. Instead of focusing on tweeting out the company’s message, expend resources on tracking what people are saying on social media.
- Keep an open approach. Let people post at will on your Facebook page.
- Be responsive. Make sure you respond to as many questions as possible and as quickly as possible.
- Watch your competitors. Monitor what your competition is doing in the area, and try to improve upon it.
- Be customer-friendly. If there’s a problem, don’t argue or explain. Just fix it.
Not every business has the resources to have a 24×7 social media team standing by, but even a sole proprietor can get direct messages and mentions sent to a mobile phone for a quick scan and response.
Remember that tweeting is not an end in itself. Says Rezab, “Responding is a must, but solving the problem is an absolute must, right after that.”Comments