I first spoke with Anjali back in 2009 when I was working at The Carphone Warehouse and she Tweeted about a problem she was having difficulty resolving. I got in touch with here via Twitter and eventually we managed to resolve the issue.

Anjali went on to write a blog about her experience – Carphone Warehouse on Twitter: Customer Service with a Virtual Smile.

After I left The Carphone Warehouse and joined Foviance I got back in touch with Anjali to find out why she turned to social. I’m now finally getting round to actually write the whole piece out. A very brief extract of what she said appeared in an article I wrote – Social Media and Customer Service – as part of Sampson Lee’s “Social Media under One Roof: Integrate Social Media with the TCE Model“.

I think what is interesting about Anjali’s replies are:

  • when asked about why she used social, her response is more about the negatives to do with traditional customer service than the positives of using social
  • her expectation that companies should be on Twitter, that it will go mainstream
  • she often refers to the idea of the ‘multiplier effect’. That a complaint or issue could turn into a firestorm is an inherent part of social

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@Guy1067: What social platforms did you use and why?

@Anjali28: I use Twitter as the first mode of reaching out to brands on Twitter, as I believe that if they are going to listen at all, then they are likely to listen on Twitter more than e-mail (or anything else).

Prior to Twitter, the rare email I’d send to address my concerns usually got no response. So from that point of view, Twitter plays a very important role in customer service – probably more important than many brands think it does.

@Guy1067: Why did you resort to social? What were you hoping to achieve?

@Anjali28: I resorted to social because as a consumer I am tired of being placed on hold for interminable periods on the phone which historically has been a brand’s mode of choice for engaging with customers – and I wind up building up my phone bill in the process.

I was also tired of sending emails which, if they are acknowledged at all, get nothing more than an automated reply – something that is extremely impersonal and gives no indication of whether anything will be done at all.

Twitter is a public forum, and brands don’t want to be seen as negative when customers complain about them there, for the simple reason that it gets magnified many times over by the simple rule of what I like to call Twitter amplification – not only a person’s ‘x’ number of followers, but the ‘y’ number of followers who follow the ‘x’ followers. I was hoping to get a solution to my problem, and I did.

@Guy1067: Why go from blog to Twitter? Was it a natural progression for you, reflecting in a sense an escalation path of the issue for you?

@Anjali28: In the specific case of The Carphone Warehouse that you helped me with, yes, it was a natural progression at the time. I felt that in case my blog wasn’t noticed by any relevant employees of the brand, then escalating to Twitter would be more likely to be noticed, and therefore to solve my problem.

@Guy1067: Did you use social media in the expectation of something actually happening, or simply as a final ‘shout in the wind’ to sympathetic followers?

@Anjali28: It depends. In The Carphone Warehouse case, I used social with the expectation that something would happen and also to talk about it with fellow consumers who may have experienced the same thing. However as I notice more and more brands on Twitter, I use social specifically with the expectation that something will happen, and my expectations have so far been justified 100% of the time, which I genuinely appreciate.

@Guy1067: What would you have done if the social avenue didn’t work and no one answered?

@Anjali28: As someone who works in the digital media industry, I know that journalists are very easy to contact (and indeed, I know a few myself). If I had sufficient grounds to complain, I’d approach one of them via Twitter, or contact friends who use social media who are sympathetic to my cause, and tap into their networks too. As I said, social has a multiplier effect which shouldn’t be under-estimated.

@Guy1067: Why do you think companies seem to get it right on Twitter and yet traditional channels which have been around a lot longer are falling down?

@Anjali28: It’s all about the personal connection. As I mentioned above earlier, the traditional call centres that brands employ to deal with customer service issues are usually outsourced and result in the customer being directed to someone who often does not understand your situation, leading you to become very frustrated. As we all know, a frustrated, disgruntled customer is someone who stops at nothing to hurt the brand to get some compensation for the hurt they themselves feel.

As for email, an automated response is hardly personal, and also leaves one feeling frustrated because for all you know, you could have been shouting into an empty well.

I admit, however, that when used in the right manner (as The Carphone Warehouse, American Airlines and Best Buy have, in my personal experience), email can be very effective.

@Guy1067: Can the two be used successfully together?

@Anjali28: Yes, they can – in my Best Buy example, I contacted someone via phone, then via mail (post) as I was requested to send them documentation, then I followed up via Twitter and was finally instructed to contact someone at the company by email. All these mechanisms functioned beautifully as I was able to speak to people who understood my problem and were very willing to help.

Even when I contacted you via Twitter, I used mail and email to follow up, and I had pleasant experiences every time.

@Guy1067: You started off as a detractor, by the end you became an advocate because of the way the issue was handled, which implies the resolution of the issue is not necessarily as important any longer as long as the experience/final experience is well handled?

@Anjali28: I think it always depends on the context. Usually, the two go hand in hand. I became an advocate because the resolution of the issue was favourable in addition to the fact that the experience was good.

With American Airlines, however, I’d had a less than 100% satisfactory resolution to my case, but the experience was still excellent, and I am an advocate because the specific issue wasn’t easy to solve, which I understood.

@Guy1067: Does Twitter set unrealistic expectations in the customer’s mind that all complaints/issues can be resolved by Twitter? Does a company in your experience do anything to manage this expectation?

@Anjali28: No, Twitter definitely does not set unrealistic expectations in the customer’s mind. If a brand is on Twitter, which is a platform that mixes the personal (the ability to have individual conversations via @ messages and DMs) with the public (what is said by a customer can be seen by all his followers and if he/she is re-tweeted, it could reach many more people), the very fact that they are on Twitter means that they have committed to listening to their consumers and solving their problems in a personal way. If they aren’t committed to that, they shouldn’t be on Twitter in the first place.

In my experience, a company does all it can to manage this experience by listening (which is very important – it is easy to NOT track what is said by millions of people on Twitter, but it is the brand’s responsibility to listen) rather than merely talking (usually PR or other brand messages).

@Guy1067: Have you resorted to the use of Twitter/social for any other complaints/issues? Would you? Would you expect companies to be on Twitter by now?

@Anjali28: Yes, I have: Bose, American Airlines and Best Buy. I would definitely do it again in the future if I had issues with a brand’s products.

Yes, I do expect companies to be on Twitter by now. A company exists for its consumers and there are millions of them on Twitter. If brands aren’t on Twitter, not only are they missing an opportunity to connect with thousands of people, they also lose the opportunity to explain themselves and control any damage that may very well arise.

@Guy1067: What’s the future of social customer care? Mainstream or fad?

@Anjali28: Mainstream. Most brands clearly indicate that they have a Twitter and/or a Facebook presence, which means they are open to conversing with customers there.

For me it is almost second nature to expect a brand to be on Twitter – I commend them for the good stuff they do and good experiences I have as much as I vent any unhappiness with them.

Compliments are as much a part of the process as complaints, and both are useful mechanisms for the company to understand what is working and what is not, thereby enabling them to improve their brands, their image, their consumer base, and ultimately their profit.

@Guy1067: Thanks for your time.

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