Perceived wisdom is that Twitter offers companies exciting new ways to reach out to their customers and build authentic relationships with them. Quite right too – I follow many of my favourite brands on Twitter and certainly feel closer to some of them as a result.
One particular area that attracts a lot of attention is Customer Services. Some companies have received very good press through the extension of their customer services offering onto Twitter, and off the top of my head I can think of a few that seem to do this very well: @virginmedia @easyJetCare @starbucks @SouthwestAir for starters.
The company I work for has been experimenting in this area and has had some very positive reactions to real time monitoring and intervention when one of our customers has cried out for help on Twitter.
The recent Vodafone ‘twincident’ was an interesting lesson to all of us exploring the value of using Twitter in this way. However, on that occasion it appears to represent poor judgement and a non-malicious error by one individual. What happened to a friend of mine last week is very different and just as scary. His company name has been changed to Feeding Frenzy to protect confidentiality.
He noticed a tweet from a customer who was clearly finding the experience of using his company’s core product frustrating. He contacted his customer services team who rolled into action in the hope of helping the guy out and potentially turning a poor first time experience into a much more positive one.
They quickly identified the customer from his profile information on Twitter and put in a call to him to see if there was anything they could do to help. Within seconds of making the call, this was his reaction, live on Twitter:
“Extraordinary. Feeding Frenzy just called me on my mobile, after I tweeted earlier about how fucking hard it was..unbelievable.. Still in shock” 4:57pm
“Not kidding, the bloke says “We see you’re having issues with Feeding Frenzy and mentioned on Twitter” fuck that. Madness madness madness” 4:58pm
“yeah, now I’m over the shock I feel all terroristy, like fuck them.” 5:09pm
What followed resembled a pride of lions feeding on a freshly butchered zebra. A small number of his followers started biting chunks out of the company at the suggestion that the comments were hilarious and they should try and get them trending.
Eight individuals with a combined total of 3,700 followers created sufficient noise to represent over 20,000 ‘negative reads’ within an hour. The story did not trend because it never spread beyond the small group.
I guess Feeding Frenzy were lucky.
I was quite taken aback by this tale. I could not understand how this kind of reaction could have resulted from a genuine attempt to help someone out.
And then it twigged. Feeding Frenzy had intruded on his personal space when they looked up his phone number and rang him. And like a lion feeding on a zebra’s carcass, he reacted violently when an intruder tried to get in on his feast.
So here is my question. Was this an isolated incident representing wholly untypical behaviour which we can all afford to dismiss, or should the lesson from this tale be that Customer Service interventions based on Twitter comments should be restricted to offers of support via direct interaction only on Twitter?
What do you think?