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Using Social Media to Keep Companies Accountable





Whether we like it or not, social media has become a very important and large part of our day-to-day lives. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest… we use so many different social media mediums to communicate with each other and the world around us.

I must admit, I was very wary of Twitter. I didn’t know what the fuss was all about. How can 140 characters per “tweet” convey the message you want across to other twitter account holders around you? What was the point of Twitter? Wasn’t it just like Facebook status updates… but all the time?

After 2+ years of using Twitter, I have become a Twitter addict. It’s helpful for me to keep up with the latest news or smut (like Avril Lavigne and Chad Kroeger’s recent engagement) and more importantly, I have used it with good success to keep companies accountable. In my opinion, it has really changed the landscape of customer service… but in a good way.

Companies, especially large companies or new companies, want to make sure that the public has a good opinion of their business. They will do whatever it takes to keep the customer happy. With Twitter, the “customer is always right” adage rings true. In a recent article in The Guardian that talked about complaining on twitter for an instantaneous response, more and more companies are getting Twitter accounts solely as a sounding board for customer feedback.

Here are a few examples of why you should sign up an account with Twitter, especially if you are interested in accountability in the companies you regularly do business with.

The Examples:

I hunt down the twitter handle for companies that I was have trouble reaching via telephone. For example, I once had a flight with Cathay Pacific on a trip to Bali using some points and it is notoriously difficult to contact the Asia Miles department. One time, I was on hold for two hours to get to a ring tone and have it suddenly hang up on me. Another time, you get a message that the “call volume” is very high so please call back again. You can’t even email them because they don’t have an email system set up. It was very frustrating.

In my frustration, I put a call out to the twitterverse and to the Asia Miles department/ Cathay Pacific. Well, technically I complained publically on twitter and tagged the company. Within an hour or two, I get a DM (Direct Message) asking me for my reward card number. After that, I get a call almost right away from the company and they help me with my inquiry.

Another twitter customer service example that comes to mind involves Orbitz (which as you probably already know, is the online travel booking company). I booked with Orbitz recently for a hotel stay. I paid Orbitz already and stayed at the hotel. A week later, I check my credit card statement online and see that I was charged directly from the hotel.

Panicking, I thought that perhaps they billed me for damage to the hotel room (not that I damaged the hotel room, but sometimes I get paranoid like that). I then called the hotel directly and they informed me that they will look into it and that they would call me back.

Being the antsy person that I was, I contacted Orbitz customer care via twitter. I tweeted Orbitz customer care and was given another DM almost immediately. She then asked me to email her my phone number and she proceeded to give me a call to investigate what had happened.

Not only did she investigate what happened, she gave me a detailed rationale for what went wrong. She also explained that the charge will come off my credit card statement the next day. To top it off, a week later, they sent me another email thanking me for my patience and apologizing for the inconvenience, with a $50 voucher for my next Orbitz booked travel. Talk about great customer service!

The Verdict?

I am confident that if I were to call directly to these companies instead of somewhat “publically” announcing my distaste with the customer service, then I would have not received the 5 star treatment that I did.

Now, I’m not sure whether businesses and companies that have a vested interest in maintaining a positive public perception look at whether you have 10 followers or 1000 twitter followers. My hope is that they treat all customers equally despite the number of twitter followers the customer has.

Readers, have you had a positive or negative experience with companies on twitter you would like to share?

About the Author: Clare is a 20-something who lives in beautiful (but expensive) British Columbia and has been working on her frugal living skills and fighting lifestyle inflation. She works to expand her DIY investment knowledge and hopes to enjoy financial independence one day. She enjoys reading personal finance books, freelance writing, but not so much arithmetic.





12 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. @Clare, perhaps it might be useful to post in the comments the twitter handles of popular Canadian companies. ie. Air Canada, Westjet, Rogers, Telus, Bell etc.

  2. 2. Echo

    I’ve complained to TELUS before on Twitter when I wasn’t getting anywhere through their customer service line. Their response on Twitter was instantaneous, asking me to DM my phone number so that someone could get in touch with me. Then, the VP of the company saw my tweet and sent a technician down from Calgary the next morning to fix my problem.

    I’d say it works, and that’s because companies invest a lot of time and money into monitoring social media channels, and often there is not a direct ROI for their efforts. Fixing a customer problem, as small as it sounds, can be considered a ‘win’ for them.

    @FT – most companies have separate Twitter handles to deal with customer complaints. For example, TELUS uses @TELUSsupport

  3. 3. JimBob

    Awesome. Never thought of using Twitter as a sounding board for bad customer service. But how do I get lots of followers if its a new account. Worry about being ignored if I do not have many followers.

    I never had a need for Twitter and wanted to keep my life simple.

  4. It is also good to hear that government agencies and politicians are also using Twitter accounts so that people can easily reach them and communicate with them. At the same time, it is also an opportunity to reach a greater number of people.

  5. 5. Clare

    @FT- Fabulous idea!

    Here are some important ones with notorious slow customer service via the telephone :)

    Travel:
    Air Canada- @Aircanada
    West Jet @Westjet
    Orbitz @OrbitzCareTeam
    Travelocity @Travelocity

    Telco’s:
    Bell @Bell_Support
    Rogers @Rogershelps
    Telus @Telussupport (as @Echo mentioned already- they have someone 24 hours it seems)
    Shaw @Shawhelp

    Financial:
    Questrade @Questrade (in case you can’t get through on the phone or through their instant chat ;) )

  6. 6. Clare

    @Echo-

    Wow the VP of Telus?! That’s huge! Talk about customer service ;) I love twitter out of all the social media outlets.

    @JimBob- Lots of people tend to “follow back” if you follow them, but as mentioned, my hope is that the people monitoring the customer care on twitter for their company aren’t evaluating the number of followers one has.

    @Cherleen- Yup- it’s exciting when they respond back to you too!

  7. I love social media for this purpose. If a company has really wronged me, like Delta Airlines recently has, I just voice it on social media. They usually contact me without any effort from my part. They don’t always fix the situation – more times than not, they haven’t done anything – but at least I dont’ have to stay on hold for hours trying to get a resolution.

  8. You are absolutely correct – sometimes it is very hard to contact customer support, but once you post something on Twitter, they instantly respond to your complaints. I think that these companies are more focused on getting a good reputation on social media, as this medium can make or break them. I remember when I ordered a pair of shoes from endless.com and they sent me old/worn shoes. The moment I put it on twitter, I received a message from customer service.

  9. 9. Lawrence

    I had the same experience with ING Direct Canada. I had a problem with opening my new checking account and the first person to respond on Twitter was the CEO! I was talking directly to Peter Aceto, @CEO_INGDIRECT.

    I got a phone call from customer service the same day and the issue was totally resolved the next day :)

    ING Direct Canada: @SuperStarSaver

  10. 10. Malcolm

    Yeah i was confused about Twitter myself when i first tried it. Social media is indeed the new face of marketing and endorsement method for your business.

  11. 11. Clare

    @Lawrence- Thanks for sharing @Superstarsaver I forgot about that one :) ING is usually pretty good with their customer service, I find.

  12. Thanks to social media, customers now have more power.
    I know that some local branch of worldwide Brand (like Samsung or Sony) have closed their social media account on Facebook or Twitter after several complaints about their customer service!

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