Customer Relations, Twitter and Warm Fuzzies

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I just had the best phone call from my cell phone carrier, Fido. I’ve been with them for years and although no relationship is perfect, for the most part I’ve been pretty happy with their service. For the past few days I’ve been ignoring their calls though. I’ve been busy and just didn’t want to spend those few minutes on what I expected to be the usual survey or promotion of a new service package. When I did finally pick up the call I was rewarded with a 30% reduction in my monthly bill even with the addition of a roaming package that I’ll be needing in the new year. So, Whoo-Hoo!

Not only was the proactive approach appreciated, the customer service representative who called was awesome. I had a bunch of questions I’d been saving up and he answered all of them, even the tough ones involving the newly installed cell tower in the Fraser Canyon (ya, I ask odd questions). My final question to him was “What’s the Fido Twitter account? I’d like to tweet about the great service I received today.” That stumped him. He put me on hold and came back a few seconds later saying that no one that he had access to knew if Fido was on “the Twitter” and if they were, what the profile name was.

Now, I knew for a fact Fido was on Twitter and that they were not, as one might suppose @Fido. Someone else nabbed that before they could. I know this because I had mistakenly sent a message to @Fido last month and it was replied to by someone saying that they were not a mobile phone service provider and that my comments were misdirected. My bad. I also knew that I had found the real Fido Twitter account on their website. I directed the sales rep to the site and he thanked me for helping him learn something new. Like I said, excellent service, great attitude and appropriate reponses all round.

Here’s the rub. I promptly tweeted out a high five to @FidoMobile, Fido’s official Twitter handle according to their website. I received a quick response from @FidoEric saying thanks for the kudos and wishing me a Happy New Year. Very cool so far. I also noticed that I had picked up three new followers. @Fidomobile, @FidoEric and @FidoSolutions. Seems there are multiple Fido personas on Twitter. Nothing wrong with that. It’s a bit confusing but I can handle it and who am I to judge another companies Twitter strategy. Ok, I kind of judge other companies Twitter strategy all the time, but only when the other company hires me to do that 🙂 Back to the story.

In response to @FidoEric I tweeted ” They didn’t know they had Twitter account tho… I set them straight :-)”. I was just being chatty, not catty, and in a round about way saying, “Hey dude, send out another memo!” or something.

There are about a half dozen really great ways to respond back to the kind of Tweet I sent. Some of the best might have been “Thank you! New Years Resolution is to make sure everyone knows we tweet!” or “Oh dear. Thanks so much for letting us know. New round of training coming up!” or just a simple ” Thanks for reminding them we’re here”.

I did not get that. I got “It’s still a relatively new thing, so it’s understandable that some reps may not know about our Social Media department ;)” and it was not from @FidoEric. It was from a different @Fido person.

The response itself, on the surface, isn’t that bad. It did however leave me with a not so warm and fuzzy feeling. And that is a problem. I had set the stage for the Fido Tweeters to maintain the warm and fuzzies I was already carrying for them and they didn’t follow through. They made two critical mistakes that I see a lot of folks make – on Twitter, on Facebook, and in face to face engagements.

Mistake #1 – Switching people in mid conversation. Yes, Eric and I had only had a few brief moments together, but those were good moments, we had the beginnings of a relationship happening… and then she butted in 🙂

It’s ok, especially in big companies, to have different people managing your social media, tweeting for you, responding to comments, etc. Those folks need to respect boundaries and treat it like any professional/quasi-social situation. If we were at a conference or trade show and I was joking around with Eric I doubt his co-worker would jump in without at least saying something like – “Sorry Eric had to run to the men’s room and didn’t want to leave you hanging. Can I comment on….” or “Hey Jamie, don’t mean to butt in but Thank You for reminding the phone reps that we’re here :-)”.

Mistake #2 – Never, ever, ever, try to justify or excuse something the customer has seen as a problem.

In other words, this is not the time to stand up for your company, co-workers or others. People want to be heard and have their thoughts and feelings validated. That leads to warm fuzzies. The customer is not only always right, they are bang on right and brilliant for noticing what you have missed. There is no room for ego in customer relations unless it’s the customers ego. Any kind of interaction a customer has with you is a gift and those gifts need to be treated like gold. The only appropriate response to a gift, in a professional setting, is to say Thank You. Bonus points for adding humour, when appropriate.

Bonus Mistake – If you feel you need to justify, explain or qualify on behalf of your company it’s a good idea to check out the facts as other would see them.

For example I checked the Fido Twitter profiles and most were created in July so they really aren’t that new. Granted the profiles may have been sitting for a while but from my perspective it’s been six months… just sayin’…

Take away message – Good, effective, online customer relations takes more than just a knowledge of social media.

A lot of customer relations soft skills are grounded in communication and interpersonal relationship theory and strategy. If you want to get really, really good at online and face to face customer relations.. not sales.. customer relations (although this works great for sales too) study counselling skills, Carl Rogers in particular and even Motivational Interviewing and make “Thank You” the swiss army knife in your customer relations toolbox.

Big shout out and Thank You to Fido for the blog idea. I really do love the company and have had great service for many years. Please accept this post in the spirit intended 🙂

What are some of the best responses you’ve gotten from companies on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus?