Like everyone else, I’ve had my share of customer service frustrations  with those large, sprawling corporations we all inevitably interact with.  The kind where you feel  stuck in some sort of bureaucratic purgatory, and where you end up irrationally angry at some poor customer service representative that is completely powerless to help you. 

Like a lot of people, the last few years I’ve taken to complaining on Twitter when these situations arise.  Part of it is just venting, but mostly I’m purposefully escalating the situation in hopes of a favorable resolution.   I know these companies monitor Twitter closely.  I also know that they try to resolve public complaints like those lodged on Twitter quickly as a way of protecting their brand. 

I won’t name names, but a few months ago I sent out a single tweet venting my frustrations with a large web hosting provider.  I had been trying to resolve an account issue for two months, and was constantly being delayed when not being flat out ignored by my representative.    Within an hour of sending out a tweet about the issue, I was contacted by someone with a  VP in his title who started making stuff happen.  The situation I had been dealing with for months was resolved within a few business days.   When I asked my normal representative unrelated questions a month or two later, I went back to being ignored.

While I was certainly happy that my situation got resolved, the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth.  Should I really have to resort to throwing a tantrum on Twitter to get resolution? 

It is clear that the company I was dealing with puts a lot of value on public relations.  They have a tons of ears on the ground and have processes in place to quickly engage with unhappy customers that complain via their Twitter account.  They want to avoid situations like Dell Hell or Kevin Smith’s “Too Fat to Fly” debacle.  

That’s fine and all, but this “whack a mole” approach really seems short sighted to me.  It isn’t good enough to do online damage control while allowing fundamental customer service problems to fester.  You should listen to online conversations in order to improve your company and its processes, not just to contain potential crisis.   Perhaps the company I was dealing with is trying to truly improve its services by engaging via Twitter, but it sure didn’t seem like it from my experience.

There are a lot of companies like this that monitor Twitter in the hopes of nipping potential problems in the bud.  Like I said, that is fine.  But I have a lot more respect for companies that treat customers who call in to a 1-800  just as well as the ones who go public with their complaints. 

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.