How important is customer service via social media?

According to J.D. Power, 67% of consumers have used a company’s social media channel for customer service.

And when they do, they expect a fast response. Research cited by Jay Baer tells us that 42% of consumers expect a response with 60 minutes.

So, how’s your social media customer service?

For this post I was excited to research a set of 14 amazing examples of customer service using social media.

Let’s get started!


pablo

1. Samsung: A Unicycling Kangaroo and a Dragon Phone

As a loyal Samsung customer, Canadian Shane Bennett asked for a free unit of their latest, soon-to-launch phone. To sweeten his offer, he included a drawing of a roaring dragon.

Not surprisingly, Samsung said “no”. But to say thanks, they sent him their drawing of a unicycle-riding kangaroo.

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Shane then shared both messages (and drawings) to Reddit where it went viral. In response, Samsung Canada sent him the phone he asked for – and customized it with his fire-breathing dragon artwork.

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Takeaway: Have fun with customer interactions. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

2. Morton’s Steakhouse: Airport Delivery

While waiting for takeoff in Tampa, Florida, Peter Shankman jokingly asked Morton’s Steakhouse to deliver a porterhouse steak when he landed at Newark airport.

mortons

While departing the Newark airport to meet his driver, he was greeted by a Morton’s server with a 24 oz. Porterhouse steak, shrimp, potatoes, bread – the works. A full meal and no bill.

When you think of the logistics of pulling this off, it becomes even more impressive. The Community Manager needed to get approval and place the order. It needed to be prepared and then driven by the server to the airport, to the correct location and at the right time. All in less than three hours.

mortons-steakhouse

Some of the comments on Peter’s post suggest that this isn’t an anomaly. Another reader shares his experience of ordering a baked potato and getting a full steak meal – delivered and for free.

Takeaway: Do something unexpected for a loyal customer – when they want it most.

3. Gaylord Opryland: Sleep-Inducing Clock Radio

After numerous stays at Nashville’s Opryland Resort, Christina McMenemy wanted her own spa-sound clock radio that comes standard in each room. The sound helped her sleep better than ever, and she couldn’t find that model anywhere. So she asked the hotel for help finding it.

gaylord-hotels

Turns out, that model was exclusive to the Gaylord hotels. She thought that was the end of it, and went to her conference.

Upon returning to her room that evening, she found a gift waiting: the spa clock and a handwritten card. The staff had given her the product she was unable to find. Not only did they make a long term customer very happy, they also received significant media coverage for their act of kindness.

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Takeaway: Make customers happy one at a time.

A quick note on these first three examples

While it’s great to give away phones, steak dinners, and clock radios, this might not be sustainable customer service.

Why not? When other, loyal customers hear what these companies did, they might expect the same treatment. Can Morton’s deliver a free steak dinner to the airport for every customer who asks? Can Gaylord hotels give every loyal guest a free clock radio?

A more sustainable approach is to provide outstanding customer service on a daily basis. These next examples have lessons that can be implemented right away and on a consistent basis.

4. JetBlue: Feeling the Customer’s Pain

During a four-hour flight, Esaí Vélez’s seatback TV gave him nothing but static – while the rest of the passengers had normally functioning screens. How did he respond? He tweeted a complaint to JetBlue. Nothing inflammatory, but he was clearly disappointed.

jetblue

How did JetBlue respond? While they could have made an excuse or even ignored his tweet, they didn’t. They took his side and empathized with him.

“Oh no! That’s not what we like to hear! Are all the TVs out on the plane or is it just yours?”

After he confirms that it was just his TV that was out, they respond:

“We always hate it when that happens. Send us a DM with your confirmation code to get you a credit for the non-working TV.”

Not only do they imagine his frustration, but they also offer him a credit for his trouble.

What was the result? Just 23 minutes after his complaint, he tweets: “One of the fastest and better Customer Service: @JetBlue! Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving”

jetblue2

Takeaway: Put yourself in your customer’s shoes when responding to complaints.

5. Delta Hotels: Room With an Ugly View

While attending the #PSEWEB conference in Vancouver, Mike McCready tweeted that, while he liked his room at the Delta, the view wasn’t so nice. He didn’t tag the hotel, and he wasn’t asking for anything.

Within an hour, Delta responded – offering a room with a better view. And when Mike returned to his room after the conference, he found a dish of sweets and a handwritten card from the staff at his hotel. It made such an impact that he wrote a post about it – the very same day.

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Takeaway: Set up a social listening strategy to listen to all customer conversations.

6. Waterstones: Man Locked in London Bookstore

While every customer comment is important, some are going to be a little more urgent than others. Like locking a customer in your store.

This happened to David Willis last year at Waterstones Trafalgar Square store. He tweeted:

waterstones

Not surprisingly, this tweet went viral, with 16,000+ retweets and 12,000+ likes. Because someone was monitoring Waterstones Twitter account, they were able to tweet 80 minutes later that they had freed their previously captive customer. Imagine how this could have turned out, if Waterstones customer service had stopped listening for the day.

waterstones2

Takeaway: Always listen to customer conversations.

7. Contextly: Customer Onboarding

Before I do business with a new company, I like to see if anyone is listening. It gives me confidence that they’ll be there if I have a problem or question.

When I was looking for a premium related-content service, I signed up for a free trial account with Contextly. The process was smooth, and I was excited about the app, so I tweeted about it. They responded with a positive, helpful tweet.

contextly

As a result, I’m confident that they are interested in me and will help me if I have a question with the app.

Takeaway: Use social media to streamline customer onboarding.

8. Xbox Support: Elite Tweet Fleet

Back in 2010, Xbox added a dedicated Twitter account. Since then, their Elite Tweet Fleet has posted more than two million support tweets. In fact, when I visited their account page, they were averaging two tweets per minute! And they have a team of 27 support experts.

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Any company that assigns a dedicated Twitter account (and 27 people to manage it) is amazing to me. Check out some of their interactions:

  • The support team addressed an issue with a user and then initiated a follow-up message nine days later. This is outstanding, given the volume of users they interact with on an hourly basis.
  • This user tweeted a thank-you message about a replacement Xbox.
  • One follower tweeted a custom greeting card, entitled: “To my good friends: Xbox.”

Takeaway: Be committed to your social media customer service.

9. Nike: Respond Kindly to Confused Customers

Nike Support is one of the strongest customer service accounts on Twitter. They feature a dedicated Twitter account, support seven days a week and in seven languages (English, Spanish, French, Dutch, Italian, German & Japanese.)

An example of their approach is here in this customer interaction: A customer contacts them to ask for help finding an order number. Although the question was unclear Nike’s customer support made the customer feel cared for. And when the customer realized they had the information all along, their response is super supportive.

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Takeaway: Be kind, even when it’s not your fault.

10. Seamless: Pay Attention to Every Comment

Seamless is an online service for ordering food from local restaurants. Food orders are full of variables and when you add in time frame and delivery – it has the potential to be a nightmare. To manage customer service, they have an active Twitter account where customers can share their love and voice their complaints.

In a recent comment, a customer tells Seamless that on his recent order he received white rice, instead of brown. He wasn’t upset – he said: “Don’t mind terribly, just FYI.”

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In response, Seamless asks for the order number so they can check into it. In response, the customer tweets:

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Takeaway: Pay attention to all customer service issues. Passive complaints that are left unaddressed can easily cause a rift between the vendor and customer.

11. My Starbucks Idea: Listen and Harvest Ideas

As a way to listen to customers – and get tons of great new ideas – Starbucks created My Starbucks Idea. To date, customers have submitted more than 210,000 unique ideas. To support this program, they have a dedicated Twitter account. It is a great place for users to share their observations and coffee wishes.

A couple of the recent ideas include solar cell equipped umbrellas for device charging and morning coffee delivery (looks like it’s going to happen).

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Takeaway: Make it easy for customers to tell you what they want. Listen to everyone and implement the winning ideas.

12. Sainsburys: Fishy Exchange

Sainsbury’s is one of the largest supermarkets in the UK. They’ve got a pretty active Twitter feed with lots of customer questions about products and sale prices. The tone of the account is helpful and positive.

There are lots of good examples of interactions. But none better than Fishy Sainsburys. This fishy exchange took place over a three hour period, between David (Sainsbury’s Twitter manager) and Marty (a customer). The puns will make you groan – many made me laugh out loud. Remember, this interaction was not a marketing play but a real conversation between the company and a customer.

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Takeaway: Let your customer service team have fun.

13. Hubspot: Every Day of the Year

Holidays can be challenging times for customer service. When customer service closes for the observance of a holiday in one country, users from other countries will still have questions.

This recently happened with a HubSpot customer in London. She had workflow issues and couldn’t contact anyone at the US-based call center because it was closed for American Thanksgiving. When she took her concern to Twitter, she found a customer service representative in Ireland.

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Like many companies in this list, HubSpot has a dedicated customer service Twitter account. To manage international schedules and time zones, they have two Dublin-based representatives and another three in Cambridge, MA.

Takeaway: Be available for your customers.

14. Buffer: Personal and Kind

If you take a quick look at Buffer’s Tweets & replies feed you’ll see how engaging their customer service is. Responses are personal and friendly. And they are usually signed by the team member you’re chatting with.

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For example, my wife has been impressed that when she mentions them in a tweet, they acknowledge it, even using her name in their response.

Takeaway: Treat each person with respect. Use your name (and theirs) when interacting with customers online.

What we can learn from these customer service examples

Here are some key takeaways:

  1. Choose a primary channel for customer service (many use Twitter) and assign staff to manage it.
  2. Decide on your schedule of availability (set hours and days) and post it on your profile.
  3. Have each tweet/post signed by the person who sent it. This is done well by Xbox Support, Sainsbury’s, and Buffer.
  4. Remember that customers might contact you any number of ways – not necessarily on the channel you chose. Make sure you monitor other social channels for questions and conversations about your brand.
  5. Establish a tone for your social media conversations. Generally speaking, you’ll want first to empathize with your customers problem. Stephen Covey said it best: “Seek first to understand…”

I recommend following a few of these companies on Twitter. Watch how they handle customer complaints and comments. I’ve learned so much doing this.

What to do next: Review these points with your customer service team. Decide which apply to your business right now and assign a team member to implement them.

Over to you

Have you had an amazing customer service experience via social media? How are you using social media to provide customer service? I would love to hear both in the comments!

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Written by Bryan Haines

Content marketer and partner at Storyteller Media, where we provide content marketing for travel brands. I also blog about GoPro (and other action cameras) at ClickLikeThis.

  • http://www.youtube.com/mattiaswac Mattias Wachtmeister

    Ill forward this to @AskEASupport who would clearly need some inspiration. Not when reporting that my Origin account has been hacked by Russians do they react. #EAGAMES

  • http://about.me/KristyCartier Kristy C. Cartier

    Verizon FiOS support also does a great job. Much easier to work with than the call center. In comparison, AmEx ignored my recent complaint mention (I didn’t use a hashtag or handle). And, of course, I’ve chatted with Buffer many a time.

    • http://bryanhaines.com/ Bryan Haines

      Nice – thanks for including Verizon FiOS. I’m checking them out right now. There is so much to learn from these great examples! Thanks Kristy!

  • Jatin Chadha

    I would like to know about your views on how TESCO replies to certain posts, when there are sometimes funny comments by people who mock at rival football clubs. TESCO’s replies are funny but they seem more like marketing ideas by getting their replies go viral on Twitter. Then there are some other cases too. You can see the images attached. Do you think that it is a good strategy? If it were accounts like 9GAG, it was totally understandable.

    • http://bryanhaines.com/ Bryan Haines

      I can see your point. It appears to be written more for the audience than the individual user. Over the years, Tesco has developed a reputation of very familiar, casual tone of voice. Is this a good strategy? It depends on your audience. And your brand’s tone of voice. I found a great commentary about this here http://spencerdubois.co.uk/opinion/article/customer-service-with-a-smile/

      Tesco’s Twitter feed appears to be more of a conversation between friends – than a sterile corporation / customer interaction. There are some obvious benefits to this. It is disarming and makes it a conversation between two human beings.

      What’s your opinion of this approach Jatin?

      • Jatin Chadha

        I think you are right Bryan. Your reply couldn’t be more perfect 🙂 Mentioning the name while replying makes it a conversation between two human beings and it also saves the company from something that might go wrong with a reply (just in case). Adding to it, the customers feel that they are talking to a person named Mike (as in the second image) instead of a huge organization. This, in my opinion, helps the customer to be himself and be able to express his thoughts and concerns in a better way. He would also feel closer to the brand. It is a win-win situation 🙂

        • http://bryanhaines.com/ Bryan Haines

          I couldn’t agree more. Humanizing the discussion is so important.

          • Bojana Smiljanic

            I think this sort of approach could be a bit risky, although admittedly, the questions aren’t really of a serious nature so can be played around with. I suppose a good strategy of signing the comment is a good way for a company to detach themselves and blame the representative if all goes Pete Tong (wrong) 😉

  • http://hedstrominternetconsulting.com/ Steve Hedstrom

    Great post on social customer service Bryan! Those examples are outstanding. Personally, my clients just call or email me. My clients customers on the other hand… Need to get setup with responses across social channels for them all and have a SOP for responding and checking in more frequently. Have a thankful Thursday and I’ll be sharing this with my network. Cheers! 🙂

    • http://bryanhaines.com/ Bryan Haines

      Thanks Steve! You make a great point. Some companies don’t need to provide customer service via social channels – because they’re on a first-name basis with each client.

      I would love to hear how you’ll structure the procedures for your clients.

  • CMGRMelissa

    These examples are fantastic, Bryan – thanks for sharing! I love when a brand has a sense of humor. When I worked for my former employer, we had many confused, frustrated, angry, and sometimes trolling comments on social media. I always felt that an empathetic voice – and sometimes humorous approach (poking fun at ourselves) – invoked a positive response. Converting an upset user into a brand champion was my favorite part of the job!! 🙂

    • http://bryanhaines.com/ Bryan Haines

      Thanks Melissa! Agreed that a humorous approach is super powerful – as many of these examples show.

      It’s not about the problem – it’s all about the response.

  • http://www.LYFsolutions.com.au LYF Solutions

    Great post and plenty of inspiration to take in for the New Year. Social Media allows business owners to demonstrate their tone of voice, but also how they can WOW people in general. Going above and beyond for customers, will truly set your brand apart from the rest.

    In Australia, we’ve had some good examples this year, including Woolworths and their spaghetti fan. Despite the brands woes elsewhere from marketing and business, they gained heaps of positive sentiment and reach from a users post. Goes to show how much power is in the hands of a customer, rather than the brand telling their own story.

    Looking forward to more like it in 2016.

  • http://whatsappstatushut.com ancient hassansin

    well written and full of inforations.
    http://whatsappstatushut.com

  • Diego

    Hey Bryan,

    I found lots of value while reading this. As a founder and advocate for exceptional customer service, I’m all in when it comes down to serving your customers right. Definitely a strong focus for 2016 and the years to come. Thanks for the post, very informative as usual. Cheers!

  • http://www.hyken.com/ Shep Hyken

    Love this article! Fourteen excellent examples of how companies are using social media channels to engage with their customers. It’s not just about reacting to complaints. It’s really about any opportunity to engage with your customers through these “public” channels.

  • http://way2goal.in/ way2goal Santhosh

    That’s a nice post
    Answerkeys

  • Jamie Kim

    Brilliant post and learned so much from all these amazing companies! As a customer, I enjoy mentioning companies and brands on Twitter and express my thoughts about them. Now that social media makes interactions with a company more personal, I feel more engaged to it and better acknowledged as its valued customer. Buffer’s oh-so-fast and personal responses always wow me, too!

  • http://www.petrpinkas.blogspot.com/ Petr Pinkas

    Awesome examples, thanks for sharing Bryan!

  • Steve E

    Bryan- I love these examples. Recently the
    Boston Red Sox did a great campaign for their fans. I would encourage you to
    check out #thegiftofSox, This was a one day (12/09/15) social media event where they gave back to the
    fans in a variety of ways (Memorabilia, tickets, Twitter follows, animated GIFS,
    Etc.) This was something I have not seen before from a sports team. Fans are
    ultimately their customers and they hit it out of the park (Pardon the Pun.).

  • Adam Lee

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  • http://kenstewart.net Ken

    Love reading about people that care for their customers sincerely – for the sake of relationship rather than to merely cover up a wrong and make it go away. Motives matter.

    I was at a local venue of a nationally streamed leadership event last August. Understanding that their priority was the streaming content, I simply asked:

    Hey, @nwoodschurch, I realize there are higher tech priorities. But, how can we get on your guest wifi for #GLS15? Please? #basicneeds 😉

    Their response was great!:

    @tweetkenstewart, really there are few priorities higher than helping you have an awesome #GLS15 at @nwoodschurch, public wifi is back 😉

    This wasn’t a major corporation with a dedicated Social Media team. It was a church working hard to keep the primary stream a priority while realizing the hundreds of people in the audience needed bandwidth, too. Their response was quick, non-defensive, and even a little fun. #goodstuffmaynard

  • Hansoftech

    Great Examples of Customer Service. Twitter Account looks better solution for serving customers.

  • David Taylor

    I found lots of value while reading this.Brilliant article. Social media is really an amazing tool allowing us to think outside the box. The next decade is going to be exciting and full of surprises. It’s quite effective for promoting business nowadays since people are now engaged in on-line marketing or social media marketing. Social sites offer opportunities that will bring exposure to your company and products or even your small business. But we must be strategic on using social media network to avoid risks. Similar article I found on this http://goo.gl/coQQvq I believe it helps you as well.

  • Wesley Dowding

    Great post thank you.

    On a side note it is annoying when reading blogs for pop ups to constantly distracting you especially when you are a signed up buffer user and the pop ups keep asking for the reader to use Buffer for the first time!

  • Brad P

    Thank you for your great post,Bryan!

    We’ll be more than happy to join the customers’ oriented social network and share or exchange thoughts, that can be useful for the other customers too.See you @ .customerso.com

  • http://www.globalteleforce.com/ Hitesh Parekh

    It is a challenge to provide customer service in social media. Businesses need to be active on popular social media sites to provide great customer service. It can help you reach your loyal customers and meet their expectations.