A collection of articles written by Customer 1st

Can companies ignore Twitter?

20th November 2011 | Posted in Social Media

Many senior service leaders are still failing to understand how damaging social network sites are to their businesses. Customers are generally not using social media to say what great service you have offered them, but, on the contrary, they go there to complain, just as I have done recently, because a company that I did business with continues to ignore me and my complaint.

I will go into story-telling mode, and let you know of the bad service I have received from the bed company, Dreams, Britain's "leading bed specialist." It was not primarily the retail store from which I bought my bed, that made me angry, but the supply chain, the firm that was supposed to have delivered my bed a few days later.

I had decided to replace my existing bed, choosing a top-of-the-range model in order to get a good night's sleep - very important in my job of being creative. I need my sleep like everyone else, but sleep is a perennial problem for me, and so I felt the investment would be worthwhile. The dream soon turned into a nightmare as, like many, I took the day off to take delivery of the bed. I had even been informed of the time of delivery the night before, and, on the actual morning, Michael, the store manager, rang me to inform me that it had just left the store. It should be with me by 11am, 20 minutes later, apparently. Great service so far, but, when 3pm arrived, I started to wonder what had happened. I rang the driver. A man called Steve answered the phone from Bournemouth (35 miles away), and said that he was now on the way along the South Coast, and was taking my bed back to the warehouse at the end of the day (after a 150 mile round trip). What had happened, I wondered!

Steve said that he had not been able to find my house, and had rung my mobile, but there was no signal in the area. He went on to say that I should have given more detailed instructions on the invoice, implying that the situation was my fault. It was interesting that a DHL van pulled up right outside my house an hour later, to pick up a parcel to go to Africa. He said that he had never visited my village before when I asked him whether he had had a problem finding the location. "No" he said, "I just put the postcode in my Satnav and came straight here."

The Dreams driver had many options for finding me; I am sure that he could have asked for directions from our local pub or garage, or even neighbours, but it must have been far too much trouble for him, so he carried on, probably having to move my bed a number of times in the truck while he delivered his other items during the day. As luck would have it, I had cleared my bedroom of the old bed already, so that night I had to sleep on the old mattress placed on the floor, not exactly in the lap of luxury! Unfortunately, this went on not for the one day but for five days, while the company re-scheduled the delivery.

At last, Michael, at the store, took ownership of my problem and took the initiative. He spoke to the people at the warehouse and told them to deliver on the Saturday morning when I would be at home. Thank you, Michael, I thought to myself; I was starting develop a painful back.

Have you guessed the outcome of this story yet? Exactly what I thought could happen, happened. When the new bed was delivered, it had no less than six black marks on it, caused, I think, by its various movements around the truck and in and out of the warehouse. The driver and his colleague who made the successful delivery asked me if I wanted to return the bed (on seeing the marks), but, having seen the effort they had gone through carrying the bed up to my bedroom, and having slept on the floor for five nights, I said that I would accept it if I received a discount. The delivery team rang Michael whilst they were with me to let him know what had happened. Michael said that he would make sure the problem was resolved, and that I should receive a discount in the form of vouchers. Better than nothing, I naively thought.

Another week passed by and no vouchers appeared. I then decided to take action myself. I tried to contact the company's customer service via the telephone number given on their website, but to no avail. I tried twice and waited around 30 minutes on each occasion. I became bored listening to the "Dream Team" saying that they were very keen to talk, but they can't have meant on that particular day. There was no button on the website for complaints; if there had have been they could have picked up any problems instantly, but perhaps someone in Dreams had made a decision that they were not interested in complaints. I also looked for an email address for customer service, a blog, or anything - but there was nothing. All I could do was to wait and wait for the Dream Team to answer.

Eventually, Michael, in the store, had to admit that they were ignoring him too, and so that was when I decided to do a bit of social networking myself, but not until I had given them one more chance to recover the situation. I rang again, waited 30 minutes and put the phone down.

So, I have done the dastardly deed and tweeted. How many people will now think twice about buying a bed from Dreams, I wonder. Michael was extremely embarrassed at his company's lack of response, but, of course, I understand the supply chain, and refrained from becoming upset with Michael, though I suspect that many people would have been.

My conclusions? Not only would it help Dreams to conduct some customer journey mapping, capturing those moments of truth and critical incidents, or even engaging a few mystery shoppers. (Perhaps I was one?) They should have the basic decency to listen to their customers. If the Dream Team had heard my complaint, they could quite easily prevent from this happening again. If they had treated me professionally, then I would not have needed to tweet my displeasure. I actually gave them many opportunities to turn my nightmare back into a dream, but they chose to bury their heads under a pillow!

A YouGov and Interactive Intelligence survey, conducted on a sample of the UK population in April 2011, revealed that "41% of consumers who use social media are influenced by both positive and negative comments about a brand or company on social media sites, but nearly half (48%) of the 500 senior managers questioned failed to recognise how comments on social media increasingly define public perception of their company or brand." They went on to reveal that, "Now, 70% of businesses are planning a strategy to monitor and respond to social media comment."

All businesses, especially in their contact centres, should be investing in teams to deal with customer feedback through social media sites. When a customer, like me, tweets about bad, or good, service, it is clearly not to one person, but to a potentially very large number, and these comments easily show up in Google searches.

I recently heard about First Direct bank's new call centre that deals exclusively with social network sites, enabling the company to respond instantly to both positive and negative feeds. They are also engaging with both customers and the general public through a new online platform called First Direct Lab. Paul Say, First Direct's Head of Marketing commented, "We're constantly looking at new ways of communicating with customers and the public, and the First Direct Lab is a natural progression for us. We want people to inform us about our offering, and in doing so help us serve them better."

Sweet dreams, Dreams!