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From Detractor to Promoter in 140 Characters

Posted on May 6, 2010 , by lizteubner

I am – obviously- a believer in companies having a comprehensive client satisfaction assessment program. I think it’s an important metric to track, a useful tool for planning, and an ethical way to run a business. And while I think it’s important to have metrics and tracking and predictive tools, I am finding it equally important for companies to incorporate social media into their client satisfaction process.
A few months ago, I ordered a $25 padded insert to turn a regular bag into a camera bag. I didn’t know the vendor, but I had seen them referenced online, their website was good, and they had what I needed. I ordered, paid, and sat back and waited for delivery.
The next day I received an email from the vendor that was two lines:

The status of your order has changed.
The new order status is: Backordered

Huh. That is…hugely uninformative. I wrote back asking if they could give me more details, even just let me know how long it was backordered, and sat back and waited for reply.
I didn’t get one.
Now I was about 99% sure that this was a legitimate business and that I’d receive my item at some point. But there was 1% of me that felt like, well, I just gave my credit card info to someone, and then they told me my items would come eventually, and I have no idea when that eventually is actually going to be, so… I think maybe I just got screwed.
A quick search on Twitter showed this merchant has a Twitter account. Because I’ve never had a thought that didn’t get filtered through social media in some form or another, I quickly threw out a flag to this company to see what would come of it:

Within a few hours they had responded with someone’s direct email address and offer to check on my status. I was offline and didn’t get their reply immediately; a few hours later they then emailed me directly (I have to assume they noted my last name from my Twitter account and looked up my email address and order info) indicating that they had located my item and would send it out that day. And 48 hours I had my item.
It’s worth noting that through all this, I still hadn’t/haven’t received an email back from my initial inquiry.
What does this tell me?

  1. Tenba Bags is a legit company that has a really bad automated email process… but luckily has at least one employee that understands how to use Twitter
  2. Without Twitter, I’d still be waiting for a response from a customer service representative.
  3. Customer Service is more pressing to companies when they can personally account to their customers, and when their customers can reach out in a very transparent way

It means a lot to me that they worked quickly to resolve my issue and make it right, but I have no doubt that wouldn’t have been the case if I hadn’t publically and transparently reached out. They can – and did- ignore my email, but when negative mentions are available in public searches, that’s harder to dismiss. Frankly, I don’t really care why they solved the problem, I’m just glad that they did, and in a way that literally took me less effort than typing 140 characters.
Mine is not a unique case. Popular blogger Dooce got Maytag all up in arms when she twittered her negative experience to her million + followers, and I’ve seen go out of their way to fix a problem discovered through twitter for people with ten followers, to the tune of replacing a broken item and providing store credit.
Places like Twitter and Facebook are where recommendations are happening. Companies owe it to themselves to interact with their customers through these mediums. If I ran a company like that, I would expect that every single complaint (or less than positive mention) was responded to promptly and personally. Every Single One. I’m not alone in this; Zappos has a twitter account set for EXACTLY this purpose. They respond to every mention, even the positive ones, and I have to assume that they have incorporated these responses and mentions into a “Closing the Loop” feedback metric of some kind as a part of their greater client satisfaction process.
And as for me? Well, Tenbabags reaching out to me through Twitter (and subsequently solving my problem) turned me from someone who would have grudgingly given them my money and likely never returned to someone who now goes out of their way to recommend them to others. Is there any better outcome than that?