If you haven’t seen the stories about the “miracle” of social media — particularly Twitter — and how real-time social media platforms can lead to superior customer service, you won’t have to look far. Or wait long.
Just give it a few days, and yet another uncritical story about social media will pop up on your favorite newsreader.
I’ve written at least one fawning story about Twitter. Seems like the thing to do on a slow news day.
But here’s a truth companies would rather you not know: Lately, their responses have become a little scripted — if not tone-deaf. And there’s a good reason for it. With gazillions of people on Twitter and Facebook, and staffs of only a few people answering via social media, they’re hopelessly outnumbered.
I should know. I call out companies via social media when I post a story, mostly as a courtesy. The answers can be revealing.
Consider my recent experience with Verizon Wireless. I recently posted a “problem solved” story about a reader who moved and was trying to cancel her wireless service.
Here’s my tweet:
@Verizonwireless promised it wouldn’t charge an early termination fee, but it did
I included a link to the story.
To which Verizon responded:
@elliottdotorg I totally understand your concern! Let’s take a closer look at what happened. DM me so I can further assist.
DM stands for “Direct Message.”
Obviously, Verizon hadn’t bothered to read the story. If it had, it would know that the problem had indeed been solved after I got involved.
The story was the lead on my site all day. It included a marginally-related poll about the reliability of Verizon’s network. That afternoon, I decided to Tweet the results.
Does @Verizonwireless offer the most reliable network? 56% say “no”
Again, I included a link to the story. The response from Verizon:
VZW Support @VZWSupport 17h
@elliottdotorg That’s not what I’ve heard Christopher. We’re ready to show you we offer the most reliable network
It included a link to a promotional page on the Verizon site, extolling the virtues of its ubiquitous network.
Did the Verizon rep responding to my Tweets bother to follow any of the links, or was that person simply pasting a prewritten response? Was it even a person?
Well, I’ve started to wonder. With all of the consumer “experts” advising their readers to abandon the phone, the U.S. Postal Service, the in-person negotiation, in favor of social media, it was only a matter of time before the process became automated, at least from the company’s point of view.
I remember a 2012 visit to Delta’s social media lab, in which I learned several interesting facts. They do, in fact, prioritize Twitter responses, replying to their elites more quickly (and they know who you are because they match your Twitter account to your Medallion account.) Back then, they were committed to responding to every inbound tweet, but I know from firsthand experience that they no longer do that.