When Word of Mouth Got a Permalink - Companies, Customers and Twitter
Derek Powazek dropped this little piece of truth on Twitter recently:
Twitter was more fun when I could b*tch about a company without them replying to ask how they can provide me with excellent service today.
Things have changed since Word of Mouth got a permalink. When I'm complaining about a company to my friends or while walking down the street, no one seems to care. When I'm calling a company and complaining one-on-one, I don't always get excellent service. Boy, but if you mention a company on your blog, or even better, on Twitter, you'll likely get a reply in minutes.
It's getting to the point that I get better customer service (and hence, satisfaction) on Twitter than I do calling a 1-800 number. I'll spend less time on hold as well!
Where's my Mower?
I recently ordered a Lawn Mower from HomeDepot.com and was bummed when I realize that HomeDepot is NOT Amazon. By that I mean, not every online retailer ships virtually instantly like Amazon. Seems like Amazon has your package being prepared while it's still in the shopping cart. Click Checkout and walk to the mailbox, bam! With other retailers, not so much.,
With my Lawn Mower, it wasn't available anywhere locally so I ordered it online. I was bummed when checking the order status that it was still "processing" four days later and I complained (lower-case "c") on Twitter at 1:26pm on May 19. Sarah from Home Depot replied first thing the morning of the 20th offering to look into it for me. That's pretty cool, so kudos to HD for offering to help.
There's 100s of brands on Twitter (here's the top 100). I'd say, that Comcast got on board first, as I recall, and made really good use of Twitter for customer support. Twitter's also nice for customer support as it's (almost always) clearly a human behind the account. Twitter's not just for customer support, but also for collecting feedback and posting coupons, offers, etc. It's a brilliant medium because of it's elegant publisher-subscriber model and the its brevity constraint.
Why doesn't Home Depot (or any company, as HD isn't the point of this post) jump when I complain on Facebook?
One word: Permalinks.
Facebook is a walled garden, as you likely know. My facebook posts aren't indexed on Google and even within Facebook, they aren't easy to search and very hard to link to, IMHO. On Twitter, tweets are easy to search and you can bet that every one of these folks are using Tweetdeck to hunt for mentions of their brands. That's no doubt how HomeDepot found mine. You don't need a lot of followers, you just need to mention their name.
I've said before, don't give bile a permalink. Brands with an online or social media presence live in constant fear that you will, and it'll be about their brand.
They know that the spark of a negative tweet can fan the flames of rebellion. The threat of RT (retweets) or blog posts about tweets only pours gas on the flames. Even worse, tweets can end up in newspapers and if the company doesn't handle it well, it's over.
Consumer-driven > Company-driven
To Derek's point, yes, it WAS more fun before. I'm not sure I like the reframing of my relationship with these (often global) brands being based on fear, especially their fear of a global uprising based on potential negative publicity. I do like the idea that not only is one not complaining alone any more, but also that Twitter allows the customer (me) to reassert my role as the driving force behind the relationship.
My question is, however, is this going to scale? I can't see how. There's only, what, 10 million people on Twitter? It's nice now, while there's so few people on Twitter, but it'll be really interesting when Twitter becomes Customer Service Central for every brand on the planet.
I still think it's lame that it took 4-5 days for my Lawn Mower to ship, but I think it's cool that Sarah at Home Depot offered to help me out.
(I got the Toro Personal Pace Mower, on sale at the time, plus a coupon, if you care.)