“Please hold, your call is important to us…”
Almost every consumer has experienced that sinking feeling as they realise their urgent query is stacked in an endless holding pattern, waiting to land on the desk of a call centre employee who may, or may not be able to answer that crucial question.
Most large corporations rely on the now ubiquitous call centre to handle incoming customer service queries. Almost since their inception, callers have been looking for ways to avoid their painfully tinny ‘hold’ music and get through to the ever elusive ‘real person’.
One of the most well known attempts to comprehensively bypass the call centre system was a 2005 effort led by a US computer hacker named Paul English. His ‘cheat sheet’ for British centres gained widespread media coverage and often involved repeatedly pressing the # key to bypass automated messages.
Interestingly, this particular choice of key allows for a useful – and slightly contrived – linking sentence. It seems that Twitter, and a well worded hashtag have now become key weapons of choice for the tech-savvy complainer. As large companies continue to beef up their online presences, they have offered up a golden opportunity for those who want a quick response to a customer service query. In the era of online reputation, consumers are well aware that a scathing Tweet or unanswered Facebook wall post that can do considerable damage.
Bearing these principles in mind I decided to test this theory. A week previously, I had purchased some flights to a sunny destination (across the Irish Sea) and there appeared to be a problem with the order. To solve the problem, my first thought was to try Twitter and, sure enough, @flybmi seemed to be a reasonable enough place to direct my question.
I was pleasantly surprised to have my query answered, and then resolved within minutes by a friendly BMI employee. No call centres. No waiting. No hold music. Now, before I get accused of BMI bias, there are many organisations that have embraced the idea of Twitter as a customer service tool. There is an excellent list of seven (US-based) corporations that have gone above and beyond when it comes to Twitter here.
For the other end of the spectrum, and a Twitter customer service nightmare, I will point you in the direction of MHP’s Mark Pack, who has written of the Twitter indifference of Eurostar. I wouldn’t want to ruin the story – but suffice to say, it doesn’t have a happy ending…
Great customer service is something that, rightly, most large corporations are still striving to achieve. However, a surprising number have entered the online world without realising that their good service has to extend into the digital realm, and a static Twitter presence can sometimes do more harm than good. In many instances, a negative Tweet or post can result in instant action being taken, but often this is not the result of an established customer service procedure.
For this reason, perhaps it is best to get those Twitter complaints in as soon as possible – before more consumers realise the power they have at their fingertips.