When I tell people I’m German, the first reaction usually resembles something along the lines of them stereotyping me for my lack of humor and unconditionally serious personality.
They think that Germans aren’t the happy-go-lucky type and are typically quick to pass judgment. To be honest, that’s a reputation I’ve been trying to battle for years, but there have been experiences I’ve had on social media that almost prove them right – and it’s a good thing.
Let me begin by saying that I consider myself a Twitter addict. Often times, I find myself tweeting too much, and about topics that don’t really seem to matter. That’s a social media tactic that is often frowned upon, but I have a few stories where exactly such “senseless tweeting” led to some pretty remarkable consumer experiences.
October in the lobby of Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Airport, 4:30 a.m. – cold, empty, lonely. I was jumping on a flight at the crack of dawn, on my way to a wedding in Florida. With only a few hours of sleep the night before, I decided it would be a good idea to hit up the local Starbucks for some fuel. Grazing over the menu I should have already been familiar with, I decided to order a medium roast with room and – without even knowing Starbucks served it – a bowl of oatmeal.
“We don’t have that,” the barista screeched at me in a tone far too rude for that time of the hour. Surprised by the unavailability given that it was listed as “special”, I moved on to ordering something else to eat. “We don’t have that either,” was the next response. Within a matter of seconds, I turned from a tired twenty-something into an angry German. What did I do? I turned around, walked away from the counter, grabbed my phone and took my frustration to Twitter.
Within minutes, my phone vibrated.
I figured it would be a favorite or a retweet about my Starbucks experience but to all of my surprise, it was a direct message – from Starbucks. The account with over 7 million followers and 45,000 tweets actually monitored, reviewed and responded to my frustration in an attempt to make things right. A short conversation ensued, by the end of which I was asked to provide them with details of what happened as well as my home address. A week later, I had four “free drink” coupons in my mailbox along with an apology. Those coupons went well spent at the Starbucks here in West Bend. Long story short: happy Max, restored Starbucks reputation.
Back to the airport.
With no coffee in hand and eyelids drooping like crazy, I sat down at my gate headed for a layover in Atlanta. What I did not know was that a storm was brewing up over the coast and what I believed would be a comfortable 75-minute layover between flights quickly turned into what felt like six hours.
The flight was on Delta, so just as with Starbucks hours before, I took my frustration to Twitter. Again, within matter of minutes, I got a direct message from Delta and was asked to send them my confirmation number. I had a nice conversation with a social media representative at the airline who offered me a $200 flight voucher as an apology for the weather delay. Yes, in the year 2014 and with airlines on budgets as tight they can be, I was offered a voucher for a weather delay.
“By the way, I would like to offer you a travel voucher for future use, along with my sincerest apologies,” the message read, along with “Don’t be mad in public and well mannered like your mom would be proud in DM :)”. Simply put, it was a fun, easy-going conversation that gave a seemingly corporate-structured airline a personality I could connect with, and more importantly, a personality that resolved a problem.
So, why even tell this story?
Twitter is redefining customer service and problem resolution. They’ve established an immediate B2C gateway that large organizations – like in this case Delta Airlines and Starbucks Coffee – have learned to take advantage of. Rather than having a bad experience and having to wait on hold on a phone, write exasperating emails or stand in long lines, consumers can now voice their opinions within a matter of seconds. Most importantly, that opinion can be seen by thousands of people throughout the twittersphere, and if picked up and shared by a few users, can snowball into a viral message that has potential to have a huge impact on a company’s reputation – both positive and negative.
I’m not sure my future coffee and flight purchases would be the same had I not received the responses on Twitter that day. Plus, if you think about it, the gifts I received were influenced by a genius marketing strategy: to get the free cups of coffee, I had to go back to Starbucks, and to use the $200 voucher, I had to book another ticket with Delta. See what they did there?
How amazing is that? A simple, less-than-140-character message led to resolving negative customer experiences, free coffee, a discounted flight and a Twitter user that is bound to recommend and praise companies to others.
If social media is a flower, it’s barely begun to blossom. I encourage you to try it next time you have an experience with a company – bad or good – and share what responses you’ve received. The results may surprise you.
Oh, and speaking of Delta, check out this Facebook page that is near and dear to EPIC’s heart.