Keeping your cool with customer service on social media can score you refunds and freebies.
Tweet and you shall receive – if you ask nicely.
Political pundit Ann Coulter did the unthinkable over the weekend: She got the public to side with Delta after the airline bumped her from her seat.
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) July 15, 2017
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) July 15, 2017
.@Delta motto: "How can we make your flight more uncomfortable?"
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) July 16, 2017
Coulter’s Twitter attack against Delta on Saturday, where she posted the airline “sucks” and hires “Nurse Ratchets as flight attendants” – referring to the “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” villain – utterly backfired. Not only did many on social media slam Coulter, but Delta released a statement calling her posts “unnecessary and unacceptable.” It refunded her $30 for the downgraded seat.
But Coulter is not the only one to gripe about a brand or product on Twitter. In fact, the social microblogging site reports that businesses advertising on Twitter see more than 80% of their customer service requests happening via 140-character tweets.
And many people who complain on public forums like Twitter told Moneyish they got exactly what they asked for.
“I tweet to companies almost religiously if I have a bad experience. It’s a great way to get their attention and the public setting ensures that you get a response,” said Brett Berry, 32, who does sales for a tech startup in New York. Like when he recently brought takeout home from Shake Shack, only to realize half of his order was missing.
“I tweeted to them, and they responded almost immediately by refunding the full order ($16) and even gave me an additional $10 gift card,” he said.
Hey @shakeshack I just got home from picking up dinner from Mad Sq Park and half of my order is missing. 🙁 This is very sad moment.
— Brett (@WatchBrettTweet) May 5, 2017
Dr. Andrew Selepak, a professor of telecommunications at the University of Florida, told Moneyish that his Merrell shoes fell apart on his way to work in 2014, and he taught the class wearing only the tops of his kicks. He tweeted the company a photo, and they got back him within minutes.
“Through email, they apologized and offered me a gift certificate to purchase a new pair of shoes through their website. I was very impressed,” he said. “I have bought a few more pairs since, because I know they care about the customers.”
— Andrew Selepak (@aselepak) November 18, 2014
So what did these customers do that Coulter didn’t? They kept their cool.
“She threw a tantrum. She was essentially screaming at everyone in public,” Shep Hyken, a customer service and experience expert, told Moneyish. “That old axiom that you catch more bees with honey than with vinegar rings true, especially in a public setting.”
And if you’re constantly berating businesses on Twitter, those brands can refer back to your feed and see you as a serial complainer.
“If you get a reputation for whining, companies are not going to be a sympathetic to you,” Hyken warned. “And businesses may decide sometimes that an unpleasant customer may not be worth keeping around, especially if they are causing stress and aggravation to staff and other customers.”
Hyken and other customer service experts offered Moneyish a few more tips to getting your way on Twitter.
Try complaining offline first. “No matter how nice you are, deciding to post a complaint on a public forum is an aggressive move, and it puts them on the defensive,” said Hyken. “Try handling it by direct messaging the company first.” Save the public tweet as a last resort if your calls, emails or messages are going unanswered, or you’re being placed on hold for an interminable length of time.
Be polite. “Please help me with…” or “I’m hoping you can assist me with…” are courteous ways to open a discussion and to encourage the company to work with you.
Don’t resort to name-calling. “Remember that the representatives you are talking to are real people, and personalized insults and attacks will rarely succeed in eliciting a positive response,” said Eric Johnson, a social media specialist at Feedbackwrench.com, who’s given $10 to $100 to livid customers while working with grocery chains and Fortune 500 companies. “Your goal is for them to pity you and want to work on your behalf … for the representative to be your friend, not your enemy.”
Give them time to respond. We expect instant gratification, especially on social media sites like Twitter, but Hyken says the average company response time is actually seven hours. “Some companies that are focused on giving good social care will respond within an hour,” he said, citing 1-800-Flowers and FedEx as examples. “But the standard is seven hours.”
Tweet at the company’s handle. You want the brand to see your tweet, so tag it in the post instead of just typing its name. “Be sure to directly reply by putting the business’ @username as the first word in the tweet!” said social media strategist Taylor Kincaid. “This makes the chain of response easier to follow for anyone monitoring the business’ account, and won’t clog up your own Twitter feed.”
Be specific. Just tweeting, “What’s going on with the trains?” to a mass transit authority like New York’s MTA, for example, is too vague. Instead, explain exactly what the problem is, like “there have been no uptown D trains at 59th Street for 10 minutes,” so they can give you a better informed answer. The same applies to mistakes on food orders, or faulty products. It’s all in the details.
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