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I am sure that the first thing that captured your attention when you saw this picture was my beautiful, almost 10-year-old, daughter Ciara. The second thing you will have noticed is the ‘choux’ pastry she is holding in front other face. Ciara is holding up the remains of a fresh cream chocolate éclair from Waitrose. Can you see what is missing? It took two huge bites into the delectable desert before Ciara noticed that this particular fresh cream éclair was not!! It was an éclair without the cream. The amusing thing is that Ciara specifically asked for that one – seeing it as the biggest and best with the most chocolate. As you can imagine, she was ever so slightly disappointed to find that this particular éclair was in fact a fraud!

So what has this little Golding family story got to do with a customer experience blog on the subject of social media? Over the last few months, I have taken to contacting companies I interact with via that particular social network. I am a consumer who has little time for picking up the phone to contact an organisation. I do not have the patience to scrabble around trying to find the phone number for a start. Contacting an organisation via twitter is so quick and simple, I thought I would use that method to sort out ‘éclair gate’!

I sent my first tweet at 6:49pm on the 13th April:

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At 7:19pm, I received a response – bear in mind this is 7:19pm on a Saturday night:

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Brilliant. Within an hour of the event occurring, I had an acknowledgement, apology and resolution. Yes, I did have to send some information on the packaging and store of purchase, but fundamentally, my problem had been resolved as quickly, effortlessly and effectively as I or any other consumer could wish for.

This is not the only time I have used Twitter to express dissatisfaction. My next story started with me tweeting about a poor experience without the expectation of receiving a response. I was staying at the Holiday Inn in Walsall. The service in the restaurant was shockingly bad – so much so that I felt the need to tell the world about it:

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IHG who own the holiday Inn brand are constantly monitoring social media channels for comments being made about all of their brands. They picked up my tweet and got straight on the case – although at this stage, I was completely unaware they were doing so. When I returned to my room after dinner, the phone rang. I rarely get a call on the hotel phone, and so was slightly surprised. It was the restaurant manager on the other end of the line. He informed me that he had been contacted by IHG, and had been asked to get in touch with me to capture my feedback.

It is feasible that some people would not be happy with this approach – a touch of the ‘big brothers’ watching over us. I did not intentionally reach out to IHG or Holiday Inn – I did not add their twitter id’s to my tweet. However I personally thought this was very impressive. I described my concerns to the restaurant manager – they were all staff related. He was completely unaware of the issues as he had been spending all of his time in the kitchen. It was clear that the restaurant manager was very grateful for my feedback. I can confidently state that the service in the restaurant at breakfast (served by the same staff), was a different class to the night before!

Shortly after my telephone conversation, I received a tweet from IHG advising me of what they had done. I responded accordingly:

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Twitter is without question a very effective way of communicating with organisations. It has become my contact method of choice. However, there is a very long way to go before it overtakes traditional channels for issue resolution. Many consumers still do not understand Twitter. They believe that Twitter is all about celebrities telling us what they had for dinner! Many people do not want to sign up to it as ‘why would anyone be interested in the things I have to say?’. Do not worry about any of those things! You do not have to use Twitter to communicate anything if you do not want to. As a consumer, Twitter is a valuable way of listening, and to get listened to should you so wish. Most of the major brands in the UK are now on Twitter, sending marketing messages and addressing customer service queries on a daily basis. What my two stories highlight is that when it is done well, it can be very very good.

However, not all of my experiences have been positive. I want to set up a business account with Hertz – the vehicle rental business. I went to their website to start the process, but could not fathom how to do it. So I emailed them – on the 8th April. If you can believe it, no-one ever responded to that email. On the 11th April, doubting I would get a response, I decided to tweet them:

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Just over an hour to get a response. Not bad – my faith in Twitter as the method to communicate was maintained. They did DM (direct message) me as promised. This is an extract of the conversation:

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Not great. I was eventually given the email address and contact number of a person I needed to contact – not someone who would contact me – the effort was all mine. Twitter had at least sent me to the right person, but I was not that much closer to a resolution. It is now the 18th April, and I am still no closer to a resolution (although that is a more detailed story!).

From my personal experiences as a consumer, Twitter is a brilliant way to reach out to the organisations you interact with. From a customer experience perspective, Twitter is a brilliant way of addressing the concerns of your customers quickly and efficiently. If your business is not ‘working Twitter’ like Waitrose and IHG, I strongly urge you to do so. If you are, I urge you to educate customers about the benefits of using social media channels like Twitter to communicate with you. If you are a consumer who has had a problem with an organisation, I urge you to try it out for yourself!

What experiences have you had in using Twitter to get resolution to problems? I would love to hear about your own personal stories.