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Twitter FailEvery week I am astounded to hear or experience another example of a corporate or well-known brand failing to really grasp the opportunity for customer service and community that social media offers.

I can’t believe that we’re already a far way into 2012 and these multi-national million/billion dollar businesses still aren’t doing social media properly. Now is not the time to still be taking a ‘softly, softly’ approach. Now is the time to be getting your hands dirty, spending some big dollars and not just hiring one person but a whole team of people to look after your social media strategy.


But this particular Social Skinny rant needs to start with a story.


Last week I got a call on my mobile from the Commonwealth Bank, trying to sell me life insurance – as you do. This in itself was no surprise but what did shock me was the level of (un)professionalism of the call. The woman was not at all articulate, seemed to have little idea of what she was doing, was competing with some seriously loud background noise to even speak to me and – what really got me – started laughing in the middle of talking about ‘accidental death’. To get such an unprofessional call from any business would be surprising – to receive it from the Commonwealth Bank, who in recent years I believe to have had much higher phone customer service standards – was shocking.


Don’t get me wrong. It was not a huge deal – not nearly the kind of thing I would bother writing an angry email or letter about or even posting a rant update on Facebook. In fact I found it more strange than anything else. However I did think it was worth shooting out a quick tweet about the situation, and including the @Commbank mention in there too. I would want to hear about such strange calls being made from someone at my company.  The tweet got a couple of replies from my Twitter followers and within an hour or so the Commonwealth Bank responded – see below. @commBank tweet 1

So let’s dissect this (fairly timely) tweet. They’ve used my name – check. They’ve apologised – check. They’ve defended themselves and pretty much dismissed my comment – fail. I get what they were trying to do. I can even see the person reading my 140 char fly-away tweet about a bad customer service call and thinking “what the hell do I say to this chick”… then they come up with some basic standard reply that proves they are ‘listening’ but doesn’t prove much else. Is that a helpful response to me? Does it make me feel better after the poor customer service I received to know that they strive to be professional at all times? No it’s not really helpful. It comes off looking corporate, defensive and generic. It also leaves almost a feeling that they don’t believe my situation ever happened because they try so hard to ensure it doesn’t – allegedly.


Still, it’s no big deal. There was nothing for me to really say in response, so I figured I’d give the poor @CommBank tweeter a break and just ignore the situation. No plans of writing a social media case study. No plans of any rants. But, as it turned out, that was just the start of our twitter dance. Later that night, I was surprised to get yet another tweet from Commbank, despite the fact I never answered the previous one:

CommBank tweet 2

First of all I thought – these people really don’t know what they are doing if they are responding twice to the same tweet within the same day. Weird. Then I thought – maybe they checked up on who I was and saw I write a social media blog. In fact at the time the top article on my site was a social media case study on Scoot and how they were doing such a great job on Facebook. So the cynic in me begins to wonder whether these guys panicked when they saw the type of stuff I wrote about and figured they should probably put at least a little more effort into their interaction. Or maybe they just have a few people on the team who don’t pay attention to what the others have responded to. Or maybe they use a social media monitoring system that had me as flagged and because I didn’t respond they thought they’d tweet me again. Persistence is key?


Anyway who knows what tweeting processes the Commonwealth Bank has, but I decided to ignore this tweet too. I mean what did they expect me to say? Yes please can you give me a lowered home loan rate? There’s nothing they can do for me because the situation already happened. Do I want someone else to call me to sell me life insurance? No. I’m hoping not to die of accidental death, no matter how funny your staff members may find it. What they should have been asking was what I could do for them – and that is to give them proper feedback so that perhaps they could look into the situation and make sure it didn’t happen again. But they chose to instead make a slightly more token effort to look like they cared, without offering anything that was constructive.


I wasn’t holding it against them. I thought – well it’s an improvement, and you’re being persistent so whatever. But I still didn’t respond. What happens next? They tweet me again the next day:CommBank tweet 3

If this hadn’t been the third tweet in 24 hours responding to just one of mine I would have thought – job well done. This is exactly the sort of tweet I would expect – personal, proactive and efficient. So, after receiving this tweet I did respond. I sent them a DM with my phone number and a note that it wasn’t a big deal but they could call me to get more details.


What happened then? Nothing. No contact from Commonwealth Bank. No follow up tweet. No phone call. Is it a sign that CommBank fails at social media? No it’s not. I think they are doing a better job than a lot of other banks and big businesses. But I still find it disappointing. Social media should not be an exercise in simply ‘ticking a box’. It’s not just about being out there and sending token replies to your customers. It’s not just about appearances. There are two major opportunities that @CommBank has missed out on here: 1. Delight a customer (who in this case happens to be a social media commentator) and 2. Get real, helpful market insight and feedback to help improve your business.


Businesses spend a huge amount of money conducting surveys – through phone and email – of their customers in an effort to show they care about improving their business, and in some cases actually improving it. Social media is a much cheaper way to achieve this exact thing. It’s not just about making people happy and getting more sales. It’s about picking up the right insights to feed back into your organisation that truly help shape strategy, product development and customer experience.


I’ve used Commonwealth Bank as an example here, but the truth is they are just an example of almost all corporate companies on Twitter.  And most of the time it has nothing to do with the quality of the people who are behind the tweets. Most of the time it’s the company structure, support and resources.  Big businesses almost always fail to recognise the immense power of social media, and the opportunities these channels present. Instead they simply think “we need to be on there” because everyone else is. They then hire someone to look after this and leave it at that. In many cases they won’t even pay the right amount to get someone who really knows what they are doing. They are just concerned with ticking the box that they are ‘doing’ social media, rather than ‘doing it properly’.


It’s probably unfair of me to single The Commonwealth Bank out in this article because – like I’ve already said – they are actually one of the better Australian big businesses using social media actively. Overall, they are doing a good job on there. My point is more that the senior management of CommBank – and most other businesses – should be more focused on empowering their SM teams to not just be good, but be great. Social media is probably the biggest opportunity for improved customer service and customer retention since CRM systems were introduced, and it’s being majorly underutilised at the moment in favour of the old “tick a box syndrome”.


We need to take the focus off the so-called ‘social media disasters’ of big brands trying to use social media for marketing and engagement and start focusing on the core social media fail of not getting the simplest strategy – customer service – right.


Do you have any examples of disappointing or brilliant social media customer service?


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