People applaud Forbes for replying to a tweet? They reply on Twitter because its public not b/c they care

in the last 3 months I’ve noticed anecdotally that when I complain about something I’m much more likely to hear from someone associated with it.  I don’t think this is because I’m becoming important- ha ha. (Yea like that’s going to happen.)  I think it’s because Social Media is becoming important.

Forbes saw Chris Kieff tweet about the obnoxious ads on Chris and Forbes messaged back and forth a few times about the issue and Chris blogged about how great it is to get attention, and that “Social Media is becoming important”.

Would Forbes have responded if the complaint had come in via email? Why not? Why should social media get more customer service attention than other channels?

I’ve had a lot of experience with customer service on Twitter. A few months ago, I blogged about my dissatisfaction with Comcast and Sears. I didn’t intend to contact them on Twitter, but they found the post and contacted me. Both companies engaged with me via Twitter, then email, then phone, and ultimately took care of my issues.

But even though they were helping me, I called them out on it:

It is only through the power of Posterous/Twitter/Facebook that my complaints are being heard and actions are being taken. For these companies, it’s all about being perceived as listening and fixing their issues, not about actually getting down to their root problems and fixing those.

The worst I’ve seen in this arena of publicly providing customer service via Twitter is Bank of America. They have a team of six people who tweet as bofa_help. Looks at their tweets, just a series of “how can we help you?”

You know how you can help? Let me talk to a human being on the phone. Refund me the hidden fees you keep charging.

You think they have the power to do that? I doubt it. They only have the power to tweet. And are only there so that people think Bank of America is listening and doing something.

Good customer service is important. But lets not get too excited when a company hires a social media customer relationship manager. Often these people are completely disconnected from the product and the rest of the support staff.

Great companies provide top notch service through all channels, and they don’t do it just to be public about it. They do it because they actually care.


  1. I have noticed the same thing going on. It seems that smaller companies that seem to care about their customers will send you at the least a personalized tweet where as larger companies seem to send a generic tweet that makes it seem like the care. I understand that social media is becoming a big part of life, which is great, but social media is a means to get to know people. So larger companies should put in the effort to get to know their customers through social media. Because that is what it is there for.

  2. <html><body style="word-wrap: break-word; -webkit-nbsp-mode: space; -webkit-line-break: after-white-space; ">Patrick, yeah it definitely makes sense for them to take the conversation out of public eyes. But here’s the thing: bofa_help doesn’t follow the people they are tweeting to. So those people CANNOT direct message bofa. So i’m not sure how that communication is actually happening, seems like it’s just dropping.<br><div><div></div></div></body></html>

  3. <html><body style="word-wrap: break-word; -webkit-nbsp-mode: space; -webkit-line-break: after-white-space; ">I don’t want to be all "stalker" like, but I checked the last few people bofa had tweeted to and confirmed bofa was NOT following them. But if they did, that would make sense and solve this issue<br><div><div></div></div></body></html>

  4. Hi Sachin, My name is Eric. I work on social media strategy for Forbes, and I am currently in charge of the @Forbes twitter account. I came across your post, and just wanted to present my opinion and perspective on the issue. I think you raise a completely valid and legitimate point. There are many companies that have tapped into social media solely for the positive buzz that a couple tweets will bring. I have personally experienced those situations, and I have had the same thoughts and reactions as you. However, my work at Forbes has focused on using social media as a legitimate, effective business tool. Forbes uses social media as a tool to further many business objectives; one of which is customer relations management. I absolutely believe that platforms like Twitter can help Forbes offer better support and service to our readers. My philosophy in supporting this belief is that social media is a channel for CRM that lowers the barrier to participation in feedback and suggestions from readers. Because channels like Twitter are already integrated into people’s lives it is more convenient for them to be able to connect with customer service and brands there than it is to go out of their way to call and/or email. Social media is a means of facilitating customer service and resolving issues that otherwise wouldn’t have been addressed.Furthermore, I want to assure you that while I know many companies do not empower their customer service workers to actually resolve customer issues, I have a direct channel of daily communication with the very top executives, technicians, and editors at Forbes. Everyone here is committed to enabling social media as a powerful tool to engage with, respond to, and support our readers, and maximize the value they receive from our site and magazine. I would love to continue this discussion with you. It’s an issue I think about and deal with daily, as I am sure you do. Please feel free to email, call, or @reply me at anytime. I would also be happy to put you in touch with some of our west coast technology reporters if you would be interested in presenting your thoughts on the record. Our executive editor of Forbes Entrepreneurs is also always interested in new perspectives on issues facing today’s small businesses, such as social media CRM. Best regards, EricEric FulwilerForbes.comAudience Development & Social Media90 Fifth Ave. New York, NY 10011w. 212.366.8992@EFulwiler

  5. Hi Eric, <br/> <br/>Thanks so much for the reply. It’s very reassuring to get a personal, professionally written response to my post. I definitely didn’t mean to single out Forbes here, it just happened to be the event that triggered the post. <br/> <br/>I’m glad to hear you guys do communicate with the rest of the Forbes team, so feedback on Twitter does travel through the company. <br/> <br/>However, I still disagree with this point: "Because channels like Twitter are already integrated into people’s lives it is more convenient for them to be able to connect with customer service and brands there than it is to go out of their way to call and/or email" <br/> <br/>Twitter is integrated into the lives of a small percentage of people. The number of people on email dwarfs Twitter users. And email is more convenient since it’s private, can include attachments, and isn’t limited in length. <br/> <br/>I guess that’s what bothers me the most. Through my dealings with Sears and Comcast, it was clear they were helping people on Twitter, but continuing to ignore complaints through other channels.

  6. Ah, ok. I see. So, they were using Twitter to kind of capture that "low-hanging fruit" of the CRM world with the high publicity ROI, but weren’t willing to actually solving the main stream of complaints. I hope people don’t have the experience with us because customer service must absolutely be a comprehensive effort. I completely agree that email is still the main channel for online communication. In the end, a company must apply the CRM resources where they can best serve the customer, which in most cases will be email and/or phone. For Forbes, I believe we have build a strong customer service foundation in email and phone support, and view social media as a means of further supporting our readers experience and interaction with our brand and content. Thanks for opening up this discussion. It’s great to chat about it. Best, Eric

  7. Sachin,I can definitely relate to your points as a consumer, and share similar thoughts with certain organizations I’ve encountered. Love that you talked about getting to the root of the issues, by the way. I couldn’t agree more. However, having just been on the cursory of a Twitter Customer Service roll out for a large company, I’ve also seen the challenges to fully integrating Twitter as a customer service channel. Speaking from what I witnessed over the past couple months, integrating Twitter is very manual up front and it doesn’t really scale quickly. If your organization is segmented by business line you have to figure out how to efficiently understand and route each person’s issue and attempt to resolve it in (near) real time. There’s tracking needed, which becomes manual as well up front, because the tools that are available don’t really capture everything nor do they integrate into legacy systems out of the box. Plus, EVERYBODY internally is interested in the success or failure of the project.The stakes are high to begin with, and couple that with the fact that it takes time to get a feel for somebody who actually wants help, as opposed to walking into an ambush with somebody who has an axe to grind on a public stage.I know that the people involved with the project at the company I work for want to help, believe it or not, and are excited about implementing Twitter Customer Service for the right reasons. But it’s definitely not easy. Not that I’m an apologist by any means, because customer lip service shouldn’t be tolerated. Just trying to shed light on a different perspective. ;)-chris

  8. Great insight and so true for many companies who have jumped into social media.As you led to, the biggest problem companies face is that the people manning the reins of their social media accounts (like Twitter) don’t have the power to resolve anything — there’s a huge disconnect between SM customer service and the retail components (@thebrandbuilder has a lot of great insights and personal experience with this). So an offer to help is an empty handshake. And gauging how bad Bank of America customer service is, they’re eroding their reputation even more with an ineffective support structure.The way I see it, the companies that really care, always have and will continue to do so. In their case, social media just helps them react even faster. And for those companies that didn’t care, or care enough to change now, will continue to lose — only at a faster and more public rate.

  9. We got some great service from our phone company via their twitter account, which was great. they solved the issue within a couple of days. But I still don’t understand why the previous 2 months of phone calls to the same company couldn’t have already resolved the problem.

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