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Picture this.  You’re in your favourite restaurant with a group of friends, eagerly awaiting your meal.  Everyone else at your table receives their meal, except for you.  It eventually arrives 15 minutes later, but it’s loaded with the ingredient you specifically asked to be excluded.  When you finally manage to flag down your server, it goes back to the kitchen, but its replacement doesn’t arrive for another 15 minutes.  Then to top it off, your drink is spilled in your lap.

At this point, what would you do?

Did texting the manager cross your mind?

A new service called Talk to the Manager allows restaurant-goers to anonymously complain to the restaurant owner via text.  “Every cellphone is a comment card”, their website boasts.  The rationale behind the service is that management has direct (and confidential) access to complaints, rather than scouring nasty public reviews on sites like Yelp or Urbanspoon.

When I first heard about this service, my initial reaction was that it seemed a little ridiculous.  What happened to speaking to people directly?  We are increasingly placing more and more layers of technology between customers and businesses in the name of efficiency and improvement.

That being said, a few years ago, could you imagine “tweeting” your complaints to a company?  There is no question that Twitter has become the new frontline of customer service.  In fact, I would not be surprised if social media eclipses the traditional call centre as the preferred method of contact.

Are services like “Talk to the Manager” just the latest evolution of customer service?  And, would more people offer feedback in an anonymous fashion?  Perhaps managers would finally hear from the non-confrontational customers who might otherwise have kept quiet.  Of course this type of service would be more suitable to some industries than others. (How’s my driving? Text 555-4435)

As a retailer, would you appreciate a service like this?

Do receive feedback from customers?  Are text-feedback systems just the latest evolution of customer service?


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Retailers, social media, and lessons from the “bashtag”


Last week, I witnessed a Twitter slaughtering unlike any other.

A telecom carrier was advertising their newest promotion on Twitter via a promoted trend, which encouraged twitter users to tweet directly to their campaign using a hashtag.  It was meant to inspire discussion about the new service, but it quickly evolved into a PR nightmare.  Tweeters used the hashtag a “bashtag”, and instead used it to vent their customer service issues.  Thousands of them.  It was an absolute bloodbath, and it embodied every business’s worst social media nightmare.

I’m not going to discuss the merits of the product, the perception of the carrier or the wisdom of the Twitter campaign; when it comes down to it, any retailer using social media faces the same risks and online backlash.  For me, this example raised the broader issue of how retailers should respond to negative feedback in social media.

In this case, the carrier provided an excellent example.  Customer service reps did a superb job of responding to complaints, using the “acknowledge publicly, fix privately” model.  Reps replied to tweeters directly and encouraged them to privately send details of their complaint so it could be addressed.  General complaints were responded to positively, and tweeters were thanked for their feedback.  I don’t envy those reps, but they handled an extremely difficult situation well.  And most importantly, they provided an excellent counter-point to complaints about a lack of customer service!

This is customer service in the 21st century.  Reactions on social media are unpredictable, and oh-so-public.  Just remember, your responses are public too, so use that to your advantage to restore your company’s image.  At the end of the day, that’s what people will remember most.

How do you address negative feedback on social media?

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