Customer Service via Social Media: on Tow Trucks and Ravioli
Posted by jessryter
Social Media has been an important part of my reality since high school. My social media experience began with Myspace and soon gave way to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Currently, I do not use Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest, but many of my friends do, so I may consider giving them a try in the near future.
Boyd and Ellison’s article, “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship” makes an interesting distinction between the terms “Social Network Site,” which they explain as a site that makes use of an existing social network, and “Social Networking Site,” which they explain as a site used with the goal of growing a social network and initiating new relationships.
As soon as the authors made this distinction, I wondered how they would categorize LinkedIn. I was rather surprised when they categorized LinkedIn an example of a Social Network Site. I think LinkedIn might actually be a little of both; while many professionals do use their existing social networks to find people to connect with, the ultimate goal is often to gain a new contact and initiate a new relationship (which seems to me to fit more into Boyd and Ellison’s definition of a Social Networking Site).
Boyd and Ellison’s article provided me with some helpful history of social media, illuminating for me the evolution of social media before I jumped on board. This new background helped set the stage for Erik Qualman’s chapter in Socialnomics, “Social Media = Preventive Behavior.” While reading the section on companies using social media to provide customer service, I was thinking that I don’t often use social media to complain about a poor service experience, but then I recalled a funny (at least in hindsight) story from my sophomore year of college…
Following a multi-day blizzard at UMass Amherst, my car was parked in one of the student lots. No matter how much my friends and I shoveled, my car was simply stuck. We could not get it out of my spot, and the tires just spun. When, days later, we got sick of shoveling and waiting for the snow and ice to melt, we called AAA. The tow truck driver they sent was rude, condescending, and sexist. He essentially told me that I was just incapable of getting my car unstuck because I was a woman.
He got in the driver’s seat and placed his foot heavily on the gas pedal. Ultimately, he too failed to get it unstuck, and he had to hook it up to the tow truck and tow my car out of the icy spot. I was less than pleased with the customer service this man and his company provided. Apparently, at the time, I felt that the best way to express my frustration was in an angry Haiku poem containing some choice quotes from this tow truck driver which I posted on Facebook. I mentioned the company, although at the time they did not have a Facebook presence. Interestingly enough, 3 years later, they now have a Facebook page. While my post did not reach the company at that time, it did generate some supportive comments from the UMass community about how unacceptable his behavior was that at least made me feel better.
Thinking back to my social media interactions with organizations, I also remember a more pleasant customer service experience. Every Tuesday at lunchtime during college, the dining hall closest to my dorm served the most delicious toasted ravioli. My friends and I made it a point to get there early enough to ensure that we all got some. One day, the delicious toasted ravioli disappeared! Deciding it was a fluke, my friends and I returned the next Tuesday to find the toasted ravioli had been replaced with vegetable spring rolls.
As we sat at our table in disappointed disbelief, I posted on UMass Dining’s Facebook page asking what had happened to our favorite ravioli. They quickly responded that they were trying something healthier. I thought our favorite lunch was gone forever, but enough people commented on my post expressing thorough disappointment that UMass Dining decided to bring the toasted ravioli for good. This seems to me to be exactly what Qualman was talking about in good companies using negative social media feedback to solve problems and work toward customer satisfaction.
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