Customer Service: The Reason Why Big Brands Should Be On Social Media

photo credit: the UMF via photopin cc
photo credit: the UMF via photopin cc

For some reason whenever I talk to people from brands about social media it’s all about how to get the right messaging across to the right audience, or how to prove that social media leads to sales. Rarely do I ever meet someone that talks about how social media plays a part of a brand’s customer service.

In my opinion, too many brands are still trying to chase Oreo’s successful “Dunk In The Dark” tweet. Most of them are failing, horribly. Need proof? Check out the Real-Time Marketing Sucks blog, it’s rather entertaining. You know, even with all of the wild success Oreo achieved online with that tweet back in 2013, it still didn’t push me to run out to the store and buy them. I actually think that awareness marketing works better for startups and smaller brands, because the big brands are already well known. And I also think that marketing from big brands doesn’t do much to get people to leave the brands they already like and love. So the area that big brands can really help their cause on social media is customer service.

Very recently I blogged about the experience I had with my son at a Home Depot Kids Workshop at a location near my home. While the idea was great, the execution wasn’t so great. To voice our disappointment and displeasure with the experience I decided to engage the brand on social media, while my wife chose to email the company to explain what happened. While we received responses from both avenues, the messages were entirely different.

After the Saturday workshop was over, I tweeted both the @HomeDepot and @HomeDepot_Care accounts telling them of the failure of the store location to have any kid’s aprons for the children that attended the workshop. I received a response on Monday from @HomeDepot, but not @HomeDepot_Care, asking me to email them my mailing address so that they could send my son an apron. I found it a little funny that the response didn’t come from @HomeDepot_Care because clearly it’s the customer service account for The Home Depot, but I was just happy to receive any response. And I was happy to see that the social team was going to make up for the store’s mistake.

Since the response came to me on Monday, my assumption is that there isn’t anyone monitoring the accounts over the weekend for mentions. Now I don’t know if that’s true for The Home Depot, but in my opinion, whether or not your brand chooses to provide customer service on social media on the weekends should really be determined by the audience. If you run programs over the weekend, chances are people are going to engage with your brand over the weekend. If you’re a retail shop, chances are the activity will be higher over the weekend because that’s when most people have to time to visit your store.

My wife also received a response from the email she sent to customer service, and that response was in the form of a phone call, which I happened to pick up. The rep from customer service told me something entirely different. While he apologized for the store’s failure to provide kids aprons, he told me that I should go back to the store and ask the manager when the next shipment would come in. I didn’t really like this solution and I asked him if he could just send my son an apron instead. He then told me no, and that the total quantity of aprons is allocated to each store at the beginning of the year, and that only the store would be able to give me the apron. And then I told him that I had be conversing with The Home Depot social team and that they asked for my mailing address so they could send me one. When he heard this he didn’t know what to say because he paused, looking for the right response, and then told me that he would look into it and still recommended that I go back to the store and check for myself.

Now I have to say that this is not what I expect from any customer service department. The mistake wasn’t mine, it was theirs. The customer service team was expecting me, the customer, to go the extra mile because of a mistake by them, the brand. That doesn’t fly. The other thing to note here was the huge disconnect between the customer service team and the social team. For a big brand to connect the two seamlessly is a huge challenge. I recognize that and understand it. But it’s something that big brands need to do if they’re going to provide customer service on social media which I think they all should do.

A kids apron, sunglasses, some DIY projects, and a handwritten note for Derek from The Home Depot Social Team.
A kids apron, sunglasses, some DIY projects, and a handwritten note for Derek from The Home Depot Social Team.

In any event, The Home Depot social team came through, apologizing for the confusion with customer service, and sent Derek a package that included an apron and some other things too. All we wanted was the apron so that Derek could have something to bring to future workshops and a place to hang his pin on. The other extra stuff was nice too, and I’m sure it will keep Derek interested in DIY projects. They also included a hand written note saying that they hope Derek enjoyed the goodies and that they hope we will attend the next scheduled workshop. I thought the hand written note was a really nice touch, and personalized the whole customer service experience.

Social media is the outlet that a lot of people use to voice their frustrations and concerns with brands. Using social media as a way to address customer service issues allows brands to keep their existing customer base. While this might not be as sexy or as glamourous as creating the next advertising campaign to go viral, a good social customer service team will ensure that those customers that are already attracted to the brand stay there. I’m not saying that the customer service team should bend backwards to accommodate unrealistic expectations. Each incident needs to be researched and investigated and handled appropriately. There are definitely people out there that are looking to get whatever they can get for free. But if managed correctly, a good customer service social team can easily help build brand advocates. If customer service is being addressed on social and on other avenues, those teams should be synced up and regularly communicate. Mixed signals from two different customer service teams can lead to a frustrating experience for the customer.

In the end, I will most likely try and take Derek to the next scheduled Home Depot Kids Workshop, but we’ll try out a different store location instead. In the meantime, he’s proud and happy to wear the apron he was given. A big thank you to the @HomeDepot social team and Whitney Curtis!

A happy Derek with his Home Depot apron, pin, and project
A happy Derek with his Home Depot apron, pin, and project

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