Allow us to paraphrase something social media gurus have stated in (so many) other words (so often) the past two years: “OK, so Twitter stinks for social media ROI, but at least it is an excellent way to provide customer service.”
We now have evidence indicating the sand might be slipping from under the second part of that claim. In December, cable-TV provider Charter Communications announced it would stop responding to subscribers that use Twitter to communicate with it.
[In a cruel twist of the social media knife, Charter announced this…on Twitter !!!]
This is not a small potatoes event. For one thing, Charter is the seventh-largest pay-TV provider in the U.S. Secondly, as an industry whose service is hated more than lawyers for God’s sake, cable has been touting its “Twitter customer care” leadership since, well, pretty much since Twitter was invented (Google “Frank Eliason”).
The sad truth is that helping customers remotely is a nasty business. Moving some of that burden to Twitter can claim the following as key accomplishments:
- Raises the bar on customers’ expectations for response turnaround time over the moon
- Makes customers nastier than they would be if it were phone or face-to-face (i.e., “personal”) communication
- Airs all the dirty laundry publicly, a feeding-frenzy sh*tstorm just waiting to be unleashed
Here are examples from Comcast customers late on New Year’s Day, six consecutive tweets directed to @comcast (shown here as is, with no corrections to grammar, punctuation, etc.):
- Comcast is forever out of touch with their customers. And competence.
- Can you at least let me know you got my email, and when ill get a response? Thanks
- Your Internet service is slow and doesn’t seem to work consistently. This is not acceptable.
- Business class, you suck. Seriously. I can do more with residential than with BC.You can take my bandwidth, not my money!
- Terrorist company
- I feel like any tweet that @comcast gets hassss to be about how much people hate them
Should a company be required to respond to village idiot vitriol? Charter Communications, at least, says “no."
Now, here are examples from the Comcast Cares side of Twitter. Five consecutive tweets in response to complaining Comcast subscribers, from “Comcast Bill,” one more in a long line of customer-service worker-bees turned into pseudo-famous, um, worker-bees. Check out the typos, punctuation and grammar from Mr. Bill, again presented as is:
- I can arrnage, when works?
- I think we can send a tech onsite.
- I do apologize, that’s something i cannot change.
- What error message are you getting?
Should a company’s customer service be fast and cheap, but not good? Charter Communications, at least, says “no."
For Charter’s decision to shift the tide, executives will need to abandon shop-worn maxims such as “the customer is always right,” “the customer is not a moron,” and “more communications are better than quality communications with customers.”