Companies Missing the Boat with Social Customer Service

companies missing social customer service boatAn experience with Ruby Tuesday regarding Foursquare (and customer service to be desired) proved without a doubt that social media adoption as well as social customer service has a long way to go in the largest companies.

This (social media adoption) doesn’t mean on which and how many social media channels a company is engaging; it means the depth of social media training a company offers its employees.

How many times have you gone into an establishment and shown a Foursquare win to the front line representative only to get a deer-in-the-headlights stare in return?

Here’s an example of what happens when companies turn a blind eye to those waiters, salespeople, mechanics, office manager, and others who have direct, missed-opportunity customer engagement:

A Ruby Tuesday Experience

Upon arriving at the popular Centerville, Ohio restaurant chain catering to families, a Foursquare check in was rewarded with a $5 coupon for two entrees.

Score!

Happily, I showed my iPhone screen to the waitress and the result…an expected blank stare. She called over the manager, and his response was a notch better:

“Oh, I’ve never used Foursquare, how does it work? I didn’t know we had any coupons for dinner. Can you show me?”

The patron became the social media trainer, as corporate marketing and restaurant regional management had not foreseen the need to ensure anyone on the front line of customer touch points was informed about Foursquare (and its hidden meaning about that patron).

During dinner at which the waiter tipped my beer, spilled 1/3 of the bottle and never offered to replace it (although free cupcakes arrived to the table) amongst other mishaps with food quality, I became increasingly agitated about this poor service. As it wasn’t the only time I had experienced firsthand the declining quality of Ruby Tuesday, my reaction was not out of line.

What the waiter and manager failed to realize was the correlation between a patron using Foursquare and social media savvy.

When a customer rolls in with a Foursquare reward, that ought to put the front line customer service staff (whomever they may be) on high alert.

Break out the kid gloves because patrons with this kind of engagement could be a blogger (check); use Instagram (check); tweet and post on Facebook (check); post a nasty gram on Foursquare; or, be ready to share stories when things go awry (check).

To make a long story shorter: Social media has not yet reached front line customer service.

Result of Poor Customer Service

After several days of stewing how and whether to write a blog post, I did; this blog post appeared and here’s the reaction:

  • Ruby Tuesday asked for my email on Twitter and said they were sorry for my trouble. They added me to an email list, and now I’m getting coupons to come back to the restaurant (I have yet to indulge in a return visit).
  • My tweet stream lit up with others’ experiences about Ruby Tuesday nationally and the poor quality of its franchises for food and customer care.

It’s unfortunate that restaurants are taking the brunt of social media negativity; however, the only thing that’s changed is how patrons share such stories (only after a warranted negative experience).

It used to be that word of mouth in a lazy cascade was the way folks knew not to frequent an establishment; today, it’s an immediate reaction.

One thing’s for sure, how people share stories is not going to change, in spite of restaurants trying to ban photos of food when it arrives at the table.

Savvy marketers need to look harder at how to infiltrate the very front of the front line customer service experience. Perhaps restaurants can adopt a page from Apple’s playbook, just like BMW is doing in time for the 2014 launch of the electric car.

Jayme Soulati is author of Soulati-’TUDE!, an award-winning professional blog oriented to social media, marketing, PR, business strategy, and more. She is president of Soulati Media, Inc. and is everywhere on the Interwebz. 

Image: Victor Bezrukov via Compfight cc

  • http://twitter.com/KaryD Kary Delaria

    Great post, Jayme. I’ve certainly received the Foursquare blankstare many, many times. Very short-sighted move on behalf of marketing departments to not follow through to be sure training has happened on the front lines.

    Here’s where I’ll play Devil’s Advocate for a moment, though. Does someone who checks in on Foursquare deserve better customer service than customers who do not? My thought (and maybe I’m a little naive) is that we are getting to a point where you must do good business in order to survive. Even customers who don’t use Foursquare might know or talk to others who are social media savvy. Bottom line, everyone deserves good customer service. Now that nearly everyone is (or knows) someone who is a publisher, brands better take note.

    Thanks for making me ponder, today!

  • http://twitter.com/Soulati Jayme Soulati

    Hey, Kary! Sorry it’s taken me a bit to waltz over today…thanks for the comment and share.

    You’ve made me ponder, as well…you’re spot on with the comment about who deserves better customer service; goodness, it’s EVERYONE!

    Shoot, the customer service experience was so disappointing and it really had nothing to do with Foursquare. You’ve also got me thinking about this more in-depth…

    Customer Service has not kept pace period. Social media has put a thorn into the side of all businesses with frontline customer interactions. If those folks are not trained better, then the business is going to suffer harder, fall faster, and invest in management of poor NPS and online reputation.

    Thanks!

  • http://www.3hatscommunications.com/blog/ Davina K. Brewer

    Gonna second @twitter-14685361:disqus w/ treating all customers the same. I don’t use FS but like you, I certainly might blog or tweet or FB a negative experience; or I might know someone else who is. Back in the day, you wouldn’t put signs in your yard, call your F&F w/ a “hey I just found best place” or “man, this detergent is terrible” – nothing beyond normal WoM at least. Now it’s different, certainly for those who are social, we tend to broadcast to anyone who’d listen the good and bad of customer service.

    The issue for brands is understanding RT, both in terms of service and location-based marketing. And understanding people, that more than ever we 1) have choices and 2) have options (F&F, search, social, social search) to limit and filter those options. FWIW.

  • http://twitter.com/Soulati Jayme Soulati

    You’re so right, Davina. What an interesting study in Word of Mouth, eh? We’re still spouting off at the mouth; we’re just using different devices to amplify the audiblles! Heh. Thanks for coming by!

  • http://freetraffictip.com Tinu

    The more I read from you @twitter-22830278:disqus , the more I want to read more from you. :) Had an interesting experience at a local restaurant/bar that turned around when I let them know I had a picture of the faux pas that I had brought to management instead of posting it to the web.

    The manager’s eyes lit up and his whole attitude changed, like a light bulb went off.

  • http://twitter.com/Soulati Jayme Soulati

    Tinu! What an incredible way to start my morning…thank you so, so much! (beaming here)…I love that story…shows a sign of ultimate courtesy to allow the restaurant to amend.

    Perhaps your example will be followed by many others; after all, restaurants have been making mistakes (like any business that depends on patrons for all revenue) for eons; we just have new methods of sharing the stories.

    I am going to keep this in mind, too…great role model you are!

  • http://twitter.com/Soulati Jayme Soulati

    Thank you, V3 Community, for such a rewarding response to this post! Because I’m a numbers girl…I am thrilled we earned 200 tweets on this!! LOL…sorry, couldn’t resist a bit of celebration. Thanks, for the privilege of writing here!

  • Pingback: Companies Missing the Boat with Social Customer Service | TechBusinessNotes()

  • http://brianvickery.com/ Brian Vickery

    Time for Ruby Tuesday (and similar national restaurant chains) to bump up their social monitoring…hmm, I happen to have one in mind.

    I just wrote a blog post on Shelly’s site, and I have another one coming out next week regarding the need for brands like this to amp up their monitoring vs relying exclusively on surveys. You provide a perfect example where it looks like you “took to the social airwaves” versus quietly fill out a survey to be shared JUST with the restaurant. As a result, you instantly had commiserators – and the brand wasn’t prepared to handle that spike in negative feedback or even “aggregate” along the primary reasons why people were complaining about their brand.

    You also brought up the excellent point where a national initiative (in this case a Foursquare promotion) didn’t make it to the regional/specific location. These brands have to train and forewarn the “people on the street”.

You can also find me on Google+ Real Time Web Analytics