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Have social media ever saved your life? Maybe not your life, but certainly help us a lot. One of the most useful situations where the social media help a lot is in making customer service more effective. Today I’m telling you a story, a beautiful story, where one of the most harassed brands in Italy (Trenitalia) was able to solve a problem of a particularly demanding customer (me).

Background

Hero Phone

Hero Phone by JD Hancock

I’m not easy  with brands. In particular with public services. I always emphasize when the quality degrades to unacceptable levels (as is increasingly the case in Italy), often for sloth or worse for managerial excess, causing damage especially for the weakest. Just ask Trenitalia, which I’ve always emphasized the lack of working wifi, or Atac (the municipal urban transport municipal company of the City of Rome) for the ridiculous management of some important lines, or Poste Italiane (the government postal service in Italy), for their inability to let card owners use their chip cards in one of the main post office in the center of Rome. I’m not easy, but I’m honest and I always try to be proactive. If the answer is satisfactory (and sometimes it happens) I apologize with the brand and often inform other users, like me, damaged by the defaulting service or product.

I have always written, commented, sent protests to the brands. The results were often disappointed. Often brands do not take into any account what that users said. Most of them just ignore the messages. Sometime they are so insolent to became ridiculous, like one time when  Poste Italiane (which I’m proud account holder for years) sent me a replied letters via email just saying that they took in charge my message and will have replied soon,  in order to avoid exceeding the 60-day tacit consent law (public servant must answer before the 60 days limit). As you may imagine I’m still waiting for an answer after more than 8 years (I often think that this “smart” strategy only serves to the duty manager cash his MBO).

With the emergence of social media I started using twitter as primary means of sending customer alert to brands. The results are alternate, but cases such as the Poste Italiane one are just gone. Today, maybe I cannot obtain the problem solution, but at least I talk with a person, as in the case of Roberto Diacetti CEO of Atac, which responds personally to all tweets and, thanks to the many reports of us customer, often become a customer and took an unexpected inspection on the busses at rush hours on the lines to see the level of service at first-hand.

Racing against time

On Friday May 10th I went early in the morning to Florence for a workshop at the Europe Festival. Once in the taxi I realized that he had forgotten plugged in the train my phone charger and emergency battery. So, what to do? I thought back to what I have been told by friend of mine about having solved via twitter a problem of malfunctioning of a sim card with Vodafone and about having built a good relationship with Roberto Diacetti of Atac using twitter. So I decided to send the following tweet to @lefrecce the official account of Trenitalia.

Shortly after @lefrecce tweeted back to me with the following tweet warning me that there was good news and to pass in DM mode (the mode that allows to twitter users to talk privately, DM = Direct Message).

In short, after a series of DMs, @lefrecce confirmed me that they had recovered all my things and that they would be delivered with another train to Florence train station at around 15.00. What a service! For my delight (more for a successful customer service than for the real products value) and for thanking the @lefrecce guys and all Trenitalia staff for such excellent service, I tweeted the following message.

It has always seemed appropriate to me twitting for the goods and not only when things do not perform well. Twitting for good is a way to give good credit to a brand. So I did tweet the following message when I managed to get my things back after having met the conductor (wonderful person who not only I forgot to thank but I also treated badly, and I apologize publicly for that since it was an arduous path to the meeting, arriving on time took me a run of 1.5 km).

Conclusions

The positive thing for me and for Trenitalia is that I retrieved my things and @lefrecce have made a good impression. A satisfied customer is certainly the best advertising (especially if the customer spreads such a story not only among friends but also on his blog on the internet). And it is certainly positive that social media in general and twitter in particular are an efficient tool for customer service and support. Having a positive outcomes for a customer service turns into a beautiful spot for the brand with the advantage of the increased buzz.

What remains in backlight in a negative shadow is why in Italy customer service is a neglected area and why other channels where brands invest even more resources than social media are abandoned to a fate of death by starvation. What brands seems not to understand is that an abandoned customer will produce an stubborn negative buzz. On the contrary what my story shows is that it takes very little to make an happy customer and produce a positive buzz for the brand. A terrible doubt, however, comes over me: will eventually twitter become an abandoned channels in the future? Let’s hope not and let’s hope that we will be able to vitalize the customer relationships with brands in order to keep the engagement alive and personal as it happened with me with Trenitalia.

Write me a comment or on facebook or twitter or G+ or on Linkedin if you have experienced something similar or did ever the social media save your life (or at least the day)?

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