Why social media works: an example from my office

photo-1417309807426-472e833fa5d0 birds on a wire

I’ll like to give you an example of why and how social media works. As you will know, I’m not one for big data reports on the “success” of social media. Unless you have huge follower numbers and masses of interactions, big data reports can only tell you so much. Instead, I am a big fan of grassroots examples. Like this one

I opened my new office in February this year. I went straight onto a standard contract with the incumbent electricity supplier. For the purposes of confidentiality, let’s call them mPower. Even though the office centre manager had passed on my meter readings and details when I moved in, it took ages to get any sort of correspondence from them. Seemingly, they’d recorded the wrong address and had been sending them there instead. By the time I’d had notice of my new account, I’d already racked up payments, mostly on the standard tariff, which is around three times that of an approved business energy tariff. Anyway, I pressed on, tried to get all the details correct on the system so I could at least be confident that I was paying my own energy bill and not the company’s around the corner with the same postcode. I got myself as soon as I could onto a much cheaper tariff with them.

The new bills came and I still wasn’t confident. So I emailed a contact I had been given and was assured that they would look at my case. I then got another bill – a red one – with a late payment charge included. A bit cheeky I thought, seeing as the delayed payment was due to their confusion over the supply address. I emailed my contact and got that charge removed.

Anyway, by now I’d made my mind up to move. I know the grass isn’t always greener but frankly after mPower not doing anything right at all in the short time I had been with them, the grass on this side didn’t have one hint of green in it, I was willing to take the risk with someone else.

I started a new contract with a new supplier – Good Energy – I emailed mPower with details of stopping my contract with them, and they came back with a date for the switch over, which I gave to Good Energy. Everyone was happy. On the switch-over date, I gave both energy suppliers my readings. This was shortly followed by my final bill from mPower, or so I thought.

A month later, I get an energy bill with standard tariff prices as I was now “out of contract” (their own words). I didn’t pay it. I emailed my contact who didn’t respond. I got another one, with threats of court action. I emailed my contact again. Nothing. I get another chase up. You get the idea.

I call my new supplier, who confirm that the switch over was done on the right date. I email mPower again explaining. I resolve to let them take me to court where the court could decide who was right and who was wrong and I’d gladly let mPower pay the costs. So it was really a waiting game to see what transpired next. I wasn’t willing to call them again. Apart from them never answering, it was costing me time and money.

This week, following a news report about shoddy energy supplier customer services, I sent ONE tweet tagging mPOwer about how I agreed. ONE.

They came back immediately, asked me for details, and when it transpired I was talking to the residential team rather than business team, they passed my details on to the right people. By Monday morning, I had a phone call, apologising for the confusion, confirming that the switch had been done, that I didn’t owe one more penny, and actually, I was in credit and they would be sending me some money back. Result!

But it leads to these questions…..

• Why did I have to get angry on Twitter before anything was done?

• Why did the lady on Twitter take more action to get my problem resolved than anyone I had been in contact with up until that time?

• Why does ONE tweet have more effect than hours of me emailing, and also talking to their debt collections team every time they have phoned me to query my non-payment of bills?

Here’s why

• Social media is very public. Calling them useless on email or on the phone only gets seen or heard by the recipient. On Twitter, it’s there for anyone and everyone to see. Companies want to minimise the amount of negative social media coverage so make sure they get back to people quickly before things escalate.

• Social media customer service teams, I think, appreciate the benefit of good PR that comes from good service and communication. They are often the most on-the-ball team in any company. They have to deal with everything that is thrown their way, good or bad. They have to know who to contact to get answers to uncommon queries. They are more than just there to process complaints. They can get stuff done.

It’s no surprise that more people than ever are turning to social media when they have a problem when you get this type of action. I had tried doing things in a more private manner but I was frustrated at every turn. If you have a company that gets complaints, then paying more attention to incoming customer messages, whether public or private will help stem any negative escalation.

Social media is a quick and easy way for the customer to get in touch, and because of that it should be embraced. Social media can be very cost-effective too for the company. Compared to the cost of running a 24-hour customer telephone helpline, social media can be run by one person at a time at short intervals around other jobs if necessary. Fending off complaints on social media can reduce the amount of complaints that have to be sent through the official complaints department, and can publicly show that you are interested in your customers and their problems. Negative feedback on social media that is addressed correctly can create more trust in your company, and turn disgruntled customers into ambassadors.

Now as much as ever, I am a fan of social media for business. Are you?