Book Review – Delivering Effective Social Customer Service: How to Redefine the Way You Manage Customer Experience and Your Corporate Reputation

0 Delivering%20effective%20social%20customer%20service

It is impossible to ignore the fact that customer service has gone all social on us. Our obsession with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and more has led to the humble consumer actively seeking to interact with companies via social networks. Although this is a fact, there are still many organisations who are yet to understand how to manage this new ‘channel’ particularly well. Part of the problem is that customers do not recognise channels – they recognise the company they are interacting with. Customers just expect you to be able to deal as effectively with their problems communicated through Twitter as they do over the phone.

So why are companies still not dealing with ‘social customer service’ very well? Why do we often find the customer service received via Twitter and Facebook to be less than satisfactory? Clearly some businesses have adapted better to the social phenomenon than others – yet the majority have yet to understand their ‘ecosystem’ or develop a suitable ‘framework’ for delivering social customer service. Fortunately, help is at hand.

‘Delivering Effective Social Customer Service’ is a fantastic resource for all customer service professionals looking for help and knowledge in understanding how to best deal with customer service in the social world. The book is written by Carolyn Blunt (Managing Director of Real Results) and Martin Hill-Wilson (Founder of Brainfood Consulting). I first met Martin at a customer service conference in 2009 – his knowledge, passion and expertise is infectious – his collaboration with Carolyn has produced a resource that is a ‘must-read’ in my opinion.

The book follows a logical flow – from how everything changed, to understanding the behaviour of the ‘social customer’, to ‘how to’ guides of delivering social customer service via Facebook and Twitter. There is also valuable advice provided on reputation and crisis management as well as the legalities of social interaction.

The two chapters that I would like to draw your attention to and potentially whet your appetite are as follows:

1. The Ecosystem for Social Customer Service

I am a big fan of models and frameworks. This chapter leads to the painting of a picture that looks at the demand for service that is being generated in the social space and how your business intends to serve it. The suggested visual map allows you to understand where demand is coming from and thus what you may need to do to influence the variety of ‘inputs’ that comprise your social ecosystem. When you see the example in the book, it makes you realise just how many ‘inputs’ there are – from self help forums, to corporate blogs, to ecommerce reviews. It is quite frightening!

Carolyn and Martin suggest that most organisations fail to visualise the ecosystem – they strongly recommend that you do not fall in to the same trap. Understanding your ecosystem means that you will be better able to design your approach to influencing all elements of it. Like every chapter in the book, a helpful ‘summary action list’ is provided as well as an interesting interview with the CEO of Conversocial, Joshua March.

2. The Roadmap for Social Customer Service

This excellent chapter provides readers with a framework for producing a roadmap for social customer service. The framework suggests that the best way to start is by conducting a self-assessment of the key competencies in delivering effective Social Customer Service. The assessment contains 15 competencies that are scored on three criteria – current capability; importance of the competency for your next generation strategy; and urgency of operationalizing the competency on your roadmap. Here is an example of 2 of the 15 competencies:

  • We know how to recruit, train and manage Social Customer Service Teams
  • We are ready for unexpected volumes of ‘social’ traffic: resourcing, escalation, house style

Every competency is walked through in detail looking at its importance, consequences, issues, quick wins, follow up actions and tips. The chapter serves as a comprehensive examination of what it takes to effectively manage your customer experience on social media.

As a Customer Experience Specialist, I am constantly looking to refresh my knowledge and expertise. Learning from others is as important as learning from my own experiences. I am not an expert in social customer service and have found this book to be an excellent summary of not just what ‘social customer service’ is, but more importantly what to do about it. I have no hesitation in recommending it to others, and strongly encourage you to have a read.

Social Customer Service is only going to become more and more significant over time. Do not be fooled into thinking that you already know what to do. Pick up a copy of Delivering Effective Customer Service to either re-assure yourself that you are doing the right thing, or to learn what you can do to develop an even more robust social customer service strategy. You can buy the book online here.

Out of interest, Martin runs a number of workshops on the subject of social customer service – if you like the book, you can find information about his workshops here.


The gift that is Customer Feedback. How not to accept it by Southwest Airlines & Easyjet

0 southwest easyjet

Customer feedback comes in many different forms. Often sought out by companies, it can be captured via email, web pop up or telephone surveys. It can be recorded in face to face customer focus groups or received in person before, during or after an interaction with a customer. Some still leave good old-fashioned paper forms for customers to fill in, whilst new-fangled QR codes attempt to entice consumers to use modern technology to tell companies what they think.

It is no big secret that the newest form of customer feedback’ is of the unsolicited kind. This is feedback that is not necessarily asked for, yet can potentially have the most significant effect on the companies it relates to. This is the feedback that is being produced on a daily basis across social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Despite the fact they have been in existence for a while, companies are still struggling to adapt to their very existence. On a regular basis, social media customer experience horror stories are being exposed – in this blog post I will be sharing two of them from the airline industry.

The two stories I am going to share relate to customer feedback posted on Twitter. Before I do share them with you, I would like to make you aware of some amazing statistics about Twitter. These statistics were posted in an excellent blog by Brian Honigman called ’10 Surprising Twitter Stats for Community Managers‘. You can read about all ten on Brian’s blog – the ones I want to draw your attention to are as follows:

  1. The average company is tweeted 39 times a day and 273 times a week
  2. 53% of brand followers expect them to respond to their comments in an hour. That number jumps to 72% when it’s a complaint
  3. 60% of company mentions are posted when you’re not at the office
  4. 30% of tweets including company names don’t include their Twitter handle
  5. Only 9% of tweets mentioning a company are directed at the company
  6. 97% of major brands are on Twitter

Companies cannot hide from the fact that Twitter is a hugely important vehicle for BOTH customers and their own businesses. Customers (whether existing or potential) use twitter as a way of stating a number of things. They use it to praise companies and their employees. They use it to ask companies specific questions and to ask for help. They use it to make complaints requiring a response. They also use it to express their dissatisfaction with companies who do things they do not like. In all cases, the insight that can and is being captured via Twitter is an invaluable feed into an organisations customer feedback engine room.

The beauty of Twitter and other social media platforms is that the feedback being placed on them is completely free and unprompted. There is no bias. There is no skewing of data. Customers will say what they will whenever they want to say it. It is therefore VITAL for an organisation to know what to do with the feedback they capture – how to deal with it when it comes in. Twitter is just ONE of many sources of customer feedback – the key is to ensure that all forms of feedback are linked together in someway to ensure that the strategy for dealing with it is in context with the priorities for improvement in the end to end customer experience. Feedback is a gift – but you need to know how to accept it and what to do with it.

Two organisations who have recently failed to deal well with Twitter feedback are both from the airline industry. Let us start with Southwest Airlines. When a good friend of mine brought this story to my attention, I was disbelieving. I had to check the date to make sure it was not April Fools Day. Sadly the story is not a joke. It is very real. It is one of the most amazing stories of the mistreatment of customer feedback I have seen to date. The story is about a frequent Southwest Airlines passenger called Duff Watson. Usually flying with the airline on business, Mr Watson was on this occasion travelling with his two children. Being a frequent passenger, Mr Watson benefitted from priority boarding. Although his two children did not have priority boarding tickets, he did not think it would be a problem for them to stand in the queue with him. To cut a long story short, Mr Watson was flatly refused entry to the plane via the priority boarding queue. As many consumers would, whilst making his way to the back of the normal queue with his children, Mr Watson tweeted his dissatisfaction at the way he had been treated. What happened next is quite simply amazing.

Having taken their seats on the plane, Mr Watson and his children were told to leave the aircraft immediately. When back at the gate, he was told that his tweet of dissatisfaction constituted a ‘safety threat’. The only way he would be allowed back on the plane would be for him to delete the tweet. With two distressed children, Mr Watson did this – waiting until he arrived at his final destination to tweet the airline again. Quite a remarkable story – you can read more about it here.

Just when I thought it could not get any worse, my good friend sent me another story – this time about Easyjet. Mark Leiser, a lecturer at Strathclyde University, was on the receiving end of some curt, uninformed customer service. Concerned that a delay to his flight would cause him and other passengers the inconvenience of missing important travel connections, all Mr Leiser wanted was help from Easyjet staff. Being dissatisfied with the response he received, Mr Leiser, like Mr Watson, took to twitter to express his dissatisfaction. Mr Leiser tweeted the following:

Flight delayed 90min. Soldier going to miss last connection & @easyjet refusing to help pay for him to get to Portsmouth. Get right into em!

As a result of this tweet, Mr Leiser was allegedly threatened with not being allowed to board the aircraft. Told he was not allowed to tweet ‘stuff like that’, he was genuinely at risk of being refused access to the plane. Astonishing. Eventually Mr Leiser did board the plane, but like Mr Watson before him, the story of the way he was treated will rumble on long after his flight ended. You can read more about this story here.

In both cases, valuable repeat customers of two airlines used their democratic right to leave ‘feedback’ about companies they were interacting with. In both cases, the actions of the companies were wildly inappropriate. Rather than trying to prevent customers from saying what they think, these organisations should be LISTENING to vitally important feedback that identifies weaknesses in their ability to deal with certain scenarios. Rather than defending the actions of employees who have clearly not be trained to deal with these situations, Southwest Airlines and Easyjet should be giving unreserved apologies to Mr Watson and Mr Leiser and reassuring customers that they welcome feedback in the quest to continually improve their customer experience.

I hope I will not read more stories like this in the future – sadly I expect I will. I was told a long time ago that feedback is a gift. I thought that was a very wise statement. Receiving the gift is easy – knowing what to do with it is the hard bit.


Breaking News! – Tottenham Hotspur impress Arsenal Fan with impressive use of social media

0 matt beaumont

This week I am delighted to feature a new guest blogger. Matt Beaumont is one of the most connected men in the UK when it comes to all things customer experience. Having spent the last few years arranging world class customer experience events, he has had to make it his business to know who has done what and when in the constant attempt to do what is right for the customer. His post is a personal story that brings to life the power of social media – I am sure you will very much enjoy reading it….

Okay, now before I start this I want to make sure people know that I am a Football fan. For as long as I can remember I have been a fan of the mightyish Arsenal FC, a club I have supported ever since I saw the letters ARS on a TV screen, I honestly thought it was funny and decided that they were the club for me.

This would suggest to anyone who knows anything about football that I am not too keen when it comes to our arch rivals across the road Tottenham Hotspur, it is fair to say that both Arsenal and Tottenham fans have recognised each other as one of their biggest rivals and the derby is one of the fiercest in English football.

However, I must respect awesome when I see it and recently Tottenham have been guilty of some real good awesome involving my step brother.

My step brother is (as fate would have it), a mad Spurs fan, if there is something about that club he doesn’t know then for all intents and purposes it probably isn’t a fact worth caring about. He would do anything to be the clubs next star goalkeeper and although I would never tell him, is actually pretty good.

Long story short, but towards the end of the football season, he unfortunately injured himself in a training exercise saving a shot and did some really bad damage to his arm, it will be a while before he steps onto a pitch again, however he is making a really good recovery and has every reason to be optimistic about pulling off some top saves before too long.

This is where Tottenham Hotspur come in. Now in the interests of transparency I am connected to quite a few people in the corporate football world from research I have been carrying out for an event next year. However, it turns out that the Tottenham Hotspur social media team had picked up on tweets between family members about step brothers arm, cross checked these tweets against information that the club already had from various sources and were able to work out that my step brother and I were related.

Spooky, or really cool, you decide. However, this is where the club really win kudos, from knowing who we were and the fact that step brother has attended games at White Hart Lane, from a twitter conversation about an arm injury, they were able to obtain the fact that he was a fan and sent him the letter as seen below.

0 matt beaumont1

Now whether this letter was really the words of then Head Coach Tim Sherwood or not I do not know, and I am not sure I really care. For me, I love the fact that here is an organisation who through effectively using social media have learnt that one of their customers is injured (or upset), and have sent a wonderful letter thanking him for being a customer and wishing him a quick recovery.

They did not have to do this, they chose to do this based on a choice of whether to proactively communicate with their customers and not being afraid to take risks with social media.

What was the result? One delighted fan who is now even more loyal to the Tottenham brand, a fan for life some may say.

What did it cost Spurs? Not much, just a positive attitude to social media.

How simple was this to implement? Very.

Could you win customers for life too? Is it really that scary to talk to your customers?

Lots of food for thought there, but Tottenham, well done guys, nicely done!

Matt Beaumont (An Arsenal fan)

Matt is busy arranging some unique Customer Experience events later in 2014 and through to 2015. If you are interested in speaking at a Customer Experience event, or would like to know more, you can either follow Matt on Twitter (@mattb_cx) or email him at

Social Media – thorn in your side or invaluable CX insight?

0 social media1

Five years ago I attended a Customer Service conference. One of the topics on the agenda was Social Media – I cannot remember the specifics of the title or content, but can confidently say that the essence of the presentation was all about the creation and adoption of social media strategy.

Fast forward to 2014, and I am still attending conferences where social media strategy is an agenda item. While the vast majority of organisations recognise the huge impact social media has had on their business – and the way its business interacts with customers – many are still to clearly define how to deal with it.

Ownership of social media from within a company is a consistent theme that still rears its head. Is it the domain or the Marketing team? Should the Customer Service Team be responsible? Should there be a brand new team created especially to focus on social media? I have seen variants of all of them. Where your social media strategy sits in the business is an important decision – some businesses see social media as a vital marketing and communication tool. Some customers see it as a customer service tool. Many customers see Twitter and Facebook as both. The question is – do you know what your customers see social media channels as?

There are a few important things to think about when considering social media – depending on the size and nature of your business. Can social media act as a valuable marketing tool – I am sure you do not need me to tell you the answer to that. There are many great articles online that quantify the benefits – this one is as good as any and features a great infographic. In a recent article in US Hubspot, it was stated that Small- and medium-sized businesses are turning to social media to generate leads and customers. In fact, in 2013, 36% of SMEs attracted a customer from their Twitter marketing campaigns – you can read more in this article

What about customer service? More and more consumers are looking to social media to interact with organisations from a service perspective. Whether it be to specifically ask for help, or just to ‘vent their anger’, social media is becoming increasingly popular to ‘solve a problem’. In our ever more connected world, we as consumers expect businesses to respond to our pleas for help; however we happen to make the plea – even if you do not have a recognised way of dealing with social media. Failure to respond to a tweet could be fatal. The problem is that social media interaction is still the minority, rather than majority perspective of what is happening to your customers. You must know how to interact with customers using social media channels, but you must not take what is said as representative of the customer base.

If organisations recognise feedback and insight as an opportunity, they will see that social media is a wonderful, unsolicited source of customer feedback. Whether it is happy or unhappy reading, it is a vital component that combined with other sources of insight, can really help you to determine what, where and how you need to improve your customer experience. Social media can also act as your ‘early warning mechanism’ – last week I was caught up immigration issues at Gatwick caused by a failure in the Border Force Computer system – the experience was awful. However, if the organisations involved had been monitoring social media channels more closely, they would have been better able to respond to the Chaos that ensued – you can read about the story here –

For those looking for more insipiration and ideas, I can strongly recommend attending the masterclasses run by the CCMA (Call Centre Management Association) and delivered by Martin Hill Wilson – you can find out more about them here Martin is one of the best social media thought leaders in the UK, and published a book with Carolyn Blunt last year called ‘Delivering Effective Social Customer Service’ – well worth a read!

0 Delivering%20effective%20social%20customer%20service

This article was originally published for Marketforce 20:20 Customer Experience Network – Their CX Summit is on the 1st and 2nd July in London – read more about it here

#improvingcustomerservice – Where Technology Comes In

0 multi channel

In the second of her guest blog posts, Sophia Wright takes us on a journey through the ever changing world of customer service – there are some great stats in here making it well worth a few minutes of your time:

If you have a complaint or a question for a company, where is the first place you turn to? In the past, you may have picked up the phone or even written a letter, but nowadays we can get an (almost) instant response from customer service departments thanks to new developments in technology.

There are now several outlets online for consumers to express their views on a company, such as social media platforms and customer forums. As a result, businesses have to develop their customer service management skills in order to keep up with the changing face of the 21st century.

Social Media – #customerservice

Businesses can communicate with their customers instantly using social media. Many companies are now growing their own dedicated social media channels, and in terms of interacting with customers, Twitter proves to be the most popular.

Using accounts like @askthiscompany, retailers can place a member of staff with a certain level of expertise in front of a computer and easily manage the number of enquiries and complaints that are coming in. Companies are recognising this according to Social Baker’s Social Customer Care Analysis. In 2012, brands were only answering around 30% of questions posed via social media, but by 2013 this figure had more than doubled to 62%, marking an exceptional 143% year-over-year increase.

The survey also went on to find that customers who received a quick response on social media were 71% more likely to recommend that brand to their friends and family. Statistics such as these are encouraging businesses to join the social media movement.

Customers Like To Be Independent

As much as we may not like to admit it, the sense of pride we get when we do something for ourselves is great; whether it’s setting up a flat-pack chest of drawers, configuring your new iPhone or booking a holiday. A consumer survey by Nuance Enterprise has indeed found that the majority of customers respond positively to self service, with 75% viewing it as a convenient way of addressing customer issues, and 67% even preferring it to traditional customer service methods.

Companies are getting wind of this, and are using their websites as an outlet to help customers help themselves. With 91% of customers claiming they would be likely to use a knowledge base if it met their needs, companies are harnessing the educational power of how-to videos, blogs with step-by-step instructions and downloadable user manuals. Customers will most likely be able to access an online forum – a great tool for asking for fellow users’ help – and they are also able to read up on how others have fixed similar issues and be encouraged to try something they hadn’t thought of themselves.

This method effectively saves calling up the company directly and trying to listen to a long-winded instruction down the phone. Instead, customers can see what they need to do right there in front of them and are at liberty to carry it out at their own pace.

Live Chat

Live chat is sometimes dismissed by critics as a way of companies avoiding giving out their phone number. But it can in fact be a useful tool for getting issues dealt with quickly, or for receiving step-by-step guidance as a customer feels their way through an unfamiliar process. In an ATG Global Consumer Trend study, it was found that 90% of customers consider live chat helpful, and 44% of them even regard it as one of the most important features a website can offer – almost like having their own personal shopping assistant.

By using live chat, which is similar to an instant messenger between the customer and a member of the customer service team, staff can chat with multiple customers at a time, significantly cutting down queues and enabling customers to multi-task whilst they wait. Staff can also give a set of visual instructions to solve an issue, which is often more attractive to most people than hearing the instructions verbally.

Mobile browsing

If we want to look for a product online nowadays, it probably won’t always involve switching on our computer. It’s often much easier and quicker to press a few buttons on a smartphone and find a product whilst out doing other things – perhaps even cruising the high street.

If there’s anything that the holiday season of 2013 taught us, it’s that mobile purchasing is on the rise. December saw a year-on-year increase of 18% for UK smartphone and tablet sales, whilst Black Friday saw a whopping 86% increase in the use of shopping applications by those in the US. As customers we want an easy life and retailers need to keep up with that – especially as 2014 is expected to continue along this trajectory.

Many retailers are developing mobile versions of their websites tailored to be viewed on smartphones and tablets, and there has even been the first tentative steps of a mobile payment movement, all of which are making it easy for customers to find the product they want and order it there and then from the comfort of their sofa.

Retailers are also using electronic surveys on their website to get customers’ opinions on products and services; something that they would have previously had to implement in stores or collect over the phone. However, besides costing less, online surveys take the customer less time to complete – always a bonus in today’s busy society.

Press ‘One’ To Speak To an Adviser

Despite the variety of contact channels that customers have to choose from, Forrester Research claims that 69% of consumers still prefer to use the phone for customer service.

Not many people relish calling up a company in a state of anger and having to sift through several automated menu options before they get the chance to speak to a human, and flat-toned automated messages can seem patronising. It’s been estimated that Americans also spend around 60 million precious hours waiting on hold – that’s almost 88 lives lost to customer service!

But customers these days are much more demanding – they know what they want, are used to having several options at their fingertips, and have a worldwide platform at their disposal to tell other consumers about a brand’s bad service. It’s therefore all the more crucial that companies make their phone lines’ greeting messages short, to the point and interesting; as well as taking appropriate steps to reduce wait times.

It’s clear to see that social media is the biggest development in using technology to improve customer service. After all, we always have our heads buried in our online worlds, so why wouldn’t we use them to complain to and question the brands we purchase from?

Businesses need to stay current by using the developing technology to their advantage. After all, no customer has the time or patience to sit and press buttons when they can simply open up an app, log into online chat, or write their problem in 140 characters.

Having worked in the consumer marketing profession as a Customer Relations manager and consultant for the last few years, Sophia’s knowledge and expertise have driven her  to establishing Customer Service Guru to share her skills and knowledge of the customer service industry.

When it comes to consumerism, Sophia is compelled by new and pioneering service and marketing techniques that put customers at the heart of success and growth. She values platforms for discussion regarding the satisfaction of the customer and enjoys the recognition of companies who are leading the way with regards to developing long-term B2C relationships. You can find out more at or follow Sophia on Twitter

me- sophia wright -csg


Recommend? Tweet? Do customers really do it?

0 dilbert

Have you ever been asked the Net Promoter Score (NPS) question? Do you even know what Net Promoter Score is? Despite the fact that the NPS method has been around for ten years, there are many who have no idea what it is. This is an extract from the ‘font of all knowledge’ – Wikipedia explaining it:

Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures the loyalty that exists between a Provider and a consumer. The provider can be a Company, employer or any other entity. The provider is the entity that is asking the questions on the NPS survey. The Consumer is the customer, employee, or respondent to an NPS survey.

NPS is based on a direct question: How likely are you to recommend our company/product/service to your friends and colleagues? The scoring for this answer is most often based on a 0 to 10 scale. Companies are encouraged to follow this question with an open-ended request for elaboration, soliciting the reasons for a customer’s rating of that company or product. These reasons can then be provided to front-line employees and management teams for follow-up action.

At some stage we have all been asked the question – mostly via a survey or questionnaire, although sometimes in person. I will never forget the time I opened a bank account for my business, only for the business manager to ask me if I would give them a ‘9 or a 10’ on their NPS survey. I kid you not! The purpose of this post is not to discuss the pros and cons of NPS – that has been done many times in the last ten years already! The purpose of this post is to clarify whether or not we, as consumers, actually do recommend organisations we have dealt with to others.

In my recent ‘what do customers want’ research, I asked the question – ‘do you ever recommend organisations you have transacted with to friends, family or acquaintances?’. The question was different to the NPS question itself. NPS looks at ‘likelihood’ – it does not know if the respondent ever actually does. I wanted to know if we actually do. Here is the result:

0 nps

82% of respondents in my research have at some stage recommended an organisation to someone else. Not intended – but actually have. A further 17.5% sometimes recommend – but not always. This is perhaps no a surprise to you – and not a surprise to me. Word of mouth has always been a significant part of business development – and will always continue to be. This research does confirm that NPS is a very useful business metric. Only a tiny minority of respondents do not recommend – less than half of one %. So if your organisation does not know if customers are prepared to recommend you – maybe you should find out.

Another question I was intrigued to know the answer to in my research focussed on social media. Those that know me, know that I am a little obsessed with being seen and heard across a variety of social platforms. I use Twitter regularly to communicate with organisations I transact with, and I wanted to know if others do to. I asked the question – ‘Have you ever used social media (Twitter or Facebook) to interact with an organisation (when requiring customer service or help)?’ – I wanted to know if social channels have genuinely become a serious consideration for us as customers to contact companies. Here are the results:

0 social media

Almost a 50:50 split. 52% of respondents have contacted organisations using Twitter or Facebook – whilst 48% have not. As this is the first and only time I have done research on this subject, I do not know what that split would have looked like 1 year ago – or 5 years ago. I can only speculate that this number is increasing steadily over time.

The result does show that half of our likely customer base is not yet using social media channels to communicate with us. Those suggesting that traditional channels (telephone and email) are dying had better take heed of this. If 50% of consumers are not using social media to communicate – they are as a result still using traditional methods. Yet the fact that 50% of consumers are, is equally important.

How many times have you ‘tweeted’ an organisation only to be met with complete and utter silence? How often is your voice ignored when using Twitter or Facebook as your chosen method of contact? I could (although I will not) name a dozen organisations I have tweeted in the last twelve months only to receive no response. If 50% of consumers are using social media channels already as a communication tool, these organisations need to sit up and take notice – and quickly!!

The title of this blog post was ‘Recommend? Tweet? Do customers really do it?’ – my independent research confirms that they really do! If you have not yet read previous posts about the rest of the research, you can do so via the following links:

Let me leave you with a lovely quote from Walt Disney:

0 disney

@Morrisons customer service: Fluke or designed to delight?

0 mfu9

At the end of May 2013, I wrote a blog post about a loaf of bread. Whilst this might sound rather odd to those of you who have not had the chance to read it, the loaf of bread itself was not the centrepiece of the story. The story centred on the use of social media to address a customer issue and ultimately improve the customer experience. If you would like to read about it, you can do here –

Many people who have read the story have wondered whether my experience was/is repeatable. Was I just lucky that Morrisons dealt with my issue in the way they did, or are they able to replicate this recovery process over and over again? Whilst organisations all over the world still try to grapple with social media ‘strategy’, the ability to deliver good, reliable, repeatable social service is becoming more and more important.

A few weeks ago, I was contacted via Twitter (or course) by a social media expert called Mike Sutton. Mike was keen to investigate the repeatability of my experience. What you are about to read is the result of his investigation in his own words – it is very compelling……

As I was sifting through the data that Bizbuzz was providing about potential ServiceChat customers,  I came across Morrisons – a British grocery and supermarket business that has about 12% of the UK grocery market (source: Economics Help)

I was looking at their ‘apology’ buzz – a tracking of how many apologies they are making to customers and that would lead me to who they were apologising to – an unhappy customer with some feedback dressed as a complaint.

0 mfu1

The date was May 27th and as I scanned the apologies, I picked one at random to see the details of the apology – what triggered it and perhaps, any further conversations in the thread. The apology I picked related to Ian Golding’s tweet.

I read Ian’s profile and reached out to him to seek more context about the events that led to his experience. Learning more about Ian revealed that he is an active blogger and passionate customer experience specialist, striving to help businesses delight their customers – my kind of guy!

Ian had written fairly extensively about his Morrisons’ experience and after I read it I wondered whether Morrisons’ level of engagement and the resolution they demonstrated in Ian’s experience was typical and part of a designed approach to delighting customers, or was it simply a fluke. After all, I knew from my data that on May 27th – the day of Ian’s experience – there were 12 other customers who sent Morrisons a variety of feedback via Twitter.

What were their experiences of Morrisons’ engagement with them about their feedback? How many felt they got a satisfactory resolution from calling Morrisons’ attention to something they perceived needed improvement in a store, with pricing, product quality and/or staff behaviour?

0 mfu2

Some Immediate Observations

1. Morrisons uses auto-responders

As I was looking through the content it became obvious that Morrisons’ responses are a template and most likely a template used by an auto-responder. They appear to be semi-customised templates where they try to get the first name of the account that sent the tweet they are responding to and use it to personalise the reply. They clearly also have responses they either cycle through so that they appear human.

2. All responses are redirection

All the responses I saw for this date (May 27th) and the other 180 apologies in Morrisons’ buzz are all asking the other person to DM their phone number and email to the Morrison account. I imagine this is to put it on a queue for their customer service desk to deal with.

I did not observe any attempt to address the feedback directly online. The DM leads potentially to some further engagement offline – via a phone call or email. This was borne out in Ian’s case and caused me to wonder – What do Morrisons’ customers think of this lack of readiness to engage completely online.

3. Morrisons is not being social on social media

A quick snapshot of Morrisons’ activities on Twitter show an account that is not about engagement (contrast this with @Waitrose). It is almost exclusively about pushing offers, tips and other canned responses out there (pardon the pun!). There is no seeking engagement nor responding to any tweets coming back in. They are missing a great opportunity to build rapport with their customers and do the other canned stuff in a way that would improve their brand perception.

@Morrisons vs @Waitrose – who is more engaging on Twitter?
@Morrisons vs @Waitrose – who is more engaging on Twitter?

What About the Other Customers?

I approached the other twelve customers to whom Morrisons had auto-apologised on May 27th on Twitter, asking for their input in answering the above questions.

The responses were mixed. Five of the 12 other customers responded to my invitation. Their experiences were quite different, sometimes quite starkly different. Some didn’t get any further contact despite sending a DM replying and others got a mixed resolution from the extended engagement.

@missySimps replied to the auto-apology as a DM. She didn’t have any further engagement from Morrisons or any resolution to the situation.

0 mfu4

@tracySmith2k, @jakimccarthy, @pauldavid28 and @captainratall got a reply to their DM and a call. But their experience were also fairly different:

@tracySmith2k was uncomfortable with the call she received from the store manager – she felt it was confrontational- and would have preferred it was handled by an objective intermediary.

0 mfu5

@jakimccarthy got to speak with the store manager who explained the situation to her and apologised again. She doesn’t know if they did anything to rectify the dirty fridges she complained about, but she felt heard and the experience has not put her off from shopping at Morrisons.

0 mfu70 mfu6

@pauldavid28 – was pretty pleased with how it was handled, how Morrisons engaged with him and how his query was finally resolved. Awesome!

@captainrat – got a call, had the issue resolved and even got a token of their apology. Great outcome!

0 mfu8

What Does It All Mean?

Let’s do the math. We now know how 6 of the apologies that Morrisons made on May 27th turned out.

  • 75% were happy with the level of engagement
  • 50% had a resolution they were satisfied with
  • 10% had no further engagement beyond the auto-apology.

I think Morrisons do have a desire to engage with their customers on social media. I also think there is a strategy to genuinely engage and resolve customers queries that are received from social media platforms, in this case Twitter. From the interactions I have had with their customers, they seem to understand the value of engagement, even if currently it is mostly about handling it offline.

They may be being a little cautious online and currently don’t do anymore than auto-respond. For example, their activity on twitter smacks of auto-everything. There don’t seem to be any humans at home, which is very strange for a social platform.

Clearly, in the instances where they engage with customers, they try to get the ‘right’ person to engage with the customer. In the cases I explored, it was almost always the store manager.
This is good – let the person who can do something about the issue deal with it.  In only one instance did I find that this wasn’t satisfactory.

I must confess, I am disappointed with the whole auto-responding aspect of Morrisons’ social media operation – at least on Twitter (I didn’t do any Facebook exploration). I am especially disappointed with their auto-apologising. An apology is supposed to be sincere and human. I think automating an apology – especially those in response to a complaint – cheapens it. Not such an issue if you almost immediately follow it with human engagement – like a phone call –  where you can have the conversation. But if, as in the case of @missySimps, all that was experienced was a nondescript, auto-reply  – even one faked out with personalisation – it can feel insincere.

Making people think they were contacted by a human when it was just a program is pretty ‘Matrix’. Difference is ‘Matrix’ was cool and this isn’t.

Auto-responding communicates to me that they don’t really understand the power of social media or are being advised by people who don’t really understand the power of social media!

3 Things Morrisons Can Do To Improve

I’m all about improving and this post is primarily about giving Morrisons some feedback to sweeten its social media operation and let it complement the great work they are already designed to do with store manager calls etc.

So here goes, my top 3 things Morrisons can do better at:

  1. Lose the auto-responders and put humans on the social media desk. With the low volumes of social interaction you currently have, you might not even have to hire more people right now. You can get software to route tweets to your customer service folk.  But you must make sure they know how to use social media. Social is entirely about being human. Something you can do right now, Morrisons, might be to completely de-personalise the auto replies, make them authentically robotic. For example, ditch the first name thing and reply with  ‘We aren’t here right now, we auto followed you, so please DM us…’, then route them to the store manager and work your magic. First names are for humans to speak to humans.
  2. Get tools that promote and  facilitate online engagement. People chose to engage with you online, redirecting them to some offline mechanism might suit you but it usually just frustrates them. Oh, and shun those tools that promise to help you deal with scale. The scaling problem comes later. Focus on getting great with online engagement then fix the scaling problem. From a quick search on Twitter, @Morrisons gets about 10 mentions a day, most are not about them per se. And their bizbuzz page shows they are apologising an average of 3 times a day. This is the time to get in and get good with this exciting world of social media.
  3. Be open about your journey in trying to delight your customers on social media. There is a growing generation that will love you for it. You might be thinking “we sell groceries, we don’t need social media”. Everyone is going to need social media. Your competitors are embracing it and once they are fully established in it, it will be almost impossible to wean customers off them.


I am deeply grateful to @missySimps, @tracysmith2k, @jakimmcarthy, @captainrat and @pauldavid28 for responding to my tweet and being so generous with their time to listen and engage with me on this topic. It helps to continually renew my faith that people want to be connected, be heard and to engage. Thank you.

Mike Sutton is a startup entrepreneur specialising in helping businesses engage better with their customers on social media. His startup –Servicechat – provides a super easy way for businesses to immediately chat with any twitter user safely and confidentially, right on the web. He tweets as @mhsutton and everything else that doesn’t fit into 140 characters lives on

I am very grateful to Mike for producing this guest post. If you would like to comment on it, both Mike and I would be delighted to hear your thoughts.