Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Now THAT's customer service-- or why you really should consider joining Twitter

For those of you who don't know me via Twitter, WH and I are currently working on remodeling our bathrooms. It appeals to me because a.) new bathrooms, woo hoo! and b.) it's like a crafting project, but on a much larger scale. It appeals to WH because a.) new bathrooms, woo hoo! and b.) he gets to use all sorts of tools and be manly and rip things out of walls and such.

Somehow, he gets all the destructive fun and I wound up being the painter and tiler (yeah, the last one is kind of a mystery to me, too, maybe because I said I'd helped my dad do a floor once?)

So last week, I was on one of many, MANY trips-- that day-- to a local home improvement center, and when I actually needed help in the lumber department, it was like everyone wearing an apron disappeared. And I mean that in an "am I on TV?" kind of way. I watched two guys watch me approach, take OFF their aprons and walk in the other direction. I watched another guy turn the corner away from me before I could say anything. I saw two more people at the end of aisles in front of me but they all managed to disappear before I could get their attention.

Then I got frustrated and just wandered up and down the aisles of the lumber department for ten minutes, encumbered by the giant cart of wood paneling I had to take everywhere with me, walking through a wasteland of customer service. Apparently everyone who'd disappeared was fleeing lumber. Part of me started to wonder if I should leave, too. If maybe a t-rex was about to come start pulling things down from the top shelves to do a re-stock or something. I like t-rexes, especially gainfully employed ones, but they're not exactly careful, ya know? And they're kind of loud. All stomp-y and yell-y.

So in my frustration, I did what any sensible person would do and whipped out my phone to tweet.

"[Home Improvement Center] employees must have a sixth sense. They're literally everywhere until you actually need them. #poof #gone #HELP"

And then, only a few minutes later, I randomly got an email that "[Home Improvement Center] is now following you on Twitter."

At first I laughed. By this time I was knee-deep in having just given up and gone to a register to ask for help, which somehow still managed to involve me wheeling that darn cart all over the front of the store to various counters for various reasons, but at last the problem was solved. It wasn't until later that night, at home, that I saw that I had a new mention from someone at Home Improvement Center, apologizing for the problem and asking if I managed to find everything I needed.

That, right there, floored me. That a nationwide chain has people monitoring their keywords on freaking TWITTER and asking people in real-time if they can help them is stunning to me. In a good way. It completely replaced all the frustration I'd built up in the store, even though I seriously doubted the guy would have been able to help me if I told him I was looking for such and such at a particular store. The fact that someone cared enough to notice I had a problem and then actually talk to me about it helped way more than I ever thought it could.

Now, I've been in customer service for a long time, myself. I know that this is one of the first rules of customer service: even if you can't solve their problem, acknowledging that they have one is just as important. So it's not like this was a new trick or anything. What's mind-blowing is that a chain of this size must have literally thousands of mentions on Twitter in any given day, and yet they still have people read through them all and offer help where needed. That's devotion to that rule, right there. And it means that where that experience may have shaped me in a way to avoid that store in the future (even though it really wasn't anyone's fault, just bad timing and a bad mood on my part), it actually made me like them better. Willingness to shop there= up.

I will say, every experience I've had there since then has been beyond positive. And believe me, I'm practically living at that store right now, what with all the "oops forgot we need that" going on around here.

I have to say, even though I spend way too much time on there, and way too much time off of there trying to think of clever things to say in less than 140 characters, I still don't really fully get Twitter. But this experience made me think more about it in other terms. It really is a useful tool for connecting, even between two things as big as a nationwide chain store and as small as a single customer. I already knew it was great for networking between individuals (and cyber-stalking my favorite writers and agents), but between entities was something I hadn't really considered yet.

No matter what, my experience that day would have been far different if I hadn't tweeted my frustrations. I would have gone home, probably without buying what I'd come there for, complained about the whole thing to WH and then avoided going there again for as long as I could (which wouldn't have been long, but yeah). Instead, I was impressed by their devotion to customer service and have continued to be with the positive experiences since then.

So yeah. Join Twitter, because it's really pretty cool. And you never know who might start following you!


  1. I remember seeing your original tweet about the experience, and grumbling on your behalf, but the fall-out is amazing. Very cool!

    My wife and I have had the same experience three times posting on facebook about screw-ups from the IRS. Three complaints, three immediate corrections the following day. Could just be coincidence, but pretty weird.

    p.s. I hope the grouting goes well.

  2. That is really weird about the IRS! And cool. I might need to try this sometime.

    And thanks. I'm working up my nerve to get on it right now...

  3. That's really amazing. I guess Twitter is good for a lot of different things.

  4. That is so cool! The internet both delights and scares the crap out of me, Twitter included. However, my favorite restaurant (Mayacos in Mesa, AZ) is following me after I raved about their tacos, sooo...I guess I welcome our new, omnipotent internet overlords? Yay tacos? And [Home Improvement Centers]?

  5. Really interesting!
    I'm thinking what would my grandma say about this if I tell her? I mean, I think she barely knows what Twitter is, lol.