5 Social Customer Service Lessons Learned in 2013


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As we begin looking forward to and making plans for the new year, it’s important that we also look back at the customer service lessons we’ve learned, so that we can apply them to future efforts and campaigns.

While social media is no longer a new communications channel for brands, it still seems to present a lot of major challenges when it comes to communicating to and with customers. Here are five top 2013 social customer service lessons learned that may serve every organization well in 2014:

1. Don’t Jeopardize Your Customers’ Trust.

In a July 2013 publicity stunt to celebrate its 20th anniversary, Chipotle faked its Twitter account being hacked, which left a lot of followers wondering if the brand that expounds “food with integrity” was made up of the same ingredients.

For several hours, the company’s Twitter feed spat out bizarre tweets such as “Do I have a tweet?”, “twitter friends search bar,” “Mittens13 password leave,” etc., leading many to believe the company’s account had been hacked. After this steady stream of nonsense continued for a while, the corporate account then tweeted:

But for some customers, the concocted hack didn’t sit so well:

Lesson learned: There may be better publicity stunts that fooling your customers.

2. The Social Conversation is a Two-Way Street.

In June 2013, Men’s Wearhouse founder and the public face of the company for more than three decades, George Zimmer, was abruptly let go from the company, with little recognition by Men’s Wearhouse for his efforts or years of service on its Facebook or Twitter properties. Instead on Facebook, it was business as usual, with a style tip featuring how to look your best in a slim fit suit and plaid tie with matching pocket silk. Men’s Wearhouse social customers did not like the way that looked.

Thousands began commenting and complaining under the marketing-heavy post about their disappointment in George Zimmer’s ouster, and the brand which had in the past posted marketing messages almost every day and responded to customer comments went silent. Not a good look.

Lesson learned: it’s important to respond to your customers in both good times, and bad.

3. Auto-Responses in Social Customer Service are Big No-No.

Big brands Bank of America and American Airlines learned this lesson the hard way in 2013. In July, Bank of America showed its less-than-human side of social customer care when a New Jersey man wrote an anti-foreclosure message in chalk in front of the Manhattan branch of BofA and then tweeted about it after being told to leave by police.

As the social conversation began to quickly grow, Bank of America replied, offering to review the accounts of everyone tweeting in relation to the event:

In February of 2013, American Airlines had the same problem. Though very nice in their auto-response, it just wasn’t the right response:

Lesson Learned: Auto-responders for social customer service, don’t use them.

4. One Social Customer Can Have a Huge Impact.

Just ask British Airways. In September, instead of just tweeting and moving on like most people do about a poor service experience, a disgruntled customer whose luggage was lost bought a promoted tweet to amplify his anger about the airline. To matte matters worse, British Airways did not respond to the promoted tweet for nearly 10 hours.

But British Airways wasn’t the only airline in 2013 to learn how social customers’ wrath can take flight. In August, an Air Berlin flight departed Stockholm without the luggage of all its passengers and the social backlash was swift and pervasive: “I’m here for a business meeting with no clothes,” tweeted one passenger. “I rarely complain to the world wide web, but @airberlin and @airberlin_US = worst customer service ever,” tweeted another. Passengers even started their own Facebook group: Airberlin 8109 Stockholm to Berlin – Where are our bags?!?!?

5. Use Hashtags with Extreme Caution.

#AskJPM, #AskBG. If you ask customers for their opinions on social media, lesson learned: be prepared.

“Twitter is raw, uncontrolled, unfiltered reality.” – Erik Gordon, Professor, University of Michigan, as quoted by Bloomberg.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tricia Morris
Tricia Morris is a product marketing director at 8x8 with more than 20 years of experience at technology companies including Microsoft and MicroStrategy. Her focus is on customer experience, customer service, employee experience and digital transformation. Tricia has been recognized as an ICMI Top 50 Thought Leader, among the 20 Best Customer Experience Blogs You Must Follow, and among the 20 Customer Service Influencers You Must Follow.


  1. Addressing customer concerns is mandatory for any business, however I am continually astounded at how little attention it gets…

    Organizations need to better understand the customer motivation for feedback that will help guide them to improvement leading to increased customer satisfaction. It is about better customer care. Enabling the customer to conveniently connect to you when they want and not when organizations send them surveys, questionnaires, websites listed on invoices or automated phone calls. Empowering customers to state their thoughts and views without having to compress them into your predetermined structure. Assist organizations to administrate and respond to those inputs effectively and quickly with full reporting functionality.

    All in real time !


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