How To Disappoint Customers on Social Media: A Cautionary Twitter Tale


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Last week we wrote about a bank that has exceptional customer service in our post “How to Amaze Banking Customers: A Simple Story”. This week we are going to focus on a story that happened right in @PeopleMetrics Twitter feed.

I had read an interesting article on Barclays Kenya‘s refocused customer experience efforts. So naturally, I pulled up Twitter and fired off a tweet at the bank, curious to know what their customer experience efforts were behind the scenes.

Love your customer focus, @Barclays_Kenya.

A few hours later, I got a reply from the bank, thanking me for the shout-out. And that’s when things got hairy.

A customer jumped on it.

@PeopleMetrics what customer focus? @Barclays_Kenya have not responded to my tweet for days. I have banked with them since 2000.

An actively disengaged customer running wild on Twitter. This person is never going to refer Barclays Kenya to his friends and family and he may actively encourage his network to avoid the bank at all costs.

What Their Customer Service Team Did

I checked the bank’s Twitter page and saw that they had responded to his request, only after he called them out on it.  Unfortunately, his issue was complex and he remained dissatisfied with the resolution being offered through the social media platform he had chosen to use.

The result was a customer that was so starved for attention that he reached out to a complete stranger to help get it fixed.  When a customer is engaging with people outside of your company to get something done, alarm bells should be sounding.   Why did this happen and what could the bank have done to avoid the situation?

How This Could have Been Avoided

Customer Experience Banking Service Twitter Example

1. Establish Separate Social Media Accounts

The bank’s Twitter bio positions itself as a channel for dealing with customer service issues.

So naturally this customer was unhappy when he didn’t receive a response without his prompting. His tweet fell through the cracks. But why? Because the brand was sponsoring a sporting event and those managing the Twitter feed were busy promoting that event. They were posting photos, scores, and facts – all well done, but they were failing to listen and respond to their customers while the energy and focus was targeted at promotions and brand building.

@PeopleMetrics @Barclays_Kenya my issue is still unresolved. I guess it will take time for me to get Internet banking. I will wait. 6 days?

Best Practice: Consider setting up two separate social accounts – one for dedicated customer service and one for brand building.

2. Build and Follow a Consistent Process and Set of Standards

On Twitter, you can only send direct messages (a non-public message) to users that are following you.

This is especially useful when someone needs to give out some secure information, such as a phone number or an account number.

But, you can only communicate privately if you are both following each other.

The customer was following the bank’s Twitter – but they weren’t following him back. This failure to reciprocate meant he could not send information directly to the bank. He also directly called out this issue on Twitter.

@PeopleMetrics @Barclays_Kenya it took 6 days and your tweet. I can’t even DM them because they are not following their customers. Focus?

Best Practice: Ensure those managing your Twitter account know to follow customers immediately so that they can engage with them privately and thus receive the information they need to solve their problem more quickly.

3. Turnarounds are Possible Assuming You Own the Recovery

Five days later, I asked him if his problem had been resolved. He said no – and that they hadn’t even called him yet, even though he had sent them a direct message with his phone number.

@PeopleMetrics not yet. @Barclays_Kenya have not yet called despite having DM’d my number. Customer focus!

For shame!

After all of this hullabaloo on their social media source, you would think the squeaky wheel would have gotten the oil.  But no, they still haven’t fixed his problem.

Best Practice: Prioritize following up with customers who are shouting out loud in the social world.  Jump on it quick, finish the job, and check in with them to ensure their satisfaction.   When issues are complex, talk to your customers – a conversation with a real human can go a long way to making that customer feel cared for.

Social Media Strategy Needs to Be Fully Realized

We all have stories where engaging with a brand on social media has helped to turn a negative experience into a positive, memorable event – a story we tell with pride to others.

But success for these brands depends on much more than simply setting up their Twitter handle and inviting people to ‘tweet us’. The moral of the story is that a social channel without a strategy is worse than no social channel at all.  Define the purpose, set your response standards, train your customer service reps and establish metrics before you open yourself up to the masses.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Xand Griffin
In her role as Marketing Designer at PeopleMetrics, Xand works with the researchers and executive team to develop PeopleMetrics content, reporting, and thought leadership.


  1. Not completely in agreement with you here – after almost 6 years of practicing this art via Twitter. We tried multiple accounts. Customers were a) confused about who to talk to or (and more often) b) just talked to ALL of our accounts. So it was not helpful to them or to us to have multiple accounts. We consolidate accounts and beefed up on our ability to respond to our main brand account – which is all that really matters.

    We do NOT follow everyone that mentions us. Instead, we created a fairly generic email list that we could share on Twitter, “Sorry you are having issues, please email us at [email protected]” – that goes to my entire team and whomever is on call will quickly address it. MUCH faster than the please follow, wait for follow and then resolution – and it gives them room to share more than 140 characters. And it builds a brand relationship you don’t get by funneling conversations through a third party (Twitter, in this case). And they know the next time they need to escalate to email us directly instead of sharing a public tweet. Win, win, win.

    Finally, if it takes five days for a brand to just acknowledge you – find a new brand. It is pretty apparent your current provider has their “ears painted on” (they are not interested in listening). Why do business with people that are not interested in you?

    Social Support isn’t easy, but it isn’t rocket science either. You need people that care, people that are empowered and a certain amount of timeliness that will vary based on your company and your industry.

    If I see us let a comment sit for more than a few minutes I’m just not very pleased. But YMMV.


    Rob La Gesse
    Director, Social Media
    Rackspace Hosting
    [email protected]

  2. Rob – thanks for commenting and I appreciate someone with your experience engaging, hurrah!

    My recommends are most definitely not a one-size fit all strategy. Specifically for this bank, I positioned a theory that due to their brand building activities it caused customers to fall through the cracks, and that a solution would be to separate the accounts. Customer service is a skill – which sometimes needs specialized staff with specialized skills.

    So in keeping one singular account – you would have to have a team (possibly comprised of social media and customer service people) that was completely aligned and communicating perfectly in sync. And bravo to Rackspace for getting that down!

    But if you have two teams of social media and customer service, it might be worth it to funnel a majority of problems to a dedicated customer service line. There may still be bleed but there’s an interesting benefit. Brands with a separate customer service handle have much less negativity on their main brand space (according to WaveMetrix

    And that is a fantastic idea, to use a generic email to escalate the problem if it is complex. There needs to be a set of guidelines and rules, to escalate however. If a person asks a simple question on Twitter, they don’t want to have to type up an email to a customer service question – they’d rather get their question answer via Twitter. Those customers sent a message in 140 characters, and expect to get an answer back in 140 characters.

    Also, this specific customer in my story had been banking with them since 2000 – for over 13 years. That’s a long time to be loyal to a brand. It’s known that switching banks is a huge hassle for the customer themselves especially if they have multiple services connected to the bank (checking, savings, mortgage, car loan, etc.). I asked the customer if he had ever used Barclays Bank of Kenya’s social twitter account for help before and he said no, this is the first time. He may consider staying with them due to the hassle factor of moving all the accounts. But we will see in time.

    Thanks again for your excellent points and sharing your social experiences.

  3. Great points – it is always worth realizing how differently every implementation of social is. Even on the teams I manage – and I manage both social support and social marketing – I imagine few others align things that way. We ended up with this alignment based on our foundation of Fanatical Support. I imagine everyone comes to their own terms, on their own schedule in SM.

    For us, one main account just works. One voice certainly is more effective than many. And having our customers know exactly where to go and who to talk to has absolutely been good for us.

    Social is such an amazing thing because we can all make of it what we will. Ignore it, if we wish. But if we embrace it, there are tons and tons of ways to benefit from it. And few are wrong.

    Glory days when you can find out in near real time how to make a customer happy. No matter how you manage the Social – managing that matters 🙂


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