The following is a true story.
It was late at night when I arrived at my hotel, a little past midnight. It was a long day and I had a morning meeting with a client scheduled for the next day, so I was looking forward to getting to sleep as soon as I could. Unfortunately, circumstances would not allow me to do so: after asking for my name, the hotel, which is part of an American hotel chain with a very well-respected brand image, told me that they had an overbooked situation and had no room for me.
This was the beginning of a very tiring 15 minutes of life, mainly because the person at the front desk as well as the “manager” that was called over to deal with me made me feel like I was the guilty one. No feeling of apology expressed. No explanation of how to get to the hotel that they prepared for me. No mention of the free Internet and parking that I should have gotten at the hotel which had my reservation. I felt like they were just trying to get rid of me.
Airlines ask for volunteers and offer vouchers when they have overbooked situations. Why do hotels have the right to just send me away with nothing? The more I thought about my situation, the more angry I became.
So what did I do?
I felt lonely. I was perturbed. I was very tired. It was close to 12:30 A.M. But I wanted to tell someone what I was experiencing. So I tweeted.
I can tell you from my own real-life experience that people who tweet about bad customer experiences use Twitter as a last-resort. No one will gain a lot of followers on Twitter if all they do is complain. So it takes something major to push someone over the “social media edge” to share negative experiences. I have only posted negative tweets twice in the 1 1/2 years I have been on Twitter: this experience as well as when my website went down and, even though multiple Twitter followers told me that they also couldn’t see my website, the hosting service said they couldn’t “recreate” the problem.
What happened after I tweeted my complaint about this hotel should give us all some ideas of how to deal with an angry customer on Twitter.
1) People Love to Vet. Social Media is the Equalizer for the Consumer. Get Used to It and Start Monitoring Conversations.
When I checked in to the other hotel that was prepared for me, I told the guy at the reception desk about my tweet. He didn’t know what Twitter was. But he did say, “Everyone needs to vet to someone about these things.” And he’s right. When we have good experiences we like to share them with our friends. When we have really bad experiences we also look to others for consolation. This is human nature. Social media makes it easy for us to share these types of information, especially Twitter because of its ease of use on a cell phone. This is not going to change, so if you are a big brand you’d better be monitoring conversations that are happening in social media. I assume you already have invested in social media monitoring software, but just in case…
2) Global Brands Need to Monitor Social Media 24×7
It was almost 12:30 A.M. when I sent my tweet. The German branch of the hotel actually responded within an hour. This was comforting. Global brands need to have global monitoring and global response teams. This hotel chain did well in this respect.
3) If You’re Monitoring Twitter, You Need to Learn How to Use Twitter
After I tweeted about my experience, a few of my followers commented through their own tweets. It was the tweet from my follower in the UK that the hotel chain decided to respond to, not mine! My UK follower had to tell the hotel chain that it was me, not him, that they should be apologizing to! This was a major faux pas that did not make the hotel look good…needless to say, if you have a budget to monitor Twitter, you need to spend as much in training your staff how to properly read tweets and respond. Any mistake in social media etiquette on Twitter that your company does can be seen globally.
4) Take the Conversation Offline…Quickly!
When the hotel chain finally sent me a direct @Reply, they asked me to send them my email address via a Direct Message. This is an excellent way of taking a conversation offline and away from the huge public chat room that is Twitter. Good move.
5) Let Your Customer Vet
When the hotel chain sent me an email, they apologized and asked me to simply tell them what had happened. They let me vet. I felt better that someone was actually listening. A simple act for anyone in customer support, but a very powerful one to help an angry customer calm down.
6) Respond with an Apology. Quickly.
The next day the General Manager of the particular hotel that kicked me out responded via email with an apology and an offer to make up for the bad experience that I had. I received this email within 24 hours of the incident occurring. There were other staff copied on the email. It felt official and sincere. I was satisfied and moved on.
I am not going to give out the name of the hotel chain because that is irrelevant to this story. It really could have been any hotel chain, so I do not hold this brand at fault. I am pleasantly surprised how quickly and, for the most part, properly they responded, so I hope my experience will help guide your company in how to deal with an angry customer on Twitter.
Does your company handle angry Twitter customers in the same way? Have you ever had a bad experience that you tweeted about and were contacted by the company? Please share!