Brands need to improve Customer Service l

How a Tweet Got Action (Finally) From a Social Care Rep

A utility can run but it can’t hide from a disgruntled customer. Actually, utilities are hiding in plain sight on social media networks. According to Nielsen’s The State of Social Media Report, customers are increasingly turning to social networks for customer support, or as Nielsen calls it, “social care.” I can attest that this approach can work, when other communications channels — like calling customer service on a phone — break down.

Twitter to the Rescue

Just recently a good friend and business colleague moved to another house just a few miles from where he had lived before. It seemed simple enough to have his phone and cable service move with him.

But, no. AT&T became his only option for phone service and Cablevision waffled on whether it could supply service to the location where he now lived.

After getting the run-around from various phone reps, he called me to vent. Being a social media aficionado, I told him I’d check to see if AT&T had a customer service account on Twitter.

Voila, they did, @attcustomercare. Below is my tweet stream that resulted in AT&T calling him and fixing his problem. Score one for social media and AT&T!

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Customers Turning to Internet For Help

This first chart from the Nielsen report shows that 47% of social media users engage in social care — meaning they look to companies for help when they have a problem. I saw for myself how effective that could be as my friend was going through menu hell trying to find a phone rep who could help him. Utilities, in particular, are staffing their Twitter accounts 24/7 to respond to urgent customer requests

social care customer service social media

This next chart shows that of those who seek social care on social networks, a whopping 70% of them do so every month.

social care customer service social media

The Nielsen study also disclosed that one in three social media users prefer social care to contacting a company by phone. As you might expect, 37% of Millennials prefer using social media. That number will only grow as the younger generation, who live for social media, come of age.

As the Nielsen report points out, “Social Care is transforming customer service. Social media has emerged as an important channel for customer service, with nearly half of U.S. consumers reaching out directly to brands and service providers to voice their satisfaction or complaints, or simply to ask questions.”

These numbers are a wake-up call to those companies that still see social media as something they need to do and not as an opportunity to build their brand and provide sterling customer service.

Leave a Reply


  1. Love how social care is emerging in the US, Jeannette.

    Once again your country is way ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to what you can do online.

    Personally would much prefer to turn to the internet for help than calling companies. So I hope that we will soon have that option in Europe. Some companies here may already be into social care online, but it’s not as developed as in the US.

    • Catarina — I hope so for your sake, too. I’m sure it’s just as difficult in Sweden to get a customer service rep on the phone as it is in the U.S.

  2. Boy is this an eye opener. If it will help not staying on the phone for a ridiculous length of time and not pressing all the keys of whether you want English or Spanish, repeating your account number several times, your address, etc, only to be connected to someone else and go through it all over again, I am in. Thanks for the information. Love it.

    • Arleen — glad that you now have another source to turn to. You’ll notice others commenting have also had success contacting companies on social media. It’s the future.

  3. That is an amazing story. I will certainly keep that in mind when I have an issue with a service. Who would have thunk that would be a possibility. Got to love the SM. 🙂

    • Susan — I’m glad I thought of Twitter. I had included “Comcast Bill,” the moniker for the social care rep for Comcast, in a presentation I gave. Comcast attained a measure of fame fame in social media circles for being the first utility to utilize Twitter for customer service. So that’s what reminded me about turning to Twitter for help.

  4. Encouraging story Jeannette. Hopefully there are many more positive outcomes like the one you have here. Customer service isn’t really service if the problem is still there. Customer service, social care in what you have shared with us here, is service delivered with care. Love happy endings.

    • Pat — it was a happy ending — finally. My friend was tearing out what little he had left of his hair. He simply couldn’t get a straight answer from anyone he talked to until the Twitter social care rep called him.

  5. I love the swiftness of customer service when social media gets involved. We recently upgraded our internet system at home and when we encountered a problem with the wi-fi, we looked online for the solution. We ended on the phone (the problem required a remote fix) but I think it’s interesting that we didn’t even think about going to the phone book first. I remember a time when that would never have been the case. It seems it’s not just the Millennials who have a preference for online answers. 🙂

    • Debra — I know I do the same thing. It doesn’t occur to me to pick up the phone. First thing I do is go online. If I can’t fix it myself, then I’ll call or enter into a chat with a customer service rep. My, how times have changed.

  6. I had an issue with Sears a couple of years ago. Our TV went out and it was less than a year old. We took it in for them to repair/replace. Wherever they sent it jacked around with it for a while and after the year was up they called us to say it was ready for pickup but it was too costly to repair. They tried to tell us that a year had passed so it was no longer under warranty. Hello, your people are the ones that held it past the year timeframe not us! They weren’t budging whatsoever. I posted a frustration Tweet that night to @searscares (I think that’s what it was). I got a DM back asking for my phone number. Someone from customer service called me later. I explained the situation. The rep apologized over and over. She said the store was in the wrong and called the store to square them away. We picked up a replacement TV (paying the difference for a bigger one). Afterwards I think I tweeted a thank you for their swift action.

    That’s my proof that social media works when there are service issues. After this I decided to go social for help before trying to call most places.

    • Cassi — yours is another great example of how social media can get you to the right person quickly. I’m glad that your problem was resolved. Hope you’re enjoying your new TV!

  7. Social media is the way to go when you need assistance. If they don’t respond, everyone knows it. The phone used to be the first thing you thought of using, now it’s social media. Great Post!

    • Thanks, Cheryl. When something goes wrong and I have to go through menu hell on the phone I want to scream. The utilities have led the way using Twitter accounts that are staffed by trouble shooters. Have to give them credit.

  8. Fantastic example and something I wish I had thought of when I moved two years ago and had quite the experience getting TV and internet service up and going. It was certainly a comedy of errors. I’m more prone to tweeting my pleasure and displeasure over the restaurants where I dine. It’s amazing how one little tweet can get a lot of attention whereas a review posted on TripAdvisor might not.

    • Jeri — it was a comedy of errors for my friend, too. I didn’t get into even half of what he went through. He couldn’t get through to the 800 number and when he did he was passed from dept. to dept. One service rep told him that her records showed his installation was already completed! That’s when I turned to Twitter.

  9. This is a good example how it can work and done in a positive way. I can’t say I like it when people vent on social media as they forget the person on the receiving end is usually an employee who is doing their best.

    There was an incident a few days ago when someone posted a porn picture on Qantas Facebook I think in the early hours of the morning. As the page was not monitored at 3 am people were venting about the company. What I think many companies are trying to work out is how to have 24/7 coverage, instead of day hours without increasing their costs too much which is an issue.

    • Susan — I agree that using foul language and posting offensive images is wrong no matter the situation. However, I think utilities have found their Twitter accounts very helpful in uncovering interruptions and other service issues. When the electricity went out in upstate NY a couple of years ago during a severe snowstorm the company was able to issue advisories to its customers on its Twitter account. It got a lot of credit for that.

  10. Mary — that’s a great story. People are much more likely to be sending tweets from an event than picking up their phone messages. I’ll have to save this one for future reference.

  11. Jeannette,
    This is a great example of using social networks for customer support. I have to admit that I haven’t done this yet but I can see how effective it could be. The fact that bloggers (like you) are bringing this to the forefront highlights the importance of businesses being prepared to address this trend.

    • Sherryl — not only are social networks enabling companies to provide direct service directly to an individual company, they can learn also learn about unmet service issues for all customers. Customer inquiries are an inexpensive way to do research about their needs and wants.

  12. I’ve tweeted Bluehost several times – they respond quickly that way, because they know other customers are reading as well. I also use it to say thank you to them.

    I haven’t used it for Verizon – I suspect my issues are individual to where I am, and I eventually always get through to a person. Whether the person is helpful or truthful or whatever, I can’t always tell.

    • Leora — I’m glad it worked for you. Since I wrote the post I’ve also visited Klout’s Twitter account and got an immediate answer to my question. I think this is the way to go in the future!

  13. I called the DMV earlier this year because I had sent out my registration payment and was just a couple weeks out from my registration expiring and my check hadn’t been cashed after 4 weeks. I dread calling the DMV, most people do, so I looked up their twitter handle and tweeted them. In 10 minutes they tweeted me back and DMed me the number to call. They were super nice and helpful. I asked how they liked being the social media department and they responded that they loved it. They deal with a fraction of the stress and help more efficiently. People still don’t know they can do this so for now it’s still a sort of hidden secret, but like you I’m telling friends and family to try to solve their customer service problems through social media. It works!

    • Dennis — great story. We all make jokes about dealing with the DMV — better to have a root canal. But it’s terrific that you got such a quick response. I wonder if it’s so difficult to deal with live customer service reps because most of the calls they receive are complaints and they have to deal with live people. Twitter doesn’t allow for a 10-minute rant. So each side gets to tell his story in 140 characters and be done with it.

  14. Dan — good luck with the rental company. Yes, please let me know they return your bond. You can always mobilize your Twitter followers with a # tag if you run into problems!

  15. I would never have thought of turning to twitter to get to the right person. It is a great idea. I think I will be looking at doing something similar in the future.

  16. Hi Jeannette, Wow, I was honestly surprised to read this. Just the other day I read Danny Iny’s post complaining about PayPal and how they didn’t manage to get help even through Twitter It”s great to see that there are companies that actually still care about serving their customers the way they deserve it. Thanks for proving that! From now on, I’ll know there”s another place I can turn to if I need service with a product. Steve

    • Hi Steve – thanks for visiting. Sorry to hear about Danny’s problems — I marvel at his success since he started his new venture a few years ago. Surprised PayPal didn’t respond on Twitter. I think s advantage of Twitter customer service is that it gives top management of a company a picture into the problems that people are facing with their products and services. A CEO can pop into the Twitter stream at any time to look at the action in real time. He can get the right people in the company to spring into action when he identifies a problem that many customers are complaining about. Yes, give Twitter customer service a try next time you’re having a problem.