Twitter – solving problems in real time

I’ve blogged in the past on Twitter as customer service, rather than communication/PR, usually when it’s bad practice. So I thought I should highlight where it works well, especially as this story combines well with another of my recent crusades, which is to reduce email overload.

I got back from a long holiday yesterday, jet-lagged, with no fresh food in the house, and too tired to go out shopping. So I did an Ocado order, to be delivered this morning. When I got the confirmation text earlier, it said that the veg box was missing. As this was the main reason for the order, I was a little miffed. So I took to twitter:


I guess I just thought they should know that people use their service for particular reasons and this sort of setback can undermine confidence.

I quickly got a reply.


@euonymblog Gosh! Please contact us on 08456561234 or email and we’ll have this looked into.

— Ocado (@Ocado) August 25, 2013

What was good about this was that the “Gosh!” seemed to acknowledge that I was right to be a bit miffed. And there was a solution proposed.

I was about to send an email when it occurred to me that phoning would get the problem sorted much more quickly, if there was a solution to be had. So I called. After a couple of those irritating phone menus and a bit of muzak, I got through to a person. She immediately arranged for an extra delivery tomorrow morning. Problem solved within an hour of raising it. Job done.

What is interesting about this is that although broadly similar in approach to dealings with Virginmedia, I am left feeling pleased that the problem has been resolved, not irritated that I have been fobbed off, as I usually do with Virginmedia. What lessons are there here, when I compare it to bad experiences I have had?

a) I felt Ocado were trying to help me solve a problem, rather than fobbing me off.

b) It was a problem that could be solved, which is not always the case.

c) This is about food, and however inconvenient, I could easily have found an alternative supply. Problems seems worse when you are locked into dealing with one supplier, eg mobile phone or broadband and they don’t seem to be responding quickly. Especially when it’s a service you rely on for other areas of your life.

d) I phoned, rather than emailing, and the customer service on the phone was much better than Virgin – I got through quickly, there weren’t reams of security checks and the person I spoke to dealt with my problem herself, immediately. Rather than getting frustrated waiting for a reply, the whole issue was dealt with quickly and simply.

e) the user experience of Ocado website and apps is much better than Virginmedia. So I have been able to go onto the website and confirm quickly that a new delivery has been arranged.

f) the communication felt human and authentic. This is a point I make constantly when doing training on social media – be a human. This is where many corporate accounts fall down: if the user feels they are just getting a stock answer or an automated feed, they will be alienated.

None of this is rocket science. But it does show that used right, in the right circumstances, Twitter can be a powerful customer service tool.

Teaching a lesson on social networking

I’m on holiday in Borneo at the moment, where my brother is Co-ordinator for the international secondary section of a school. I’ve had a wonderful time, Malaysia is an amazing place and there are lots of photos around on Twitter and Instagram if you’re interested in that side of the story.

I have been made to sing for my supper (or rather three weeks free accommodation) as I was asked to go in and do a lesson for the iGCSE in Global Perspectives on social networking. The course is a bit like General Studies in the UK, encouraging students to think about the world around them and how it works at local, national and global level.

I’m no kind of teacher, but prepared a Social Networking Lesson Plan and a presentation, and thought I would share them.

I was trying to get them to think about sensible use of networks, without overly emphasising negative aspects – after all, a lot of good can come from these networks. My main messages were

  • The internet never forgets, so think now how your social activities might impact your future
  • Sharing your password is a bad idea, except with your parents.
  • Don’t believe everything you read on social networks – engage your critical faculties.

It seemed to go OK, especially with the final year class. There are some differences to overcome in a classroom of different cultures and nationalities, but that makes it interesting too!

Every time I get in front of a class, for whatever reason, I am filled with admiration for teachers. Coming up with ideas to stimulate and educate, keeping the momentum up in the class, controlling unruly elements and trying to steer that energy in a positive direction; it’s like juggling fireclubs. I couldn’t do it…