Using the Social Web to Maximize Customer Experience

by Michael · 3 comments

An experience many years ago demonstrated to me clearly that the best way to experience the appreciation of a brand for its customers is to watch what they do and how they do it when they make a mistake.  In that case, without me asking, it was Disney in a stunning display of pro-active over-delivery when they didn’t have our reserved rooms at the Grand Floridian at DisneyWorld.  While a portion of what they gave us were perks that we would not have otherwise paid for, they also gave us nearly a thousand dollars in tickets and amenities that we would have had to pay for.  In that case, Disney’s lapse led to our family feeling amazingly pampered and cared for and an enduring customer service story that I’ve told periodically ever since.

In his book, Crush It, and on his video blog at GaryVaynerchuk.com, entrepreneur and visionary business observer Gary Vaynerchuk has talked passionately and repeatedly about how businesses must care and what they must do to win and hold the affections of customers.   Like many who do business in digital content and who network and participate in communities on the social web, I love the combination of his full-out, unhesitant personality and his observations on contemporary business and the brand/customer interface.   I’ve heard Gary speak several times both on stage and to a small group in his office at his Wine Library retail store.  I’ve also bumped into him and chatted at airports and restaurants.  So I’m qualified to tell you that what is perhaps Gary’s #1 mantra, how much he cares, seems 100% authentic in my experience.   And it’s why I’m so thrilled that Gary agreed to create a video segment that appears exclusively on the web TV property that I co-founded last year, SpendLessTV.com.  Gary’s piece debuts on the site, today, April 26th.

For his contribution to SpendLessTV, I asked Gary to look at the flip side of what he generally talks about — that is, what customers must do in this new, caring economy to interface with brands and to get the best deals, the best service and the most memorable experiences.   Gary’s comments remind me of an experience that Jamie and I had this past Fall, and for which a blog entry has been long overdue.   There are so many ways to extract and apply its lessons about how companies must participate on the social web, and how a business culture committed to highest customer experience does so naturally and quite publicly.  In this case, the story involves another hotel, the Angeleno in West Los Angeles which is one of 30+ individually branded properties owned by the California hotel and hospitality entity, Joie de Vivre.

The Angeleno is conveniently located given the locations of our family and the restaurants and other places we like to go, and we’ve returned there again and again.   And its simple, modern decor, high-touch and super attentive staff, and hip/boutique culture make it a nice fit to our taste.  They’ve got a lounge music soundtrack in the lobby which always feels good when I pass through even though I never listen to lounge music at any other time.

The day after our arrival, I noticed that the edges of nearly every towel in our bathroom were coming apart, and that their frayed and overused condition was completely inconsistent with the experience that the Angeleno provides.  In fact, these towels were no longer usable in any hotel of any kind.  I knew that Joie de Vivre Hotels had a Twitter account, so I decided to see how closely they were watching it, and more to the point, how well prepared they were to vulnerably and publicly respond to a guest complaint.   So I tweeted this message that morning:

At Angeleno Hotel / Los Angeles and showed the shredded bath towels to the front desk; lets see how well customer svc works here @JDVHotels

Within several hours, the towels in our room were changed, and in less than 24 hours came the response on Twitter from Joie de Vivre Hotels:

@MichaelFishman We apologize for the inconvenience. We received new towels and all questionable towels at the Angeleno were replaced.

But here’s the kicker: my hotel room was registered in Jamie’s name, not mine, so they could not have targeted our room for the new towels.   They had replaced the towels in the ENTIRE hotel just a few hours after reading my entry on Twitter.

When you watch Gary Vaynerchuk’s video on SpendLessTV.com, you’ll see the connection to the story I’ve just shared.  In a few words, it’s this: customers that are willing to communicate with brands in full view on the social web, and brands that are committed to acknowledging the concerns of these customers with swift responses AND action, can co-create amazingly satisfying outcomes.  In turn, those same businesses build communities of avid customers/clients/fans.   And what also builds reputation and trust equity for companies committed to this kind of exchange?  The amazement of the thousands of web onlookers who observe the interaction between business and customer.

Here’s the link to Gary’s video in the Exclusives programming at SpendLessTV.com:

Be a Customer Who Gets What You Want

Here’s the link to SpendLessTV.com’s blog post with a discussion of the same subject:

Want Awesome Service?  Communicate…

I’d love your comments!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa Zahran April 28, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Wow! What service!

I’m most impressed by companies who openly tackle their customer complaints.

Recently we bought a back up disk drive that failed within just 3 weeks of purchase. With all our back up data on the line, we called the customer service in vain (hint hint Western Digital…)

A quick search online and we found a whole lot of complaints about WD customer service and how nobody really cared to give users suggestions on how to recover their data, resorting instead to the very quick answer of, “We’ll send you a new drive”.

Instead, it was user forums that supported each other better than the customer service. Users were giving each other tips on what worked for them and didn’t. It was all user generated advice and thankfully, we found a solution that worked for our problem and recovered our data.

The lesson learned for us was not to just trust a company’s advertising before sales, but to also check what people say about their customer service. If we had done a simple search on WD customer service, we probably would have decided to buy another brand.

Now lets see if Western Digital responds to this :P

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Kenny Cannon April 30, 2010 at 9:59 am

I’ve been using Twitter for increasing the customer experience because it’s very easy to search out what your customers are saying. It’s amazing because without Twitter, I’d miss about 90% of all of my users comments.

I think that Twitter will become a more important aspect of customer service in the next few years because it can quickly ruin a company’s name and reputation.

I was never a big “social media” person myself but I’m beginning to see the light.

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