Some time ago I had an issue with my current account and decided to try the social media way to solve it. Surprisingly, it worked!
I tweeted @AskNationwide, my building society’s social media account, saying that for a transfer I received (from PayPal) there was some missing information (the PayPal activation code) in the description.
After exchanging a couple of Direct Messages, they responded with the details, by sending a message directly inside my bank account’s “inbox” (a facility provided by Nationwide). The whole matter was sorted in 47 minutes.
I think this shows a great way of using social media and is pretty much forward thinking for a simple reason: I made a personal request, and they responded promptly in a way that could not damage anyone.
To put it clearer: other times I’ve asked help via Twitter to companies I hold accounts with. Airlines, utility providers, mobile companies. Most of the times the standard reply is “we cannot help you for security reasons”.
The whole point is that often security reasons are greatly exaggerated.
Despite being unable to verify my identify via Twitter, Nationwide thought
- that it wasn’t a problem to respond with the actual details, given that I had to login to get them
- that even if I had been an impostor on Twitter it was safe to assume I could not login onto the current account (without also having stolen at least the holder’s debit card)
- that the information I was asking for could not be used for illicit reasons.
Rather than sticking behind a “we can’t for security reasons” they proactively and pragmatically retained a happy customer.
Things are starting to change. Many companies are starting to understand that users in 2012 expect a quick conversation on Twitter. Notably, O2 has been known for engaging users on Twitter using a remarkable sense of humour.
Companies are also starting to understand that helping users directly online can benefit them: having an active online presences can take less resources and resolve problems in less time than a full-fledged call centre.
The transition is not easy. On the same issue, I also tweeted @AskPayPal. It took them a couple of hours to get in touch. By then, the problem was already solved. Good attempt, but it’s clear that they are struggling to scale the service up.
I suspect we, the users, need to start pushing for companies to shift their culture. It will make us more satisfied, and they will retain customers more easily. Win-win.