Customer service on Twitter  MAR 02 2011

Here's how you do it well, courtesy of Zappos (of course). Yesterday I tweeted:

I think my wife is having an affair with someone named "Zappos". He sends her a package at least every third day. I am on to you, Mr Zappos!

Almost immediately, Zappos' customer service Twitter account replied:

@jkottke I'm sorry sir, but our relationship with your wife is strictly professional.

Great, right? A company that gets the joke and participates meaningfully in an actual conversation with a full awareness of the context.

Here's how not to do it, courtesy of United Airlines. Mena Trott, a co-founder of Six Apart, had her flight to NYC randomly cancelled on Monday night by "a robot". (They actually blamed it on a robot!) In a series of three tweets, Mena voiced her displeasure:

Thanks @unitedairlines for randomly canceling my miles booked ticket for tonight, taking the miles & not letting me rebook for lack of miles

And then hanging up on me after I waited for an hour! I hate you @unitedairlines

Apparently the automated voice recognition system can't tell what I'm saying through my tears @unitedairlines #IhateYouSoMuch

Reply from @unitedairlines? Nothing. But then while on her rebooked flight the next morning, Mena tweets sarcastically:

Thanks to @unitedairlines I can finally watch that Frasier episode I missed in 1994.

And unbelievably, @unitedairlines replied, pouring burning acid into Mena's obviously still-tender wound:

@dollarshort "...I hear the blues a-callin', Tossed salad and scrambled eggs.."

That is some serious customer service tone deafness right there. It would be easy to blame whatever social media jockey they've got manning the Twitter account for the faux pas, but obviously United customer communication problems run deeper (and originate higher up the pay scale) than that.

Read more posts on kottke.org about:
business   Mena Trott   Twitter   United Airlines   Zappos

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