/// Twitter, Pandora, and how Small Businesses are no longer providing superior customer service.
The other day at work, I was having a lot of trouble with my Pandora station. For one reason or another, Pandora froze at the end of each song, forcing me to refresh the page in order to hear a new song.
After about twenty minutes of this, I started to get really irritated and began cursing the Pandora gods for denying me my music on a chaotic work day dominated with fast approaching copy deadlines. With so much work to do, I certainly wasn’t going to waste twenty minutes on the phone with Pandora’s customer support — I didn’t even have time to browse through their online help.
Determined to do something about the problem (or, at the very least, find an outlet for my frustration), I opened Twitter and sent out this tweet:
A short while later, my iPhone buzzed to inform me that I had been mentioned by @Pandora_Radio:
After we traded a few more tweets, I was able to find some answer to my problem:
I am not going to say that I was surprised to hear from Pandora. I mean, that was the goal of my original tweet. But it was certainly nice to get a response. Since I half-expected my tweet to be lost among the hundreds and hundreds that they receive every day, I felt like someone, somewhere plucked my tweet from the depths of the internet and chose to respond to it, even though they really didn’t have to.
In a world where online shopping and big box stores are making the retail business more impersonal than ever, Pandora found a way to use Twitter to make a customer feel valued. The impact of that cannot be underestimated.
If large corporations are able to build personal connections with their customers as Pandora did with me, then the competitive advantage that small businesses have been banking on for years is starting to disappear. While it has been said many times that small business will survive because of their superior customer service, that may no longer be true. In fact, the opposite might be true.
I got better customer service from Pandora than I could have gotten from a small business. I didn’t have to get in the car. And since I was on Twitter anyway, I didn’t have to go anywhere virtually. Nor did I have to sit on hold, talk to anyone, look up an email address or deal with the formalities that an email requires. 140 characters was all I needed to get to a person who was willing to work on solving my problem.
As I started to think about my interaction with Pandora, I began to wonder how many other people use Twitter as a sounding board for praises or complaints. As it turns out, a lot. In the last hour of me writing this, Pandora has responded to 33 users via Twitter.
To me, it makes sense that Pandora would want to reply to users, especially those having trouble with their service. After all, tweets are public, and every negative tweet has the potential to put doubts in the minds of hundreds or even thousands of users.
Instead, Pandora has chosen to dedicate a serious amount of staff time responding to Twitter praises and complaints, one at a time. And Pandora is not alone. The Twitter feeds for Starbucks, Walmart, and Lowe’s are filled almost entirely with replies to customers that have tweeted at them. Even more corporations have support-centered Twitter handles that exist for the sole purpose of helping customers.
By responding to customers through Twitter, these large corporations are doing away with the impersonal service associated with phone calls and emails. Through Twitter, you can get direct access to a person, who has to get to the bottom of your issue in 140 characters or less—or face brand damaging consequences.
For me, that is optimal service. It is not a disruption and doesn’t require me to do much of anything. All I need to do is send a tweet — something I do multiple times a day anyway.
If your small businesses still wants to maintain the advantage of superior customer service, then they also need to provide this sort of 24/7 support. If you don’t, you may lose your biggest advantage over your larger competitors.
Medium – Will Calderwood